Love Your Garden Series 9: Episode 4 'Ma to all she Feeds'



The Story behind the Garden
This week Alan Titchmarsh is in Oxford at the Asian Cultural Centre where 2 times a week they have a community Soup kitchen.


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For nearly 30 years, 88 year old Icolyn Smith MBE has been feeding those in need.  

Alan surprises her whilst peeling spuds with her son Gary for tomorrows lunch. 


After shooting her son 'a look' Icolyn was momentarily speechless but kept on peeling!


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When Icolyn retired she decided to dedicate her life to feeding people in need. 

Her Son Gary says his mum is the best mum in the world even using her pension to get it all set up. 

Along with a band of volunteers, 65,000 meals have been provided for those in need of a home cooked meal.

Jenny Kain a fellow volunteer says how the visitors to the soup kitchen open up to Icolyn and confide in her. She is a mother to them all.


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Lolly Newland a former patron of the soup kitchen talks about when she was 16/17 she was going through a hard time and became homeless and she came there for food and to feel safe. Icolyn is amazing and she will remember her and be grateful to her, for the rest of her life.

Alan asks Icolyn why it all started. Icolyn worked in the Community and saw a young man eating from a bin and decided to feed him and that's where it all began. 

30 years on there is still that need for it!


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As well as do the cooking and preparation,  Icolyn also does the shopping so it takes up her whole week. Volunteer Daphne Harris has no idea where she gets her energy!


The Garden
Icolyn access into the garden is through a store room full of stuff for the soup kitchen.


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Once in the garden the paving is very uneven and slippery. 


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She has some new raised beds with flowers and garlic. 


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She has a lovely hedge full of wildlife, 2 apple trees and a shed that seen better days.

Icolyn would like a garden for all seasons and somewhere to sit and relax.


Icolyn is sent off and Alan Titchmarsh  Contractors arrive along with the team of David Domoney, Katie Rushworth and Frances Tophill.


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David job is to construct a kitchen / dining hub in the centre of the narrow garden, and to go large.

Frances job is at the end of the garden to create an entertainment area as well as an edible area!

Katie job it to sort out the wildlife hedge and add some flowers.

Alan job is to move and make the raised vegetable beds more accessible from the house.

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The garden will be a tiny homestead, all about the family, cooking and being at home.

The garden is long and narrow , so everything needs to be at an angle.


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A Work in Progress
David starts with the huge garden building which is 10m x 4m and will house a food preparation area as well as for dining. 


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There is an inside food prep area as well as outside.

David uses scaffold planks and bought metal legs to create a huge dining table.


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Icolyn chairs from the shed are fixed up, sanded and sent away to be sprayed in a variety of bright colours.


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Next job is to lay the path at a 45 degree angle which is in a zig zag design.


Frances fixes some painted horizontal slated fencing to the boundary to add some light.

Next a breeze block seating area is constructed, with room for everyone. 

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This is then rendered using pre-coloured render and smoothed out to create a lovely low maintenance finish.

Frances adds some fruit tree to make an orchard at the bottom seating area.



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She plants an apple tree that has 3 varieties grafted on, Scrumptious, brambly and Christmas Pippin. 



To save space she plants Cordon fruit trees, a single stem with short
stubby branches that produce the fruit planted at a 45 degree angle against the fence.


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Frances uses old pallets to make a coffee table with half of it as a herb bed. The pallet need preserving to protect it. She lines the herb part and plants thyme, lemon verbena, Marjoram and summer savoury.


Katie has constructed some triangular beds as well as some ground level beds that are ready to be planted.


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Katie plants up the shady bed with Kale, perennials, lettuce, fruit bushes, cherry  and rhubarb.


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Katie rubs down an old rusty metal arch which she finishes off with some metal paint and fixes it by the window of the garden room. 

She then adds a climbing rose and Star Jasmine for sent. 


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Finished off with Icolyn old bird bath.


Alan the raised beds are moved to their new position at an angle by the back door.


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The beds are filled and Alan wants them to look good all year round.


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In the first raised bed Alan is making a flower 'cutting' bed. He plants Peonies but not too deeply, Roses which needs to be planted deeply, French Lavender and for contrast Euphorbia. 


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In the other raised bed Alan adds clipped box and domes that he soaks well first. He then adds some strawberries to the edges, potatoes, broad beans, spinach and chard.


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Alan gives the box hedge behind a good trim and then shapes it like a 'Dalek'!


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Alan adds a huge statement Photinia Red Robin clipped into a lollipop shape by the back 
door.



Alan goes to visit a garden in charlbury to see how vegetable gardens can look good too. 


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The vegetable beds are not hidden away by using obelisks and good looking veg they can be part of the garden and combined with herbs and flowers. 

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Fruit trees grow along the walls.

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'A beautiful kitchen garden can nourish the soul as well as the tummy'


John Seamen from Dagenham has a lush jungle in his suburban back garden which he opens for the National Garden Scheme


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Frances visits John to help him get the garden ready for the growing season. John has had his garden for 10 years and grows a lot in his greenhouse. Frances helps him to plant and layer up the garden.


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Just a month later the garden jungle has burst into life, all done from seed and cuttings. 


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The many frogs in the garden keep the slugs down.


The finishing touches to the garden just need doing.


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Frances paints Lignum Vitae the National flower of Jamaica to the side of the summer house.


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David frames and hangs some of Icolyn own paintings in the summer house.

The bar be que is put in place and the amazing transformation is complete.


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What this garden means to Icolyn
Alan takes Icolyn for a chat about her soup kitchen and how it helps those in need of it. 


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Icolyn says the sort of people that come might have a broken relationship or home life, young mothers. She listens to them all as well as a hug, if needed. 

She remembers hugging one young man that hadn't had any physical comfort for years.


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Her people are trying to find a way out of their troubles, some are now employed and married. She is Ma to them all.

Icolyn talks about those patrons that she tries to help but is not always successful. Some of the patrons have drug problems but she tries not to give up on them to help them get off drugs.


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Alan is in awe of Icolyn stamina at 88 years old, the way she does not give up on anyone and the belief that love conquers all.


The Grand Reveal
The garden is vibrant with lush planting, a huge summer house, productive attractive vegetable beds and a seating area big enough for everyone.

Icolyn open your eyes


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'Oh my goodness, I love it' 'this is beautiful' 'absolutely beautiful'


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Icolyn can walk easily around, she loves it all and is in disbelief at the summerhouse that takes her right back home. 


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The pictures and photos she loves. 


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'I couldn't ask for anything better than this'


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As the champagne corks pop, friends and family flood in to see the garden for this wonderful, selfless Ma to them all!


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'Ma kitchen is open for business'





Love Your Garden Get the Look

Icolyn Smith Foundation

Oxford Mail Article Pride of Britain Award


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