Garden breakdown and rebuild, Bearded Villains, and yet more publicity!

The garden breakdown

The breakdown began on the Sunday evening once the show had closed. Most of the other B2B gardens had a sell off, with crowds of eager buyers waiting at the show garden perimeters with £10 notes in outstretched hands waiting for the claxon to sound to signify the start of the selloff. It reminded me of a time we had done a car boot sale and the horde of bargain hunters that appeared from nowhere to get their hands in our barely opened car boot! Countless people asked about my plants (whether they were being sold off) and we could have sold the fig trees ten times over. We stuck to our plan, which was to rebuild the garden at Wirral Autism Together Bromborough Pool Garden Centre [Wirral Autism Together Bromborough Pool] , and turned away many disappointed buyers.

‘Moving garden’

All of the plants needed to be re-potted for transport to their destination, where they would be stored for at least a month until the garden centre manager Joan was back from her holiday. We had planted our plants into the ground, unlike some other show gardens who had left them potted (presumably for a quick sell off). Consequently some very ‘happy’ plants had developed quite a root system and needed much larger pots. It took us more than ten hours in total to repot them! We also had to bag up the gravel from the path and under the bed, take turf to the compost heap on the showground and remove any speck of material that was not there when we moved in. Deer and other wildlife inhabit the park and it was important to make it safe- besides which, a hefty deposit would be forfeited should the site clearance not pass inspection by the show manager.

So a couple of days later, and after an emergency van hire (thanks to husband for saving the day!), we took our first load to the autism centre. Several trollies of plants were transferred from the van to a temporary holding place out at the back of the garden centre. The weather was still ‘scorchio’ and I worried whether the plants would survive. We managed with two trips using a large box van stuffed with plants – the fig trees had to be tied to roof bars inside! I left the plants with assurance they would get watered and tried not to worry about them.

The garden rebuild at Wirral Autism Together Bromborough Pool Garden Centre

It was September by the time Joan and I met again, and we arranged a date in October for replanting the garden. However, the site was turfed over and there would be lot of preparation to be done before planting would be possible. I work full time at Liverpool University and time was short, so we decided we would each try to get some volunteers to help prepare the site. Joan came up trumps with a volunteer group called ‘The Bearded Villains’ who promised to dig the plot over. She then secured more help from a group of ladies who worked at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), who came for a day to dig. The Bearded Villains ended up stripping the turf back, and the RBS ladies did digging. All fabulous and very kind- but I hadn’t got to meet either of these groups. I especially wanted to make sure the villains were all bearded!

Joan and I spent a glorious Saturday planting the show garden. Joan was the fastest planter I have ever seen! She is a true plants woman and it was great to work with her. We left some plants in position for the service users to plant-it was going to be their garden after all. As luck would have it the Bearded Villains were back to erect a polytunnel the Saturday after we planted and we persuaded them to do a little photo shoot!


Ssssh- me in the bed with three bearded villains!

Once the garden was installed in its new home I had always envisaged a visit from the local press, which would raise the profile of Wirral Autism Together and their brilliant garden centre. Nothing transpired for a few weeks, then out of the blue Joan asked me if I could take some time to get there for a photo call with the Autism Together press officer and some of the service users. This was on a Weds afternoon and I took a half day off work to go and dress the bed and take part in the overall excitement. Joan even brought her lippy with her for the photos! Once the bed was dressed a few of the service users were brought around for the photos. It was a hoot! Quite few of us piled onto the bed-some even launched themselves on! Good job my husband had made a bespoke and especially strong base for the bed! I didn’t see any photos for a few weeks and concluded that was it. Then: an email arrived to say we had made it into the local press-the Wirral Globe! [Wirral Globe article]

More fame! Feature in Medical Research Council (MRC) Life publication

I’ll bet that this is probably the one and only article the MRC will publish about gardens!! The following blurb along with two photos were featured in the article in MRC Life October/November 2018

“RHS Silver Medal for MRC-funded scientist”
“Julie Dunn, of the MRC-funded Centre for Drug Safety Science (CDSS)
has been awarded a Royal Horticultural Society Silver Medal for her
Sleep Well Garden at the RHS Flower Show at Tatton Park.
It is the first garden designed by Julie, a research scientist at the
University of Liverpool. It has minimal landscaping and can easily be
recreated by other gardeners with minimal cost.
The idea for a garden in which to sleep and revitalise originates from
Julie’s interest in current scientific research around the health benefits
of both sleep and being outdoors in green spaces”.

What a great end to the whole thing!

Thank you so much for reading the blog, and well done to anyone that has lasted to the bitter end. If anyone is considering making a show garden-DO IT! I am already hoping for an approach from a prospective sponsor who wants to get a message (preferably health/medical) across using the medium of ‘garden’! Actually I have just been approached by Bethan at the Mental Health Institute London, to go down and record a podcast (podcast for the Mental health Institute ) about sleep/health and gardens-so watch that space in February 2019….

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