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Clive Lane, a founder member of the Cottage Garden Society shows us his garden in Betley

PUBLISHED: 20:35 05 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:50 20 February 2013

Clive Lane in his Betley garden

Clive Lane in his Betley garden

Clive Lane, a founder member of the Cottage Garden Society, has spent over three decades creating his perfect garden in Betley

When you are a founder member of an organisation that celebrates and promotes the importance of cottage gardens, you had better make sure you have your own plot in order. This is no problem for Clive Lane, who helped establish The Cottage Garden Society and is now the international groups administrator.

Since the retired travel agency owner and his wife, the Reverend Pamela Lane, moved into their Betley home in 1978, Clive has dedicated his time to transforming the gardens into a tranquil oasis. What is most remarkable is that before they made the move to the picture postcard south Cheshire village, he had little interest in gardening.

Clive explained: Pamela said that if we were going to get this house with this garden I would have to take an interest in plants and she bought me a book on cottage garden plants. That was it, I was hooked.

It took me a few years to work out what to do. The space was mostly lawns and there was a vegetable patch. I have taken most of the lawns up to make room for all the wonderful old plants.

Clives willingness to learn has paid off. He has orchestrated a stunning transformation. Where those many lawns were is now a treasure trove of sun traps and shady havens bursting with colourful blooms that give off a heady assortment of scents.

It was that which I first loved about cottage gardens, said Clive, the author of several cottage garden books. The scents of the old flowers are really quite wonderful. I decided to grow a lot of the old varieties of roses because I think they are just beautiful. June is one of my favourite times of year because the garden is teeming with them.

A walk around the one-acre site reveals the extent of the 71-year-olds passion. He dashes around excitedly taking cuttings here and there and taking in the intoxicating smells. He points out old varieties of roses including one of his favourites, Maidens Blush, a delicate pink-coloured bloom.

Over the years he has sourced and propagated many traditional cottage garden plants and some have been grown from seeds bought on his travels around the world. These include columbine lupines and poppies from America. Elsewhere, there are Francis E Lester roses which Clive has grown through a buddleia as well as honeysuckle, white rugosa, primroses, dianthus, violets and variegated lilacs. He even cultivates rose plantain.

He said: Im sure some people think Im mad because its a weed but the scent is very strong. Its an old favourite and it has a really pretty flower that I love. I love all the plants. I think they are absolutely gorgeous.

The couple bought more land to add to their garden and Clive has turned it into a shady woodland garden on a steep incline. This is home to carpets of snowdrops and crocuses in the early spring there are more than 45 varieties of snowdrops in the garden.

A small group of pheasants also set up home here during the winter. In fact, Clives garden is so stocked with more than 2,000 plants that there is little room for any more.

A contributing factor in its development - as well as many other cottage gardens - has been the formation of the Cottage Garden Society 30 years ago.

He said:Back then gardens were all about conifers and hedges. People were ripping up cottage gardens so it meant that the old-fashioned plants that I and many people loved were becoming more difficult to acquire.

The only way we could get them was by swapping. We were writing to each other and swapping plants. One of the people I was writing to in North Wales, Doris Stephenson, thought it would be a good thing to set up a society so she brought a group of like-minded people together.

Enquiries come in from all over the country now and internationally. We want to preserve the old cottage gardens and their plants and were very proud to be celebrating our anniversary year.

What I love about them is that they are peaceful, informal and the scents are quite wonderful. It is my passion. My garden is so restful. You can walk in the back here and it is as if nothing else exists.

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