The Southport garden where history meets horticulture

PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 September 2013

LAN Oct Garden

LAN Oct Garden

Linda Viney

A couple in Southport have gathered reclaimed architecural gems to create a beautifully quirky garden. Linda Viney reports

You don’t necessarily need a map or a museum to take a historical tour of Southport - just pop along to the extraordinary garden created by Heather and Alan Sidebotham. It is full of artefacts collected over the years.

Gardens evolve over time but none more so than this one, situated in the suburbs of Lancashire’s favourite Edwardian resort. As their children grew up, the garden was transformed into the wonderfully interesting haven it is today.

Much of the landscaping comes from reclamed materials abandoned at historic sites in Southport and further afield. These successfully compliment the planting schemes enhanced by a series of separate areas, with their own water features, and planting that cleverly links them.

Helping her father, Harry Jackson, both in his garden and on his allotment, Heather had an early introduction to horticulture. ‘I remember sitting in the greenhouse carefully writing labels for him,’ she recalled. ‘He grew chrysanthemums, showing them at the local society shows and winning many awards.’

Her knowledge and naturally artistic eye have helped to create the picture, and many of her fathers’ old garden tools and boxes can be found round the garden. Also it has been great therapy, for Alan had to take early retirement through ill-health back in 2001 when it was discovered he had a brain tumour. As he recuperated he became much more interested in the garden. The topiary found round the garden is his baby.

They moved here 36 years ago and one of the first tasks was to bring in 100 tons of soil for the front garden. This area has a perimeter of shrubs and conifers with a lawn and paving from large cobbles from Eastbourne Road with a Victorian bird bath placed in the central axis. To the back of the property there was a drop of around 12 feet and, as Heather pointed out, the whole street is built on a slope. Steps from a Victorian house in Oxford Road were put in which gave them a patio area, as well as easier access to the rest of the garden. The steps are flanked either side with a formal pond, one natural and the other with waterlilies.

Moving round the side, a pergola with plants trained over it offers a welcome shady cool place on a hot summer day. Old railway sleepers from Burscough Curve on the line to Ormskirk have been used to make the path. The gentle sound of trickling water comes from an old water pump into a stone trough made from a reclaimed gamekeeper’s sink. It adds to the tranquility, which is matched by the greenery from ferns and hostas which thrive in these conditions. Placed on the wall, constructed out of an old church stone, are a few bonsai.

A secluded greenhouse is very much a working place where seeds are sown and cuttings grown on, these plants are either for the garden or for sale on open days. As the garden here is L-shaped Heather has successfully created an illusion of a larger area by placing a door in the wall which you are tempted to try and open believing there is more to see. Old garden tools lean to one side and stone bottles stand by the door.

Pass this and you come to a pond with reclaimed Westmorland stone used to create the waterfall. A seat is placed allowing you to sit and enjoy and a mixture of plants, shrubs and conifers, all going to make up the picture. Small cobbles from Durham edged with red mini bricks from a barn floor in Cheshire are used for the path which meanders through. A stone statue of a boy which is well weathered stands amongst the plants, with some bedding to add colour when the azaleas and spring bulbs have finished. The lower leaves of the golden bamboo have been removed to show off their canes.

A summer-house in one corner has become a favourite addition creating sheltered seating place, with views right across the garden, winter or summer it is a haven. The garden here is formal with a parterre where lollipop trees stand in the centre of each section. The path here is made from made from non slip platform tiles from the old Southport & Cheshire Lines station on Lord Street. A leylandii hedge forms the backdrop and a statue leads your eye down whilst either side a pergola provides the walkway. Clematis trail up over the structure and hanging baskets and plant filled hopper from top of drain pipe add to the interest.

When a leylandii hedge was removed at one side it gave them a wider garden, they built a brick wall which looked rather bare so they created a ‘folly’ with a church style window. Herbaceous border crammed full of plants ensure weeds don’t have room to grow. A buddleia, commonly known as a butterfly bush as been turned into a tree and stands at the back of the border. Agapanthus and standard fuchsias are kept in pots so they can be moved into the greenhouse for overwintering.

‘We both love the garden and make sure we always find time to sit with a coffee or afternoon tea to enjoy it,, Heather said, ‘It is therapy and I was so pleased to have helpful ideas from my father, who was still alive and very proud when we had our first open day in 2008.’ They open every year for the National Garden Scheme.

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