Love Your Garden Series 12 Episode 5 The Wirral

Love Your Garden Series 12 Episode 5 The Wirral

 Alan Titchmarsh welcomes us to Love Your Garden and Series 12 episode 5 which returned after a break in Series 12 on 04 April 2023.

Alan says how he is lucky to meet all sorts of people and he finds people who devote their lives into helping others the most inspirational.

With his team they want to thank these people by giving them their dream garden.

Gardens rejuvenate you and offer tranquillity when you have had a hard day and they are bringing tired gardens back to life.

So this year Alan and his team David DomoneyKatie RushworthFrances Tophill and Danny Clarke are going to surprise some inspirational people and give them breath taking gardens to transform their lives.

They will also share the secrets of how they do this, giving us good ideas to transform the chosen garden as well as in our own gardens.

'Welcome to Love Your Garden'.

Alan is in Heswall on the Wirral to surprise an amazing couple Conrad and Pauline Toohey.

Conrad is a Childline Volunteer of the Year and wife Pauline works for Disabled Rights and has been recognised by the Queen for her work.

They have a severely disabled son called Keiron and with a lot going on the garden has been neglected.

Alan Conrad and Pauline

Alan rings the doorbell and a surprised Conrad opens the door and calls an equally surprised Pauline to the door to meet him.

He asks about the garden and they say its not good and he asks to go and have a look.

First thing to do when round the back is to introduce himself to Keiron who has joined them.

Morris Rowland a family friend says how the couple have faced a lot of challenges and keep going and are always there to help other people and he greatly admires them.

Tooheys and Alan

Keiron was born with a brain injury  leaving him unable to walk and talk he is now 28 years old, and has complex needs.

Graham Winn, Pauline's Brother says Kieron will always be dependent on them but they come through every challenge together.

Conrad and Pauline were previously Nurses for the NHS and Keiron has carers and also attends a Day Centre to stimulate his senses.

Colin Parry and Keiron

Colin Parry, Keiron's Senior Care Worker says to have a garden that will stimulate his senses all the time will be amazing.

The couple have spent all their savings having the bungalow adapted for Keiron but the garden has sadly then be left out and neglected.

They were told not to bring Keiron home after he was born as he would be too complex to care for but they could not walk away he was already part of the family.

The Garden
Pauline has not been out in the garden properly in 7 years, after having Sepsis her mobility has been very poor making the garden inaccessible.

The garden before

Both Keiron and Pauline have been trapped in the house unable to access the garden.

The garden is a bit of an assault course with uneven surfaces of decking, paving and metal sheeting.

The garden before

There is signs it was once loved with some trellis and Jasmine and a bed surrounded by box hedging.

Pauline used to do the garden when she was more able and its a shame she can no longer garden.

The garden before

In the middle of the garden are some large Phormiums that are sentimental as they came from cuttings from Tenby where they stayed with Keiron.

Conrad wants them kept which is just as well as Alan says they are hard to dig up!

The garden before

At the end of the garden there is a falling down Gazebo and an overgrown pond.

Alan asks Conrad what his dream garden is and he wants a seating area, something for Keiron which is bright and bold and sensory.

The centrepiece for the garden is going to be the Phormiums and then a tropical oasis around them.

Design Concepts
Alan is in Cheshire to visit a garden you can escape in just like he wants to create for the Toohey family.

Alan garden visit

The garden is a lot larger but he has come to see the planting that he is hoping to replicate in the garden.

The garden contains some Rhododendrons that are a very tough plant that looks exotic with its large leaves and big flowers.

Alan garden visit

When in this garden you forget it is next to a busy road as it makes you disappear into the garden and come out all refreshed.

Alan spots some Phormiums that are just the same as the bed in the Toohey's garden and they give colour and texture right through the year so everyone keen to keep them.

Tropical style planting does not need the tropical heat even in the North they can flourish and can be in a mixed border to give impact all year.

Alan garden visit

A jungle look needs to have the planting very close together and they do some tiering with the various heights so that it comes towards you to make you want to explore inside the border.

The garden has a wonderful pond and every garden is better if you add some water to it.

It has a waterfall that makes it very tranquil and relaxing and it also good for attracting wildlife and he wants to add water to the family's garden to give a tropical feel. 

Alan starts his plans and firstly the garden needs to be fully accessible for everyone as its been so long since they were all in the garden.

Alan plan

David will do the back of the house replacing the decking with a platform to view the garden from and it will have borders of sensory plants.

Katie will create a central seating area with planting at a height Pauline can join in with doing.

Alan is doing the end of the garden and make a structure using the old Pergola to entertain in or eat in.

Alan plan

Also he will make the pond into something a lot nicer and the garden will all be surrounded by the Phormiums and a lot of tropical foliage.

When the garden is done it will help stimulate Keiron's senses as well as be a much needed sanctuary to escape into for everyone.

Garden Visit
Frances Tophill is at The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall and the gardens were originally planted for a wealthy family but during the war they became overgrown and lost.

Garden visit

In 1990 they were rediscovered and restoration started and they are the only outdoor Jungle in the UK.

The have the National collection of Camellias and Rhododendrons.

The garden is looked after by Head Gardener Cindy who shows Frances around the garden and points out some good jungle plants like Zantedeschia White Giant that is also fragrant.

Cindy and Frances

You can get smaller varieties that are more readily available and will do ok if you give them a chance.

Heligan has its own micro-climate due to it being in a steep valley and it is 5 degrees warmer in the jungle area than outside the valley.

Frances is in the water with Cindy planting water lilies in one of the 4 ponds and they clear out the ponds about 4 times a year of any weeds.

Cindy and Frances

The pond has natural clay bottom and the plants will just root into that so they will get all the nutrients they need in a concrete or lined pond you need special feeding tablets for them.

The pond is full of Tadpoles and it also contains Eels which un nerves Frances a bit but they are only a foot long, they also have Otters and Kingfishers visiting the pond.

Water lilies the leaves and flowers float on the surface of the water and come in all sorts of colours.

Water Lilies

This pond is huge but even for small ponds or ponds in a pot you can get Pygmy ones so there one for every pond.

The garden has a delicate ecosystem balanced with nature and the Gardening Teams plantmanship to keep the garden evolving.

Frances says the garden is mysterious and romantic with loads of texture and colour and a garden you really can lose yourself in.

A Work in Progress
Alan calls in his trusty team of contractors as well as fellow Love Your Garden Team members David Domoney and Katie Rushworth

David has started work on expanding the decking at the back of the house and making a safe place for Keiron.

David doing decking

It is now double the size covering the whole back and he is using low maintenance and anti slip composite decking made from recycled carrier bags.

Around the decking a 30 cm raised bed has been constructed by adding an outer wall and these are lined with plastic to protect the wooden wall.

In front of these they have also made 2 more triangle shaped raised beds.

David then has to fill these very deep beds and they take a lot of soil!

It is now time to plant up the triangular bed with some tropical plants which he is placing carefully so the textures as well as colour and size look good.

David planting

The Phormium with its long foliage is next to a Cytisus  with its soft leaves contrasts this and some Spireas at the front will form a mound will all look good together.

To plant a big plant David shows us how he marks round the pot for the planting position and uses he spade to measure the plant for the depth.

David planting Phormiums

He is planting large Phormiums at the back to replicate that one already in the garden and this will not only tie the garden together but help hide the shed!

David has moved on to plant the area around the patio and he has especially chosen these plants for the family.

David planting

They are all sensory plants and he is using Hebes and one called Wiri Charm which flowers late Spring which pollinators love, so you get the flowers plus the noise of the bees.

Next to it is a Nepeta called Purrsian Blue also known as Catmint as cats love it.

There are going to be 3 water features in the garden and David one is upright and has water cascading down the Corten steel.

Water feature

He is also adding a sun shade over this area so they can sit and eat in the shade at the new Dining area.

Katie is working on the central area and the box hedging has been removed and there will now be a seating area for the family.

Katie laying patio

She is laying the patio and some good tips are to have a good depth of hardcore down first and to run the paving away from your house for drainage.

To make the area look more pleasing she is breaking up the gravel path with some slabs and David is helping her place them.

Katie has added raised beds to a height that Pauline can use and she planting them up with some Forget Me Knots as Pauline's father had Alzheimer's and the Alzheimer's Society use them to raise awareness.

flower bed

Next she planting Osteospermum and some Erysimum which are scented but she also left spaces for Pauline to plant her own choice of plants.

Katie is trying to encourage as many birds into the garden and she is upcycling wood from the old pergola to make bird feeding stations in the borders.

In her area she also has a water feature and she is adding non toxic black dye to the water this will make it reflective and good for Keiron.

Katie water feature

There is a small pump to ripple the water and the dye will also stop algae.

Katie is adding her final touches the bird boxes and they are all at different heights but high enough to be away from predators.

Alan arrives to look at the progress and in his area a the bottom the terrace has been laid and they are starting work on the Pergola

Alan in Pergola

The pond is already full of tadpoles and frogs and he wants to add a water feature to this area to make it feel all part of the garden.

The pergola quickly slots into place and having a vertical structure really lifts the whole garden, then the roof rafters need to be put in place to provide the shade.

Alan next job is to tidy up the Phormiums by removing anything that is dead, diseased or damaged the 3 D's.

Alan trimming Phormiums

He starts by pulling the loose dead leaves out and then needs to cut the tougher ones.

Phormiums are evergreen and come from New Zealand, they like full sun and being kept out of the wind and survive quite well in our cooler climate.

Alan is expanding the existing pond and is adding a rock pool water feature next to it and he has found a rock in the garden to use as a natural waterfall.

To cut a hole in the rock they use a diamond bladed saw and once done the pond will have a liner and then a butyl rubber liner which is long lasting.

Alan watches contractor

He then fills it with the hosepipe and the weight of the water will pull the liner into shape.

Once full he disguises the edges with rock and as it is a shady area he is going to .add foliage to give it that tropical feel.

Alan is planting his beds with a tropical feel too and he also has some sensory plants like the very scented Choisya the Mexican Orange Blossom.

Keiron can come around the deck and fell and smell the plants like the Ferns as they all have different textures in the border.

Alan working on another border that has Box at the back and he has added Pheasant Grass and Erysimum, a perennial Wallflower called Apricot Delight  and also a Pink Heuchera and Spirea.

On top of the Pergola he is adding some willow panels to give some dappled shade and gives a real tropical feel.

Alan pergola

Behind the Pergola he is adding some large Bamboo which you need to get the clumping sort next to them he is planting Griselinia and can cope if planted near the sea.

In the middle he has put a Cabbage or Torbay Palm and surrounded this with Dwarf Bamboo and a few Fatsias, False Castor oil plants.

Alan is putting a pump in his water feature and using a plant to hide the pipes, now time to test the pump.  It works perfectly.

Mexican Lily, Beschorneria Yuccocides

All the planting in the garden has been hardy and low Maintenance but Alan has a show stopper of a plant and its a Mexican Lily, Beschorneria Yuccocides can be left outside all summer but needs taking indoors in the autumn.

The paths are now going down and they are wheelchair friendly so they do not get stuck in the gravel.

What the Garden means for them
Katie is meeting up with Conrad and Pauline as they are enjoying their hobby of watching birds and wildlife when Keiron is at his Day Centre.

The come once a week and spot all sorts of birds from Pheasants to Skylarks.

Katie is meeting up with Conrad and Pauline

Katie asks them what they are feeling about the garden, and Pauline says she is nervous and wondering about what's going in the garden and if it will be wildlife friendly.

So Katie returns to the garden to make sure birds are included on the list of wildlife friendly additions.

With the final touches added to the Garden it is now complete.

The Grand Reveal

Family see garden

Open your eyes Conrad and Pauline as Keiron joins them too
'Oh Alan' 'Oh my god' 'Oh ... oh ... oh my goodness' 'All right? I's totally' ' Oh wow oh' 'Oh isn't it lovely' ''Oh I hadn't seen that' ''I could hear water but I couldn't' 'Oh' 'I just wanted something nice for us' 

As the tears flow from an overwhelmed Conrad and Pauline is just left speechless.

Wheelchair friendly paths

Finished garden

Viewing platform

Sensory Garden

Finished garden

Dining area

Finished garden

Sitting area with raised beds


water feature

Water features

Conrad pushes Pauline around the garden as they spot things, the black water, birdhouses and Alan points out the Forget Me Nots for her Father.

They both love it and Pauline has finally got to the bottom of the garden again.

Forget Me Nots

Family and friends spill into the garden for their first look and are all amazed at the new garden they can all get out into.

The programme was dedicated to Alice Winn 1938- 2022, Pauline's Mum who sadly passed away shortly after the garden was finished but got to see it.

All photographs are copyright of


Landscape Team

J P Landscapes

Jason Williams

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