Barbara just loves sharing her labour of love with all

Barbara Barlow in her garden
Barbara Barlow in her garden

Many people decide to buy a Porsche or have a makeover when they turn 50, but Barbara Barlow had other ideas.

She was green-fingered and decided to transform the garden at her home, The Ridges, in Limbrick.

The three-and-a-half acre site had a small woodland and lawns, as well as rhododendrons and shrubs.

Barbara, 69, said: “It all started when I was 50. I had brought four children up and my youngest was about 14.

“I had never gone to work as such and I thought, ‘What could I do?’”

She continued: “I thought the only thing I knew was gardening, so I thought I would try to develop the garden.

“What was an orchard in our little back garden, instead of growing vegetables, I started planting perennials and making the garden bigger and wider.

“I started growing plants with good flowers and unusual foliage, mainly for flower arrangers so they could make displays.”

Barbara got to work improving her garden and arranged for it to feature in the National Garden Scheme’s Yellow Book, which lists thousands of gardens around the country that are open to the public to raise money for charity.

She said: “I thought that would be a good way to get known.”

The Ridges was previously home to John Haslem Gillett, who owned several mills in the borough, and then his son, Arnold, who became Mayor of Chorley.

Barbara’s parents, Phyllis and Kenneth Jackson, bought it in 1952.

Barbara moved away when she got married, but returned in 1984 when her father died and the house was divided into two parts – half for Barbara and her family and half for her mother.

Barbara’s mother died in 2004, aged 94, and she took over her garden.

She said: “I only had a side lawn and a little back garden then, but over the years it’s got bigger and bigger.”

The garden now has a wide range of different plants, trees and special features.

Among them are a wildlife pond, which used to be a sand pit for Barbara’s children.

She said: “I have filled that in and I have frogs, newts and tadpoles there.

“They come naturally and the frogs always come back to where they were born.

“In spring, we can see about 40 or 50 frogs.”

Another feature is a stream.

“I have created a little stream and planted bog-type plants to make it look like a natural stream,” she said. “That slows to another little stream. It attracts dragonflies in the summer.”

Wildlife plays an important part in the garden and there is a herb garden that attracts bees and butterflies.

There are also squirrels, foxes and a wide variety of birds.

Barbara said: “I have so many birds and I do leave a lot of plants with the seed pods on and that brings all sorts of birds to the garden.

“I have so many baby thrushes bobbing around now.

“We have owls as well - there’s a pair of owls sitting in the magnolia tree each summer.

“At the moment they have babies as well.

“People love to see the birds. You can see the owls looking down on you.”

The animals do cause some problems for Barbara though.

She said: “At the moment we are competing with the rabbits and squirrels because every time we plant a new plant, they pull them up.

“I’m trying hard to find plants they don’t like.”

The garden has an archway leading to a big formal lawn, where Barbara has planted trees and hydrangeas.

There is a large copper beech tree, golden leaf trees and red leaf trees, and a handkerchief tree.

One of Barbara’s trees is a Chinese tree called a cornus kousa chinensis.

“It has white flowers and they are turning into bright red flowers,” she said.

Barbara has now spent 20 years developing the garden and spends between eight and 13 hours a day working in it in the summer.

She has help from her husband of 48 years, John, and a handyman who comes once a week.

Barbara said: “It’s hard work but it is worth it.”

Despite the years she has put into her garden, Barbara still has more to do.

She said: “There is lots of bracken that I don’t want in and I’m trying to plant some big ferns and big leaf plants and get rid of rhododendrons that have got sprawly.

“I’m planting shade-loving plants.

“There are lots of bluebells in the spring and I have foxgloves too.”

Barbara is determined to keep working on her garden and opening it to visitors.

She said: “If I didn’t open the garden, only me and my family would see it.

“It makes me have to go out and see it and keep it tidy.

“It’s like a job so I’m not bored.”

Her garden has proved to be a big hit with visitors, who flock to have a look around.

Some days, up to 300 people visit.

Barbara, who has two grandsons, said: “We have lots of people who absolutely love the garden. They come in, they relax and they can hear the birds singing.

“It’s a very natural garden. It’s not a formal garden like a park.”

The nature of the garden means it changes throughout the year and visitors can return to see something different.

Barbara said: “At the moment, all the rambling roses are open. They are heavily scented and that’s the attraction for June and July.

“We have clematis through the apple trees as well.”

The garden attracts many different visitors, whether it’s those who happen to be passing on their way to Rivington or people who travel there specifically.

Barbara said: “All ages come.

“There are a lot of people who are 50 plus who like gardening, but it’s surprising how many young people come with children, who are setting up a garden with a new house.

“Because they don’t know much about gardening, they can see how the plants grow and find out more about them.”

Visitors to the garden have helped to raise thousands of pounds for charity over the last 20 years.

During open days on Bank Holiday weekends, members of St James’ Church and other good causes sell teas, homemade cakes and other refreshments to raise money.

Barbara has raised £24,000 for charity by holding open days for the National Garden Scheme.

She has received a silver trowel to mark the 20 years she has opened her garden under the scheme.

And her love of gardening continues to be strong.

She said: “You plant things, you take cuttings and something starts to grow and you know you have done it.

“You do have to cope with slugs and snails and things like that and that’s the hard part, but I like it because I have done it.”

The Ridges Garden is on Weavers Brow, a continuation of Cowling Road.

It is open from 11am to 5pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays in June and July, as well as on Bank Holidays in May and August.

Entry costs £4 and is free for children under the age of 12.

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