Love Your Garden Series 10: Episode 4 An Oasis in Croydon

Love Your Garden Series 10: Episode 4 An Oasis in Croydon

The story behind the garden
In this Episode Alan Titchmarsh is in Thornton Heath, Croydon to surprise a very special group of people at the Age UK Day Centre.

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Alan first rings the bell for reception and is greet by a very surprised receptionist.



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She takes Alan through to where the service users are all having a meeting and are not aware of their surprise visitor!

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Laughed and claps erupt at the sight of Alan, who looks like he not sure of the loud reception! He calls it 'rowdy'!

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Alan asks them how many times a week they come here, he gets told by one attendee '3 times a week as I get lonely' another says 'you get lonely, some times you need to get away and have the company of others'.

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Alan asks for a hands up if you feel isolated if it wasn't for this day centre, nearly everyone raises their hands.

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'I don't have many friends, I don't have relatives around, most of the time i am by myself'.

They don't want to be a burden, but without the centre they would have nowhere.

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Alan asks what difference will them doing the garden make. 'There is nothing in Thornton Heath for older people, people are scared to go out'. 

Alan says so it will make you feel safer to go out. 

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Andy Nazer from Campaign to End Loneliness says 9 million people say they are always or often lonely. 

4 million are elderly and half a million will not see anyone for a week.

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Elsie Sutherland an attendee for 6 years says speaks about the crime in the area and how it can be scary.

Alan says 1 in 5 people in the area feel socially isolated.

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Priscilla Vethamony an attendee for 18 months said after her husband died she joined the centre and it made her live again.

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Aileen Ross an attendee of 5 years said this will benefit them enormously to have a garden of any sorts.

Unfortunately the centre does not have the spare funds to do this.

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Alan mentions the wonderful window boxes outside and 3 of the ladies said they do them, so Alan takes them outside to show him the garden area.


The Garden
The garden is only accessible by using several different sets of steps, making the area virtually unusable.


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A round the corner is an area that is completely over grown with brambles and nettles and apparently no one has been in for centuries.

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Alan says there is potential in the L shaped garden and both areas will get the sun at different times.

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He goes on to say this time it is a garden for 200 individuals not just 1 and will stop them being stuck indoors all the time.

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'We will give it a go, come back in 3 years' says Alan!! Not sure what the others will say!!

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He takes the ladies back inside for a strong cup of tea!!

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Alan team of Landscapers get to work clearing the site and his 'young whippersnappers' AKA  his band of trusty fellow gardeners David Domoney, Katie Rushworth and Frances Tophill arrive.

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The trio are slightly shocked at the task ahead! David says 'oh you are joking Alan'. Frances cries 'No way we can't do it'.

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Frances quickly tries to make a run for it! 

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Alan says its our duty to do this as the centre is a vital life line for the elderly.

David job is to do something for the men, a man shed, a hang out place and workshop.

Katie job is to link both areas with an accessible pathway and to do the welcoming area.

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Frances job is the shady, dark and dingy bit of the garden to create an oasis of calm.

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An enveloping area like a hug!

Alan job is to do the gathering area in the middle.

The garden is to draw everyone together, help banish loneliness and to give people a sense of purpose.

The plot is 2 metres below ground level so a lift is needed.

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A work in progress

David is ensuring the levels are correct to get the most garden space possible and still make it easily accessible.

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David is working on the path and they are laying a resin bound gravel path to cope with all the angles of the garden.

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He starts work constructing his man hangout / workshop.

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David is worried the building will look too large but as the side of it is open he hopes it will blend into its surroundings.

The electrics are being added to the workshop.

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David goes to see 97 year old Roy Houghton who has lived in the area since he was a boy, in his well kept garden for a chat.

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He tells David about the double decker trams nicknamed 'old rattlers' now there so many cars on the road you have to be careful.

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Roy wife passed away 5 years ago and he has home visits from Age UK, Roy has never felt confident enough to go the Day Centre.

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David asks Roy if he would come if they have the garden and projects to do and Roy agrees he would.

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Back in the garden he starts kitting out the workshop and fills it with DIY and carpentry tools.

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Next job is the planting out the front and Davis has chosen tall grasses which he is planting away from the eaves of the building as this will ensure they get watered from the rain.

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For colour he adds Astilbe, Heuchera and Plumbago.


Katie is marking out the entrance gateway to the garden to add some raised beds. 

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She is using triangular shaped beds to create a meandering pathway wide enough for wheelchairs.

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Katie is using railway sleepers and has sunk the bottom sleeper to ensure the height is correct.

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She then paints these a silver colour.

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Katie starts planting up the beds with the help of Alan with tall grasses and brightly coloured perennials.

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These include Echinacea that need protecting from slugs and Miscanthus grass.

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Euphorbia Ascot Rainbow is next and the foliage compliments the surrounding planting colour scheme.

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Achillea with its flat topped flowers is planted next to Rudbeckia. 

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Katie next raised bed will include edible plants and herbs.

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She has some amazing coloured chilis to add for instant colour.

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Rosemary and sage which will remain evergreen even in the Winter.

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She adding some seasonal salad lettuces which will be ready to eat in a couple of weeks.

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For mostly decorative purpose Katie plants some ornamental Kale, they are edible but they really are to look good.

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Katie has called in Esme and Annette to help her plant up some containers for the winter.

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They are using Heathers, Pansies, Asters, Cyclamen, Rosemary, Ivy, grasses and Heuchera.

These are going to placed at the entrance of the garden with some hung on the fencing.

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She is making brackets to hold these from double sided hardwood which is then attached to the fence.

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The gateway to the garden is now compete.


Frances has started work on he Shady area and wants it to be calm and leafy!


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The area includes some huge trees, she is raising the crown on these and cutting back the ivy that is climbing all over the trunks. 

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she is not killing the ivy as it is growing all over the tree and the bees love it .

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Frances starts work on her bespoke water feature with the help of Suzie by cutting up some left over paving.


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She adds a reservoir and starts adding the paving to create a cascade by using silicone to fix the slab pieces together.

A pump will draw the water up to a second reservoir at the top so it can cascade down and back round.

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A large slab is used on blocks in the middle for the water to run along and side edges to stop the water overflowing.

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The electrician fixes the pump and the top reservoir is filled with water ready for the test run.

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Alan turns and comments on the bare surrounding bed and Frances gets to work filling it.

Frances aided by Alan has started planting up her water feature area which is to the side of his gazebo.

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Her planting scheme is to reflect in the still water by surrounding it with tall billowy plants.

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Tall pink Barleria , surrounded by grasses, Gaura and Erigeron Karvinskianus.

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The Erigeron will stay small and cascade over the edge.

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Frances is being careful not to get any mud or plants too near the water feature because of the pump and because of the reflections. 

Safety tip also be careful of the electric below the surface of the soil.

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The final touch is to cover the grate of the reservoir with washed pebbles.

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The final shady bed is being laid out for planting in big bold hedges of plants.

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Pittosporum is first in and will need a light clip each year to keep it from growing too big.

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Hebes, Japanese Anemones and Cyclamen all like the shade.


Alan work has started on the gazebo in his meeting / socialising area. 


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He gets his drill out to start on the roof then paints the gazebo grey to blend in with the grey of the raised beds.


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A frazzled Alan says they are well behind schedule as Frances and Davis join him in the room where they are storing all the plants.

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Alan points out the small cluster of plants labelled David and Frances and the huge amount of plants labelled Alan! Alan has even taken over the whole stage!

A chain gang of people quickly gets the plants outside ready for planting.

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Alan starts on his first bed that wraps around the gazebo.

The beds are over a metre high so the scented plants like Lavender will be very fragrant and plants like the Euonymus will make a lovely display.

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He is also planting Liriope which has every green leaves and lilac flowers which last a long time.

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He adds a bold splash of colour using Fuchsia and Cyclamen which are hardy in Central London.


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Alan wants a focal feature tree so adds a Hawthorn, a British native tree.

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Underneath it he adds a seasonal bed of Asters including a small variety called Victoria.

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He also adds some evergreen Hebes.

Alan is planting up his last bed and it isto be  prairie style planting as the bed catches the sun for the right growing conditions.

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It is a mixture of tall grasses and daisy flowers, the grasses will give interest even in the Winter.

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He picks out a Pennisetum with its Barley like whiskers on top.

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Alan says he uses them like glue in his garden to tie areas together in a sweep of grasses.

Echinacea, Miscanthus and pink anemones are planted for the daisy effect.

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Rudbeckia is the final one added with its bright yellow flowers that carry on for weeks.


Alan visits a garden with no lawn in Catford South London belonging to Alex and Joe which is open under the NGS.

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The front garden is packed with flowers and colour.

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The back garden is an urban jungle paradise. 

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Towering palms and evergreens, give a lush, dense jungle feel, like being in Borneo.

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The greenery is broken up with Begonia Firecracker and Lobelia Cardinalis with their bright red flowers.

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Focal points like carefully placed Buddhas draw your eye.

The path is planted in between deck boards with Bugle and the beds around it are wide to create the illusion of being much wider with dense planting.


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The garden used to have a lawn but this was replaced by different height raised beds creating private areas and even a hidden hot tub!


Frances visits the garden of Wendy Nicolson to see her water feature and garden in Worthing.

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Their first water feature was the bath from when they renovated the house.

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They planted this up and made a small rockery around it but soon found it to be too small.


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Now they have a much larger pond and the waterfall water feature was made from an old dog cage, they filled with rocks and added a waterfall blade.

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Originally this was elsewhere in the garden but they had problems with the reservoir running dry as it sunk into the ground.



What the garden means to the Centre
Elsie, Esme and Annette are responsible for the planting outside the front of the building and it has brought them all closer together.

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Thomas Evans, Project Support Assistant at Age UK Croydon says they now have a common ground and they have a passion for it.

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Alan meets with 73 year old Elsie Henderson for a chat.

He talks about how when you retire you need to keep some sense of purpose. 

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Elsie says she is in the choir as she found she needed to get out and about after she retired and she enjoys doing the window boxes.

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Making the front of the Centre look nice makes her feel good and its how their friendship started with her other fellow window box gardeners.

Elsie says what a huge difference this garden is going to make, to have a nice seating area and vegetables and herbs to get people back to being active. 

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Alan says just because your older 'doesn't mean you have nothing to contribute', it will make them feel part of the area as well as being fun.


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Alan descends on his lift

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The final touches are added to the garden and it is now compete.


The Grand Reveal
The garden is now a accessible safe oasis of calm for the Day Centre users to escape into and socialise and learn new activities.

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All open your eyes

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Choruses of 'Wow' and shrieks of delight. 'My goodness' and a round of applause. 

'Oh my God' and happy laughter. 'Unbelievable' and at the lift access 'Wow' 'that's great' 'Oh my goodness' 

Alan shows them round the garden and the delight continues.

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Seating areas surrounded by planting

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Covered Gazebo

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Men only meeting area

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Workshop

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Entrance gateway complete with lift

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Bright flower beds

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Vegetable and herb beds


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Calm water feature and shade loving planting

They are all so happy with the garden and cries of 'thank you very much' follow.

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As people flood in to the garden to see it for the first time.

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Roy makes his first visit to the Centre and the new garden and is greeted by a delighted David.

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The Champagne corks pop as they toast the new garden and the new friendship it will help make.

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Alan ends by saying over the noise and laughter 'if this is old age, bring it on'!





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1 comment:

  1. libertydrives commented on "Love Your Garden Series 10: Episode 4 An Oasis in Croydon"

    19 Dec 2020
    Really glad to say, your post is very interesting to read. I never stop myself to say anything about it. You are doing a great job. Thank you for sharing this blog here.

    ReplyDelete