The Silverdale garden created by a retired shepherdess

PUBLISHED: 17:09 15 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:19 20 February 2013

The Silverdale garden created by a retired shepherdess

The Silverdale garden created by a retired shepherdess

Silverdale's Glenn Shapiro has retired from sheep breeding to follow her passion for gardening, writes Linda Viney

Parking on the drive of Hazelwood Farm in the lovely north Lancashire village of Silverdale, you have a taste of what lies beyond in the form of kiwi fruit which hang from their woody vines trained up an old barn.

The owner Glenn Shapiro, who has lived in the village for 30 years, is well known as a breeder of champion Bluefaced Leicester sheep. She is now turning her attention to her other love - gardening.

She grew up in Newcastle but holidays were spent in the countryside visiting local shows, and it was here that she developed her interest in sheep. Surprisingly, I am a vegetarian and I felt Bluefaced Leicesters were two generations away from lamb chops! she laughs. But I love the look of them and they are good company.

When I visited her earlier this year, she explained that since retiring she had spent more time in the garden and, as we walked through the house to the conservatory it was obvious she has green fingers. Tomato plants were trained up the sides and over the roof - all grown from seed and, when she remembers, fed with Tomorite.

Her lemon tree was still flourishing after several years and the fruit was starting to ripen ready for a gin and tonic. I do have a peach tree in the greenhouse which also bears fruit as do the kiwis which we planted by the barn when we moved here, she tells me.

Before settling in Silverdale, she and her husband Dan had lived around Britain but wherever they were Glenn incorporated rocks in their gardens. Here, she is lucky to have the beautiful natural limestone outcrops of the area, though that has its own problems, not least the deer who are forever invading her plot.

As we walk through the garden she is devastated to find yet more damage especially to a beautiful Cornus controversa which had been attacked on toone side. Thats a challenge of living in this beautiful area. We keep experimenting with ideas to stop them coming in for their dinner. One day we may succeed, she says.

One of her first projects on retiring was to build up her collection of Hepaticas and last year fulfilled her dream of holding a National Collection. They are spring flowering perennials with solitary bowl or star-shaped flowers. The name comes from ancient herbalists who thought the blotched leaves resembled a diseased liver, and they used it to cure liver problems. I had so many visits and checks before I was granted the status, but it was worth it and satisfying, Glenn explains.

Her garden has always peaked in the spring with alpines clinging to the rocks growing from every crack. The challenge has been to extend the season.

This has been achieved with prairie-style planting making full use of grasses. A mixture of Miscanthus with flowing stems that sway in the breeze and glisten as the sun catches them. Although Glenn isnt a lover of pampas grass she has found a smaller variety which blends in well.

The plot, which covers one and a half acres including the outbuildings and barn, used to be surrounded by elm trees but these were lost through Dutch Elm disease and any that survived were lost in the gales.
However good comes out of bad and more light now reaches the limestone rocks. It has been a hard journey for 70 tons of soil had to be removed to open up the side of the house and the remains of a pigsty can still be seen.

Starting our journey we climb up a gravel path between the rocks and Echinacea Prima Donna and Penstemon add colour. Glenn loves perennials and has propagated many of her plants as she needs large numbers throughout the year to colour theme areas. A feature where water trickles down a rock into a pond adds another dimension.

The scent from a ceonothus fills the air and this attracts the bees. Seed heads that have started to form on the eryngiums are left for the birds and add texture.

Riverbed pebbles surround another pond with a seat strategically sited to look down over the garden. Here golden rudbeckias light up, adding warmth. The greenhouse sits at the highest point and here raised vegetable beds supply peas and beans, salad crops, pumpkins, squash, onions and much more. They are nearly self sufficient in vegetables.

A mown grass path leads between borders of grasses and shrubs, the latter intermingled with roses and perennials. Glenn still has plenty of manure from her sheep breeding days and her ongoing project is to plant out some of the hardier hepaticas in the woodland area. She has called upon a friend to help make steps back down through this area.

You certainly have to be fit to garden here for Glenn has to scramble up the rocks to reach many of the areas she plants up. The Hepaticas are all clearly labelled, dated and sited on tables in an open outbuilding. There are pots and pots of other cuttings she takes to grow on for sale on open days and last year raised 700. Opening for the village she was spotted by the National Garden Scheme (NGS), who have now persuaded her to open for them.

It will mean more pressure but gardening is my love and I have more time, she said.

Once a week she goes to Holehird, the flagship garden for the Lakeland Horticultural Society, and spends her time propagating for them. She can now devote her time to her garden caring and loving it the way she did her sheep. Her plants will grow and expand as new ones are tried out.

There is a certain thrill when you see a seed germinate and come to life, she adds.

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

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