There’s a special buzz in the gardening community as we head towards warmer weather and thoughts of summer displays.
It’s time to check over containers, hanging baskets, tubs and the like, and make decisions on the choice of plants.
How quickly you can transform the bare frontage of a house with the introduction of tubs that will overflow with the colour combination of your choice. Better still when they catch the eye of passers-by and lead to positive comments.
Apart from encouraging the feel-good factor, keeping your garden or containers well maintained can almost certainly increase the value of the property. Ask Phil Spencer, that’s one of his regular masterstroke suggestions when advising home owners who’ve almost given up trying to find a buyer.
Tidy up your garden or back yard, add a few planted containers and see how it enhances the appearance.
But we don’t need television programmes such as Phil Spencer Secret Agent to bring grotty gardens to our attention. You can generally find one on an allotment association site or housing estate, and it’s not necessarily age or infirmity that lies behind the neglect.
If someone is simply not interested in the space outside their four walls it really is difficult to stimulate enthusiasm but a diversity of individuals and groups across the country nonetheless try.
Sometimes it’s an ‘in bloom’ action team, chamber of trade organisation or a good Samaritan operating along a row of cottages, but that is often all it takes to engender interest.
Several villages and towns in our area have benefitted greatly over time from the efforts of well-organised volunteers.
Morpeth and Warkworth are almost becoming serial winners of their respective main categories in Northumbria in Bloom, and Alnwick regularly picks up a cluster of special awards – eight golds last year. Lesbury, a relative newcomer to the competition, has also made an impressive start but it’s not all about glittering prizes. It is the raising of awareness and contributing towards improving your neighbourhood that counts.
Our Alnwick in Bloom group started the Improve Our Town campaign at the beginning of the 1980s and three decades later can reflect on several positives from environmental enhancement to engaging with the town’s diverse organisations. Annual competitions such as the schoolchildren’s paintings, giant sunflower growing, best shop window and town gardens and containers, have caught the attention of people across the age demographic.
Way back in the 1960s, Newburn Urban District Council were so committed to encouraging good housing tenants that they produced a 40-page handbook advising how to get the best from their properties. This covered how to use the gas cooker when baking cakes, or get the best flavour when roasting meat or fowl. These lucky residents were also granted access to Westerhope Municipal Golf Course, which was of County Championship standard, for an annual subscription of £3 12s 6p.
These facts and more emerged when friends Brian and Tony, members of the constabulary in that area at the time, were thumbing through the 50-year-old booklet.
My attention was drawn to a Month by Month in the Garden section, March precisely: Plant herbaceous perennials, rose and fruit trees. Sow Brussels sprouts, summer cabbage and cauliflower, broad beans. Plant onion sets.
Very sound advice then and now. But we’ll not spoil it by mentioning what happened to tenants who failed to keep their gardens up to a reasonable standard!