Mr Universe contestant has no room for weeds in his Inglewhite garden

PUBLISHED: 13:23 07 September 2011 | UPDATED: 21:37 20 February 2013

Mr Universe contestant has no room for weeds in his Inglewhite garden

Mr Universe contestant has no room for weeds in his Inglewhite garden

Lancashire gardener - just beaten to the Mr Universe title by strongman Arnie - has worked with his talented wife to create an exquisite garden. Linda Viney reports

When youve a major gardening project which requires shifting rocks of up to a hundredweight, it helps to have a husband who is a former weightlifting champion. Every lady gardener should have one!

Arthur Massey-Fairhursts strength and design skills combined wife Viviennes passion and talent as a horticulturalist have created a stunning garden from a one and a quarter acre wilderness of bushes and waist-high weeds.

The fact theyve made the transformation, at The Barn on the Green in Inglewhite, in just 15 years makes it even more remarkable.

Arthur trained as a graphic designer but went on win weightlifting competitions for his country, later starring as a bodybuilder and coming second to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Mr Universe contest.

He now advises sports people on the diet and nutrition and has his own company, Ultimate Nutrition. Vivienne gained her knowledge as a plantswoman from her mother whose garden was a Best in Blackpool winner.

When they took over the Barn on the Green they both worked full time but every spare minute was spent outside whatever the weather. My aim was to ensure you couldnt see the whole garden from one spot but the eye had to lead you through, Arthur explained.

He has an artistic flair and also paints in watercolour. His works, often garden scenes, are small and have meticulous detail down to every leaf and petal.

Their garden takes a journey flowing from the west to the east and starts with a small secluded courtyard leading from the kitchen where they can breakfast on a warm day.

As you begin, a large iron gazebo protects the stone urn, a low box hedge circles the top of the stone wall and colourful annuals complete the picture. A rustic arch covered in climbing roses takes you on to the lawn where borders of traditional shrubs and perennials edge it. Roses are a particular favourite and they are all from David Austin. Arthur has found the yellow ones are harder to look after but he has been told this is a common problem so this year they will be given hard pruning to see if they recover.

As the name of the property suggests they are sited in the centre of Inglewhite and to their delight have heard cyclists passing exclaiming have you seen that beautiful garden.

This makes all our work worthwhile, Vivienne said and I do remember being asked once by some passers-by what the people who own the house were like. I think they thought we were just the gardeners!

It certainly is stunning with cool shady areas as well as the formality of a circular pond, there are seats everywhere but as they admit they have little time to relax as their therapy is working in the garden. They created a lovely summerhouse and more than 100 tons of earth had to be shifted as it is placed in a sunken patio. We love coming down with a tray of coffee and listen to our favourite music.

Steps lead down to this area and these have seasonally planted containers placed either side, while a smaller pond with water-lilies adds tranquility. Acers add an oriental touch as does a recently bought lantern and two Chinese lions, each weighing one ton. This year a wren nested in one. Topiary balls are being created in one of the beds which is surrounded by a yew hedge.

The garden springs to life early in the year with masses of bulbs and Arthur has started collecting specialist snowdrops, which are followed by daffodils, bluebells, wood anemones and blossom. The colours in the flower beds flow from cool whites, blues, lilacs and pink to the later flowering hot border. Tree bark is also made a feature of with the shiny mahogany of the prunus particularly stunning. Hostas edging a grass path enable you to realise how many shades of green there are.

A small area is given over to growing vegetables and, hopefully, they will soon have more time here. Their next project is to make a river bed.

They have the rocks and Arthur has planned how he wants the finished feature to look. They can move most of the rocks themselves and plants have been bought, but they are waiting for a professional builder to do the groundwork.

When we moved in we never heard or saw any birds and now birdsong fills the air and they come to be fed. This is our home and we love it, they said in unison.

They open for the National Garden Scheme and also the Rotary but you will have to wait until next year when the riverbed should be completed.

The print version of this article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Lancashire Life

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