Newport man Allan Johnston has spent hours in the Great Outdoors transforming a previously unloved area of his local allotments into a riot of colour. He talks to KATH SKELLON.
GREEN-FINGERED gardener Allan Johnston has spent the past four years lovingly transforming a bank of weeds into a blaze of colour.
Affectionately known as ‘Allan’s Bank’, the challenge of planting and maintaining a flower bed, which is some four metres wide and on a 45 to 60 degree slope, has never deterred 79 year-old Mr Johnston.
The retired piling foreman, who hails from County Antrim in Northern Ireland, has created a rainbow of colour featuring dozens of varieties of plants from the Poached Egg plant to poppies, lupins and chrysanthemums.
Alongside this he also produces an array of fruit and vegetables from runner beans, to beetroot and tomatoes on his own allotment patch.
The great-grandfather of four developed a passion for gardening as a child and seven decades later still has an infectious enthusiasm for his hobby.
“Growing up on farm in the country seven miles from the nearest town meant we had not electricity, running water or gas.”
“We didn’t have a lot of money but were able to grow plenty of fruit and vegetables.”
“At school we had allotments and a boy and a girl to each plot which is where I began learning about what to plant when and how.”
“I’ve always been an outdoor person and an allotment or fairly big garden wherever I have lived.”
Mr Johnston moved to Gloucester and went to work on the railroad before becoming settling in Newport in the 1960s.
Accompanied by his beloved border collie, Megan, Mr Johnston, of The Glebelands, can be found on most days, weather permitting, caring for and maintaining the flowerbeds and vegetable patch.
His brightly coloured display of flowers has attracted much attention from locals, as has his use of studs on his shoes to enable him to grip the steep bank while he painstakingly tends to the plants.
“This area was infested with weeds until we cleared the weeds and prepared the soil for planting four years ago.”
“Since then it has gone from strength to strength and is filled with numerous varieties of flowers and shrubs from ‘grannies bonnet’ to Foxgloves and peonies.”
The bees and butterflies love the mass of flowers and visitors and fellow gardeners do often comment on how lovely it looks.”
“We are lucky because we have had a mild winter and the plants are sheltered on the bank from the east wind.”
“During May I weed and lay fertilizer and a drop of water if the plants get too dry.”
He has many favourite flowers, among them are California Poppies because of their orange colour and Fuchsia which can stand the winter and bloom right up until the frost.
“I get my seeds from local nurseries and some I that I can’t get locally in Tuckers of Somerset.”
Mr Johnston only grows what he will eat and on his vegetable features onions, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, radish, sprouts, celeriac and beetroot to name but a few.
“I have been eating my own salad for the last month and am waiting for my new potatoes which should be ready in a fortnight.”
“After that the garden peas, broad beans and carrots will be ready.”
“The main crop comes to fruition in September. If the weather is good they can stay until October. After that I get manure from a farm and spread it on to get the ground ready for the planting after Christmas and put plants in trays in the greenhouse.”
The patch, which measures 30ft by 5metres wide, also contains fruit trees from apple to blackcurrants, gooseberries and a green house where the tomatoes are housed.
“Gardening never stops,” admits Mr Johnston.
“If you are not doing anything you are planning what you will do. I am not one for sitting in the house.”
“It’s a labour of love and very rewarding.”
“I will carry on as long as I am fit enough but hope that someone will step in when I become unable to look after it.”
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