Binchester man's blooms deliver cash boost for charities

FIELDS of dahlias and chrysanthemums in bloom at a Northumberland nursery are a delight not only for visiting customers but also for butterflies and bees.

FIELDS of dahlias and chrysanthemums in bloom at a Northumberland nursery are a delight not only for visiting customers but also for butterflies and bees.

And one particular flower provided a real buzz for County Durham amateur dahlia-grower Gordon Hodgson.

Gordon had produced a new dahlia variety which was put through trials at the Halls of Heddon nursery.

The new variety, Westerton Folly, passed the test and has taken its place in this year’s Halls catalogue.

This comes after more than 600 Westerton Folly plants were sold last year.

Gordon, who lives at Binchester, near Bishop Auckland, donated his £650 royalties from the plant to the Great North Air Ambulance.

David Hall, a director of Halls of Heddon, said: "Gordon has been a customer of ours for a while and he approached us with his new dahlia.

"It proved a good variety and worthy of introduction and the donation has gone to a worthy cause.

"I am sure Westerton Folly will stay in our catalogue for a number of years."

This year’s catalogue introduces a second dahlia which Gordon has bred, called Westerton Lilian.

He plans to make a similar donation to a charity from the sales of his latest creation.

Gordon grows around 500 dahlias for exhibition with his brother Harold.

Westerton Folly won trophies at the big Harrogate show and also the seedling class at the major Stirling show in Scotland.

Gordon, who has been growing dahlias for 30 years, said: "I decided to donate the royalties from Westerton Folly to put something back into the community.

"When your seedlings are about to flower you can’t wait to see what they will be like, and I have another two varieties in the pipeline.

"Nobody was prouder than me when Halls of Heddon took Westerton Folly on because their dahlias go all over the world."

There will also be charity donations from the proceeds of another two new dahlias in this year’s catalogue.

John Hill, bred by Ian Hill, will see donations to Macmillan Cancer Support and Susan Gilbert, raised by Phil Godsmark, will help a hospice in Huddersfield.

Halls, which is based near Heddon-on-the-Wall, has been a family business since 1921. It sells around 70,000 dahlia plants and 2,000 tubers a year and features 260 varieties in its catalogue.

Plants are supplied to customers all over the UK and tubers to buyers in Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Iceland, the United States and Canada.

David Hall said: "The lifeblood of new varieties these days is reliant on amateur breeders.

"Each year we receive up to 75 varieties to trial in our fields.

"In this age of environmental awareness, we have seen an increasing interest in both the open centred dahlias and chrysanthemums as these provide a much-needed late season boost to beneficial insects such as bees and hoverflies as well as attracting a host of butterflies.

"Visitors have brought friends back to visit to see the butterflies swarming around on sunny September afternoons."

BLOOMS NAMED AFTER VILLAGE

BOTH of Gordon Hodgson’s new dahlia varieties are named after Westerton, the County Durham village where he grew up.

The Westerton Folly name takes its inspiration from the village’s listed 18th Century stone observatory tower.

It was designed by astronomer Thomas Wright, who was born at Byers Green in County Durham. He was also a mathematician, amateur architect and garden designer.

In 1730 he set up a school in Sunderland, where he taught mathematics and navigation. He later moved to London before retiring to County Durham.

Thomas Wright is best known for his publication An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe (1750), in which he offered an explanation of the Milky Way. He built a Roman-style villa at Byers Green. decorated with an elaborate astronomical scheme, and laid out gardens which have now all vanished.

 
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