Didsbury gardens - An oasis of calm, but just a short hop from the city

PUBLISHED: 12:37 16 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:34 20 February 2013

Didsbury gardens - An oasis of calm, but just a short hop from the city

Didsbury gardens - An oasis of calm, but just a short hop from the city

In Didsbury, just south of Manchester, intrepid gardeners are ready to show us how their borders have blossomed Words and Photography by Linda Viney

Didsbury may be only four miles from Manchester city centre, but behind the suburban streets are many beautifully tended tranquil spaces. Didsbury was largely rural until the mid 19th century when it underwent development during the Industrial Revolution.


Now we are well and truly in the Open Garden season, gardeners there are busy getting their borders in tip top condition to welcome visitors in June. Originally, they opened as part of the local festival, but several have joined the National Garden Scheme, which also raises money for good causes.


Sue Kaberry is one of the organisers and she showed me round her garden before visiting her next door neighbour, Malcolm Allum. She has cajoled him into opening up, too.


She explains that 20 gardens are open, nine for the NGS. We have gardens ranging from a small courtyard to a larger country-styled walled garden. Theres a garden of one acre with rare mature trees and shrubs with a large conservatory full of exotic plants.


Sues garden is very peaceful with the tranquil sound of water from the fountain. She also has the bonus of a lilac tree whose branches hang over her garden. When in flower it is just beautiful, but I do have to plant shade loving varieties beneath it and add soil, she says.


Her favourite flower is the rose and these are found in all corners and a pergola leading through is awash with their fragrant blooms in season, Rosa Francis E Lester, a hybrid musk, with its white and pink blooms is chosen to mimic the blossom of the old apple tree. Hostas are kept in pots dotted round the garden as Sue has found, to her cost, when they are in the borders they get eaten by slugs. She has started an Auricula Theatre and despite finding them difficult to grow, she is determined to succeed.


She also has an allotment which she shares with her daughter, Jo, who also lives in Didsbury and in the greenhouse seed trays of vegetables and herbs as well as flowers were growing ready to take up later in the month.


I have more time now I am retired and love going to the plot, where I can lose myself, she adds. Sue also takes cuttings and pots are everywhere waiting to sell to swell funds raised on open days.


Her husband, David, has done the hard work of landscaping and digging while Sue does most of the design and planting, working together well as a team. They have created the garden from scratch in the last 12 years, making it their space.


The soil was impacted and stale, the path was re-dug and the whole area replanted except for the trees. The herbaceous bed is full of alliums, delphiniums, astrantia, peonies and a large variety of geraniums including one of her favourites the dark pink Tricia. Clematis clamber through and over the shrubs and trees. A wisteria on the pergola is a picture when its racemes tumble like a waterfall. Obelisks are used to give height in the beds and bamboo affords attractive screening adjacent to the main seating area.


Sue wanted a living roof for the shed but it would have been too problematical so instead she has placed screening you can buy from the garden centre which gives the effect of a heather thatched roof. Pottery by Gordon Cooke from Sale is featured, complimenting the garden. Two huge pots also stand as a feature adding another dimension to this lovely oasis. The small front garden is at its best in spring but one bonus is a climbing hydrangea which is planted next door but is now encroaching on Sue and Davids.

When I visited Malcolms plot, he was busy outside tying in his delphiniums but he broke off to talk about his garden, which had been created with an artistic eye, admitting he had come into horticulture late in life.

Our house has windows with views out over the garden so I have made vistas from the house, as you spend more time indoors than out throughout the year, Malcolm explained. Indoors, I saw for myself how the windows framed the garden he has created. As the family leave home you have more freedom and opportunity for gardening. Although we have lived in the house for 30 years it is probably only the last five I have had this new enterprise.


He works in layers of planting using colour, texture and foliage, making passages of planting. It is a small garden but very intensive which means he has to be disciplined especially with the scale of plants. He moves plants as one rearranges the furniture. The planting in the raised bed is changed when the plants outgrow their spaces.

Plants have different needs and go through different stages as they grow. I see what thrives and what struggles building a relationship with nature as I go. Learning their names and foibles is all important and I am discerning about what plant goes where and how it will work in the space created for it.

The acers, azaleas and rhododendrons afford both texture and colour with the herbaceous in another area alongside shrubs give a different dimension. Clematis montana frames the front door and formality comes from the Lutyens style seat flanked by standard box balls. As I left Malcolm pointed out the Rudbeckia which he has planted along the railings at the front which in autumn gives a cheery yellow and orange delight as the daisy-like flowers tumble through the railings. This is a very personal garden created and treasured with love and passion.

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