Whatever the weather, there is a touch of the tropical in one corner of the North East. The Florida Keys is a favourite holiday destination for Liz and Craig Reid - and they decided to import a taste of its tropical character to their home in Springwell village on the border of Gateshead and Sunderland.
The garden at the rear of their house has been given a tropical theme, including a beach bar called The Lazy Frog, with neon signs, surf board and ship’s bell.
Liz has concentrated on tropical-feel plants which can withstand the North East climate, such as a 7ft tall yucca, assorted hardy palms, big-leaved fatsias and lots of bamboo.
Liz has been able to devote more time to the garden after retiring after 29 years of working for Gateshead Council, latterly in the economic and regeneration field.
She has also created a cottage garden at the front of her home.
“We love working in the garden but we also enjoy relaxing in it - not taking it too seriously,” says Liz.
She has also joined the National Gardens Scheme (NGS), as assistant organiser for Northumberland and Tyne and Wear.
Under the NGS scheme, more than 3,800 mainly private gardens open nationally to the public each year to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Help the Hospices and the Carers Trust.
In total the NGS has donated £14,75 million to Macmillan and £6.8 million to Marie Curie.
This year Liz has opened her garden by appointment, including a Ladies’ Day which raised £700.
County organiser Maureen Kesteven also opens her garden in Ryton in Gateshead.
But after the closure of Moorbank botanic garden in Newcastle, the city is without an NGS representative. Now Liz and Maureen are appealing for Newcastle gardeners to come forward and open their plots for the NGS.
“It’s good to share the garden with visitors, who are always keen to share ideas and knowledge and at the same time raise funds for some great causes,” says Liz.
“Gardens don’t have to be big or be a world beater, but should have enough for about 45 minutes of interest.
“For me it’s been lovely to have so many people like the garden and be so happy to contribute to the charity.”
Maureen says: “Moorbank had a great reputation and held very successful NGS open days to raise many thousands of pounds every year for charity.”
Moorbank botanic garden in Claremont Road closed after Newcastle University decided not to renew its lease with the owners, the Freemen of Newcastle.
The Friends of Moorbank claim that they offered to continue to work on the Moorbank grounds but had not had a reply from the Freemen.
They have now donated their funds to the NGS.
“The Friends very kindly made a final contribution to the NGS which was much appreciated,” said Maureen.
“But I am conscious that its financial input will be a big loss, and particularly hard to bear in an area that receives so much support from the very charities that benefit from the NGS.”
The NGS is the biggest single annual donor to Macmillan, Marie Curie, Help the Hospices and the Carers Trust – all of which are very active in the Tyne and Wear.
“We are appealing to gardeners to come forward to show off their talents. I’m sure there are many who do not know much about the NGS and what it does, or who need a bit of encouragement,” says Maureen.
“Gardens don’t have to be big – just interesting and well maintained – and our friendly local team is happy to advise on how to bring gardens into the NGS scheme.
“I feel sure that in this area famous for its friendliness and generosity the North East could continue to make a massive contribution”
If you can help Contact Liz on 07719875750 or email firstname.lastname@example.org