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The amazing Timperley cottage garden that’s 30 years in the making

PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 September 2015

Looking toward the new formal garden area

Looking toward the new formal garden area


The winners of the Cheshire Life Garden of the Year 2014 competition have spent over three decades transforming their Timperley cottage garden. We meet them to find out more. Words by Rebekka O’Grady

Mike and Hilary HarrisonMike and Hilary Harrison

It’s been a labour of love for Mike and Hilary Harrison for the past 32 years, but now they can finally say that their garden is finished. Winners of the 2014 Cheshire Life Garden of the Year award, the couple from Timperley have used their £1,000 prize voucher from Gordale Garden Centre at Ness on the Wirral to put the finishing touches to their cottage garden.

‘We were amazed to win, so surprised,’ said Mike. ‘With Cheshire being such a large county, there must have been so many entries. Even if we hadn’t have won, we really enjoyed putting together the application as it gave us a chance to look back on all we have done.’

The Harrison’s moved into Oak Cottage in 1983, and have worked on both the house and garden tirelessly since. The original cottage was built in the early 1800s and was used as a farm and agricultural workers accommodation. The land, which comprises of approximately one third of an acre, contained mainly outbuildings and greenhouses. ‘It was only a humble two up and two down property then,’ said Hilary. ‘A family of ten lived there – I have no idea how!’

After a rebuild of the cottage in 1970, the outbuildings were also demolished and little was done to the land. ‘It was all so overgrown when we first moved in,’ explained Mike. ‘Everything you see now just evolved over time, with us gradually chipping away at areas. Sometimes we made mistakes and it was a lot of work, but I have enjoyed it. Throughout it all we had one unwritten rule; everything in the garden had to be “cottagey”.’

Oak Cottage garden consists of four areas: North, South, East and West. Each of these areas has an individual theme, but run seamlessly together. To the front of the property is the cottage garden. This easterly space ticks all of the boxes for a quintessential English country garden, presenting the cottage beautifully. Moving round to the southerly aspect, here Mike and Hilary have retained some of the original fruit trees and extended it into a small orchard with bluebells.

‘We have apple, pear, plum and damson trees,’ said Hilary. ‘There is even an apple tree here that dates back to the Victorian times. We took one of the apples to an Apple Day and an expert told us to look after the tree as it was so old.’

The largest part of the garden is the western section. Here, the windows of Hilary and Mike’s home overlook this area, so there are plenty of interesting aspects to view from within the home or patio. From a rose garden and herbaceous beds to a water feature Mike hand built himself using stone from Bollington quarry, the west section is an area of life and colour. ‘For me, my favourite thing to do is the bedding and herbaceous plants,’ said Hilary. ‘I’m also in charge of planting and the vegetable plot. Mike does like to look after his tomatoes but he’s more involved in the larger items such as trees and bushes, as well as building aspect.’

The kitchen garden is included within this western area, and here is where we find Hilary’s vegetable plot. The Harrison’s could set up their own greengrocers with the amount of produce they are growing, especially as currently they have an abundance of cabbages. ‘I’m growing everything from broccoli, cauliflower and potatoes to various types of berries and beans!’

Winning the Cheshire Life Garden of the Year competition spurred the couple on to finish the remaining part of their stunning garden, the northern area. ‘Receiving the vouchers from Gordale acted as a catalyst to an attack an area we hadn’t quite decided what to do with,’ explained Mike. ‘We designed what we wanted in the winter, and then built the new formal area in March. That was the finishing touch to the garden. Now all we have to do it maintain and enjoy what we have achieved over the last 30 years.’

Hilary added: ‘Friends come over and say how great it is. You don’t realise as you go along just how much we have done to the garden and achieved in the space.’

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