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Durham’s allotment cutting garden is heaven on earth

Head gardener Geoff MacCallum in Durham Cathedral’s cutting garden Credit: Chris Watt For The Telegraph. Click image to see larger file.

The garden’s survival is something of a miracle. The high brick walls, potting shed and glasshouse date it to the Victorian era, but it’s been a flower garden since at least the Fifties.

By Caroline Beck
The Telegraph
2 Sept. 2017


The team of volunteers is run by Helena Johnson, a former civil servant and the regional chair of the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies (Nafas). At just 5ft tall, the floral arrangements in the Crossing of the Cathedral always tower above her by at least 3ft. She’s been doing the flowers since 1997, a weekly task throughout the year, using foliage cut by the gardeners and, during the summer, their flowers. “It’s so handy having the garden here, knowing they’ve just been cut the day before and are really fresh.”

From early summer with the first peonies and roses, through to the dahlias, chrysanthemums and tall herbaceous perennials such as solidago (golden rod), the garden provides the bulk of the cathedral’s flowers, and in other seasons they come from Holland. “It takes a team of about five or six of us to work on the large urns, known as the Ridleys, and I love talking to the visitors from across the world, curious about what flowers we’re using and why.” There’s considerable envy from other cathedral flower arrangers that Durham has its own local supply. At nearby Hexham Abbey, I once heard a group of flower arrangers complaining about having to use stuff grown at the side of the road.

Read the complete article here.

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