Patriotic petunias putting on a show in Didsbury's Diamond Jubilee garden

PUBLISHED: 10:26 07 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:28 20 February 2013

Patriotic petunias putting on a show in Didsbury's Diamond Jubilee garden

Patriotic petunias putting on a show in Didsbury's Diamond Jubilee garden

Patriotic petunias are creating a blooming good show to celebrate the jubilee, as Linda Viney reports

The print version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of Cheshire Life

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The Diamond Jubilee will be marked in fine patriotic style in Didsbury with a red, white and blue display in the town centre. The regal show of petunias is being nurtured by 93-year-old Tom Webster, a stalwart of Didsbury and member of the towns Civic Society.

It was Toms idea 10 years ago to create a Jubilee Garden on the corner of Grange Lane and he has been instrumental in giving the area a revamp this time around. The now mature garden has been turned into a sea of patriotic colours with an A3 laminated photograph of the Queen in the centre.

Tom, who has always been a keen gardener and still cares for his own, said: I was proud to have sown the seed as it were for the Jubilee Garden and remember what a difficult but rewarding task it was.

I still have Sleepy the gnome that was dug up by Lady Barbara Harris. She thought her spade hit a lump of concrete, but on further examination we discovered it was indeed a gnome, needing a coat of paint!

A former headmistress of Elm Grove Primary School, Sue Good, is co-ordinating the pupils of the school to plant the petunias, and they will also be planted round the war memorial. Bunting and flags are being put up along the main street and numerous parties will be held. Although Tom initially wanted coloured perennials, he agreed the petunias will make more of a splash.

Didsbury is one of the southern-most outposts of Lancashire, often claimed by expansionists from Cheshire, but it lies squarely on the north bank of the River Mersey.

The Civic Society was founded here in 1966 and has been successful in many conservation projects, the latest one to restore The Parsonage, a Grade II listed building, is well underway, having received a Heritage Lottery Grant as well as grants from local businesses and individuals.

Probably the second oldest building in the town, the central part of the building dates back to the 1600s while two centuries later extensions were added at either end.

Alderman Fletcher Moss moved in with his family in the mid-19th century and led an active life of public service. He was renowned for his in-depth writing on local history and the areas flora and fauna and on his death he bequeathed the house, garden and surrounding land, now Fletcher Moss Park, to the people of Didsbury and Manchester.

Beyond the house there is a formal garden with flower beds full of seasonal colour, there are the old greenhouses where orchids were grown, which have now been turned into an Alpine House and tufa (a kind of limestone) found in the grounds has been used to hold some of the plants. The East Cheshire Alpine Society has helped in providing some plants and the labeling. The benches are shallower than alpine ones as they were used for orchids but that doesnt seem to have caused any problems.

The lawns are home to a great variety of interesting small trees including a very rare specimen of an early bio-engineered tree that still survives today and goes un-noticed by most passers-by, though when in bloom it is more obvious as the flowers are particularly striking.

The house has a colonial feel, with the tall palms in front, although they will probably have to be removed before long. The graves of several of Alderman Mosss dogs, with their respective headstones, can be seen under a yew tree by the sprawling blue cedar trees which form the backdrop to the shrubs and bulbs.

Residents and students have the privilege of being able to sit, stroll and enjoy these gardens which are entered through a magnificent gateway which had been bought by Fletcher Moss for 10 when the Spread Eagle Hotel was demolished. It is hard to believe you are so close to the bustling city centre.

Situated nearby is Fletcher Moss Park which is part botanic and part wildlife habitat. Here you can take long walks starting at the Rock Garden which was created by Robert Wood Williamson, whose wife founded the The Royal Society of the Protection of Birds.

There was at the time a barbarous trade in plumes for womens hats, a fashion responsible for the destruction of many thousands of egrets, birds of paradise and other species whose feathers had become fashionable in the late Victorian era.

The Rock Garden is protected by walls which provide a micro-climate allowing the more tender plants to thrive. The puddled clay pond is edged with skunk cabbage, marsh marigolds, outstanding gunnera and various species of iris, it is fed by a stream.

There is also a meadowland with wild flowers and the woodland leads down to the Mersey. A Pergola Garden has wooden arches with climbing plants and the more formal beds are planted with seasonal bedding and heathers. This again is a place for all to enjoy and if you have time pop in the cafe for a delicious coffee and cake.

Last year Didsbury was a finalist in the Britain in Bloom in the Urban Community category gaining a Silver award, and no doubt with all their hard work will be featuring in the future. The Didsbury Civic Society has formed a separate charity The Didsbury Parsonage Trust and with a lot of hard work, negotiations and volunteers hope to achieve their aim of restoring the Parsonage for community use.

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