Login Register

Horticultural haven that grew from pile of roots

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: October 29, 2013

  • POTS OF ACHIEVEMENT: Anne Brand (left) and Angela Dixon are busy checking out the assortment of pot plants for sale.

Comments (0)

INSPIRATION can blossom from many sources – a beautiful voice, a voyage of discovery, a life-changing invention.

In the case of Rose Hill, it was a pile of roots.

Thanks to a chance unearthing at the adult day and respite centre midway between Bideford and Northam, volunteer Anne Brand has been inspired to create a horticultural haven that's proving a source of pleasure to visitors and fellow volunteers and a valued fund-raiser for the charity.

Eighteen months since my last visit, things are moving on rapidly at Rose Hill's walled grounds and inside the day centre.

A plant display area is expanding, a vegetable growing area has been set up on the patio and a new enclosed potting corner which is sheltered from wind and weather is in full swing in the courtyard.

And while I was chatting with Anne, two men from the B & Q community group turned up to look at how best to revamp the potting shed with people-friendliness in mind.

Anne, 74, whose daughter Lisa, 42, lives at nearby Northam Lodge – Rose Hill's sister centre for people with learning problems – is plainly thrilled at the steady progress. So are her two fellow regular volunteers, Angela Dixon and Jen Turner, who, like Anne, relish the feeling of soil on their fingertips.

As for those roots, it was in the spring of 2011 that Anne stumbled across what she thought was a pile of old plastic pots in front of the potting shed. On closer inspection, she was stunned to find the pots contained a hoard of day lilies and irises, all pot-bound and begging for attention.

Further investigation showed that the plants had been lying there for around three years, duly gathering a forest of weeds in the process.

They had been dumped there by a mystery donor, thought to be a nurseryman on the point of retiring.

Yet his identity has never been unmasked.

For Anne, though, that very discovery opened up a whole new world and sent her on an eight-week labour of love.

She got stuck into separating 120 day lilies – botanically hemerocallis – and 70 irises of several species.

Many of the day lilies were famous names from the past, so establishing contact with Val Anderson, head gardener for nearly 40 years at the National Trust's Antony House, Torpoint, which holds the Plant Heritage National Collection of hemerocallis, proved an indispensible source of knowledge.

Val even travelled to North Devon to inspect the assortment and to offer valued tips on cultivation.

And, over at Marwood Hill, where grows the National Collection of Japanese irises – Iris ensata – head gardener Malcolm Pharoah has been a huge help in putting names to flowers.

Last month Malcolm and Marwood Hill property manager Patricia Stout gave 22 Rose Hill and Northam Lodge carers a free guided tour of the beautiful grounds, interspersed by lunch, tea and a talk from Malcolm.

Western Power has given Anne's project £300 to buy wheelbarrows, water barrels, gardening sacks and tools.

Meanwhile, the sale of plants is gathering momentum . . . and reaping a valuable cash flow.

Stacked on and around trestle tables and benches is an ever-expanding array of herbaceous perennials – delphiniums, geums, penstemons, scabious, echinacea – as well as shrub cuttings, carnations, begonias, gazanias, hardy geraniums and many others.

People with learning difficulties are now being encouraged to visit Rose Hill as volunteers and have now become part of the planting team.

Others who attend the centre have been picking their own runner beans, peas, potatoes, tomatoes and herbs and cooking them for lunch, as well as turning green tomatoes into chutney.

"There is so much joy for them cooking food grown from seed," says Anne. "We want our people to learn from their experience and to gain these special skills.

"Some are in wheelchairs, but this doesn't stop them from growing veg in pots or bags. It is lovely seeing them labelling, weeding and potting up and great fun watching the vegetables grow."

She adds: "It is hard to believe that before the roots were uncovered there was nothing horticultural here."

Suffice to say, intrepid Anne has a head full of fresh ideas on how to expand further her exciting project into a productive plant paradise for insiders and visitors to enjoy.

If anyone fancies volunteering as a vegetable gardener once or twice a week or is happy to donate plants for the project, call at Rose Hill on Mondays and speak to Anne Brand or email her at anne.brand@tiscali.co.uk

Read more from North Devon Journal

Do you have something to say? Leave your comment here...

max 4000 characters