Standards are sky high in the Formby garden of two National Garden Scheme judges

LAN Apr Gardening

LAN Apr Gardening - Credit: Linda Viney

Linda Viney finds out what goes on in a garden tended by a couple who judge if others are up to scratch

When you’re one of the people who decides if someone’s garden is good enough to be open to the public, you need to be a horticultural version of Caesar’s wife.

But there are no worries on that front for Ray and Brenda Doldon, who have been county organisers for the National Garden Scheme for the last 17 years. Their garden is lovely.

It is split level and near the Formby sand dunes and the National Trust red squirrel reserve. They have redesigned it and the lay-out now features a sunken garden, pergola, pond, beach area and colour themed beds.

They have had to gel their ideas - Ray loves order as the neatly mown lawn with pristine edges shows. By contrast, Brenda loves more froth and fills the borders with perennials and shrubs, sometimes when Ray isn’t looking.

She finds the leylandii hedge rather too formal but has to agree it gives privacy and a good backdrop to the planting. They planted the wisteria when they first moved in, the trunk has grown rapidly and the racemes when in flower give a spectacular display.

Brenda especially is passionate about gardening and never stops learning, regarding the Dr Hessyon series of books as her ‘bible.’ They opened their previous garden at Turton but couldn’t open their new Formby plot straight away because it wasn’t up to the standards they expected from other gardens opening for the NGS. Happily, they soon resolved that problem. ‘We now open with four others in our area,’ Brenda explained. ‘It is a lot of work but we love it and enjoy meeting up with other gardeners.’

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Immediately on entering the garden you can see the artistic qualities in the borders which form a tapestry of colour. They are complimented by the backdrop of hedges and pristine lawn with edges that meander round the beds. Ray is typical of many men in caring greatly for the appearance of the grass. He and Brenda obviously make an ideal marriage with their contrasting styles.

In the rear garden there is a circular formal pond, edged with flags and gravel, it is softened with the planting of thyme. Iris and grasses add texture and the flowers of the water lilies open in the sun. Pebbles add to the beach effect and a trickle of water adds tranquillity. Brenda has tried her hand at topiary and a squirrel she is creating stands guard in a pot.

The pergola walk through is covered in climbing roses and a clematis montana, which must be kept in check before it runs away. A white campanula was originally planted along the path here but over the years has self-seeded all over the place. The lovely peach coloured climbing rose is under-planted with diascias which have become a favourite.

Much use is made of shrubs and small trees, sadly a robinia with its bright sunny leaves has had to be dug up as it didn’t thrive, and Brenda has since heard it is not a good area for them. However to lift the spirits a golden hop now clambers over a trellis fenced and this is underplanted with a soft flowing acer and variegated laurel.

In the blue garden the small blue campanulas trail over the two stone troughs standing on gravel, which stand either side of a planted urn on a plinth containing a white trailing pelargonium. A prized addition of an unusual white perennial sweet pea clambers over the backdrop of an ivy covered fence. From the delicate blues and whites leading through to vibrant reds and oranges setting them off is a vast array of differing shades of green.

Re-designing a garden is a challenge but one they have had a great deal of pleasure in doing. No doubt, as with most gardens, it will evolve as plants come to the end of their life and new ones are introduced. One thing is certain - Ray will keep an eye on his lawn and the hedge to ensure they remain intact!

If you would like the Lancashire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester booklet of the gardens that are open this year for the NGS you can send a stamped addressed envelope to Brenda Doldon, 2 Gorse Way, Formby, Merseyside, L37 1PB. Their garden along with four others is open on Sunday 7th July from 10.30am to 4.30pm, combined admission £4, children free.

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