Tockington garden reaches the finals of BBC Gardeners’ World competition

August 23 2018
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The owners of Stoneleigh Down garden in Tockington, are waiting to hear if they are to be crowned winners after reaching the finals of the ‘Garden of the Year 2018’ competition.

Su and John Mills spotted the competition in the BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, and did some research online looking at photos of last year’s winners. They decided to enter just days before the closing date. Two weeks later they heard they were through to the finals. 

John Mills said: “We were both pleasantly surprised and delighted. It had been a very easy process to enter – uploading photos – and although we thought the garden was of a standard worth opening for the National Garden Scheme charity, it was great to feel that someone else saw something of quality from the photos.”

Their ‘prize’ was a professional photo shoot of the garden which started at 4.30am.  The competition judges include Alan Titchmarsh and Dermoid Gavin, with the winners due to be announced in the November issue. 

Stoneleigh garden will also feature on the ITV programme - 'Love Your Garden' with Alan Titchmarsh, which was due to be broadcast at the end of August. Viewers should look for the Cardiff episode if using catch-up TV. 

John and Su had Alan Titchmarsh with them for five hours of filming. John said: “We were quietly excited about meeting Alan Titchmarsh, but very quickly felt as ease. Ours had been selected by them from among several others so we knew they had seen something about our garden that they wanted to film. We had a very enjoyable morning chatting with him and exchanging photos of our respective gardens.” 

John and Su bought the garden four years ago, when it was a different story. Overgrown 8ft hedges surrounded and divided the space, there were trees in the wrong places, a weedy vegetable patch, and an orchard of unproductive fruit trees. After years of work, it now has an ‘S’ shaped lawn (S for Su), and flows from one themed area to another; spring walk, wildlife pond, summer walkway, Mediterranean courtyard, wildlife motorway, oriental pond, subtropical area, acer woodland and winter garden. 

Keeping it in good condition during the summer heatwave has been a challenge for the couple. A few shrubs that were moved last Autumn showed signs of stress and needed frequent watering and feeding. They have worked hard to keep on top of dead-heading, and scorched leaves have been removed.  

John said: “It’s only in the last couple of weeks with some reasonable rain that the garden has plumped itself up and is getting back to normal. Opening the garden again for the NGS has meant we haven’t been able to ‘let it go’ too much. We don’t water the lawn so it’s still looking a bit ravaged by the drought conditions.”

The National Garden Scheme open days are on 1 and 2 September. John and Su promise that their garden will look very different to how it did for the last open event in May. There are now dahlias and cannas in flower, seedheads on the grasses, fruit on the apple and pear trees and the Mediterranean courtyard is full of colour.

For more information go to https://www.ngs.org.uk