Bringing a little avant garde to the garden

Garden expert Diane Harrison presenting at the Avant Garden group, which she helped set-up
Garden expert Diane Harrison presenting at the Avant Garden group, which she helped set-up

It’s that time of year when green fingered enthusiasts spring into action to make the most of their gardens and look to pick up a new tip or two to help those blooms last longer.

At the family run Avant Garden Centre in Leyland there is a group of amateur gardeners armed with the knowledge and skills and willing to help, inspire and share their expertise.

The Avant Gardening group meets the second wednesday of every month at the Avant Garden Centre in Leyland

The Avant Gardening group meets the second wednesday of every month at the Avant Garden Centre in Leyland

Meeting the second Wednesday every month at the centre in Wigan Road, the gardening group regularly invites a variety of speakers to present and demonstrate and secretary Pat Woodcock says they are very keen to see new members get involved.

From planting seeds to pruning, taking cuttings, dividing plants, designing hanging baskets to pots, Pat says the group covers it all and greatly helped with the assistance of Radio BBC Lancashire garden guru Diane Harrison and her sister Anita, who founded the club.

Pat says: “We are a small, friendly club, where each member’s input is greatly appreciated.

“All the members are amateur gardeners who all share a willingness to contribute their own gardening skills and improve their knowledge from the visiting speaker.”

The Avant Gardening group taking part in a sweet pea planting demonstration

The Avant Gardening group taking part in a sweet pea planting demonstration

The garden centre itself provides the perfect setting for the enthusiastic bunch who meet for their monthly hour and a half sessions at 10.30am.

The site was opened in 1997 by sisters Heather North and Juliet Taylor, who were motivated to bring ‘a little avant garde to the gardens of Leyland.’ This month they will celebrate their 20th anniversary.

They were soon joined by Diane and her wealth of gardening expertise. In true sister style Diane’s twin Anita also came on board offering a range of creative skills and Juliet’s vision of a new gardening group was born in 2015.

Pat adds: “It is with their help and continued support that the gardening club was founded and is still running.

“Juliet wanted to encourage local people to talk more about gardening and hopefully improve their knowledge and skills. As she was supplying plants to the local population, she felt an obligation to her customers to try and ensure that they got the best out of what they were purchasing. In the long term, it was also hoped that this would be reflected in the gardens of the local residents.

“We work hard to bring in new and exciting guest speakers to pass on their knowledge and expertise.

“Members are also strongly involved in choosing guest speakers and their topics.

“As well as the talks one of our members arranges an annual visit to a flower show or festival.

“Last year it was Castle Howard, this year it’s to be Harrogate and Harlow Carr Flower Show.

“Wherever possible, the guest speaker tries to incorporate a practical session in their presentation to help the members feel at ease with their new found skills.

We recently had a plant dividing session led by Diane.

“Members brought their own plants in, and at the end of the session the results of the dividing were shared between those present.”

“In May we visited the garden of one of our members who has completely redesigned her garden after only moving into her new home 18 months ago.”

“The highlight of Jacqueline Iddon’s visit was the variety of plants in the different locations in her huge garden.

“Jacqueline explained how she had to go to great lengths to make her gardens rabbit proof! There were also sculptures on display which are the work of her husband.

The monthly meetings cost £5, which covers the cost of the room hire, speaker’s fee and refreshments.

You can now also become an official member and receive a 10% discount card for gardening items in Avant Garden Centre.

The fee to receive this card is just £10 each year.

If you would like more information, speak to Juliet at Avant Garden Centre, Wigan Road, Leyland, or telephone her on 01772 433777.