GREEN-FINGERED tenants of Brontë Fold in Rathfriland have transformed their garden space into something bloomin’ lovely.
As we enjoyed one of the hottest summers on record, tenants of the Fold run by Radius Housing soaked up the sun as they potted an array of plants and produce outside.
However, for the tenants, creating their beautiful garden has provided them with so much more than just a lovely space to enjoy.
The Outlook caught up with members of the Fold’s garden committee last Friday afternoon to find out why they enjoyed the garden project so much.
Margaret Young from Ballyroney has been on the gardening committee for a year.
“My mother was a gardener and she was in the Fold originally here. She had her own garden when she was here too and I suppose you could say it’s in the blood.
“I enjoy keeping flowers. My garden area is opposite my sitting room window and it is nice to look out at the flowers.
“I was hoping I would get a bit of garden when I moved in so I was happy about that,” she said.
Margaret’s tip for anyone keen on gardening is to keep your area tidy and cut your grass often.
She said: “Along the area that I keep are roses and they have been there since the Fold opened. I keep an eye on them and trim them too.”
Lil Johnston from Drumlough, who lived in Hilltown for 42 years, has been on the gardening committee since it started five years ago.
Lil was awarded second prize in Rathfriland in Bloom earlier this month for her development of the Fold’s gardening space.
She said: “I was shocked and pleased at the same time to get the award and it was nice to get a wee bit of acknowledgement.
“I have a fairly big plot of flowers to maintain and I would also grow parsley, celery, leeks, rhubarb and scallions.
“I would grow them and eat them and also share them about with everyone else. When I got the area of garden it was totally overgrown and I tidied up.”
Lil says she would find herself out in her garden nearly every day.
She added: “It is lovely now to look out onto and it is interesting to see the flowers bloom every year and see them come round in rotation.
“My gardening tip is that your garden needs plenty of weeding and being out in it is certainly a way to fill your day and it keeps me active too.”
Meanwhile, Drew Kennedy from the Knock area outside Rathfriland says when he first came to the Fold there was a lot of overgrown trees that he cleared to make his own gardening space.
“I came to the Fold in 2013 and I have been on the gardening committee the last couple of years.
“I have my own plot in front of my window and I planted two damson trees last year. I said to myself that the trees will still be here even when I am not.
“I love passing the day being out in the garden and before you know it a few hours have gone by and it is maybe dinner time already.”
Jim Bingham from the Knock is one of the original members of the gardening committee, and has a small area of garden that he looks after.
He added: “I find it really enjoyable and have lovely neighbours here. I grow different flowers and have a gooseberry and blackcurrant bush. We always share our produce with one another.
“I like to get out in the fresh air to the garden. The Brontë Fold is run to a very high standard and there is always something to do. It is lovely that we have coffee mornings and lunches to get everyone together.”
Anne Nesbitt who was born in the Dungannon area, but lived in South Africa for 63 years, has been living in Brontë Fold over the last two years.
She said: “I ended up living in Rathfriland by accident through my friends from here. I have got 80 per cent hearing loss but everyone keeps me well filled in on what is going on.
“I was always a gardener and with my own way of thinking became quite experienced at it.”
Anne noticed that there was a patch of green grass that she could develop as a tub garden, which she has done with huge success.
She also asked the gardening committee if one of the summer seats could be moved into the area for tenants to relax in the good weather.
“I started the area in April and decided to use tubs only because eventually that piece of ground will be turned into a car park and we can move the pots elsewhere
“I have created the area with help from my son and he lifted the big bags of compost for me.
“I bought all the plants myself and got them delivered from a garden supplier in England. They were expensive but I didn’t really mind as gardening is my hobby and I was prepared to do it for the Fold residents,” she said.
Margaret Qua, scheme co-ordinator for Brontë Fold, said the tenants are always encouraged to get involved in looking after the communal garden area.
She said: “The tenants have an area each that they maintain if they want to throughout the year.
“It gives them an interest and it encourages engagement with one another and it helps them not to feel isolated.”
Margaret says gardening is also another way for a person to feel at home at the Fold.
“It is also a good form of exercise and allows the tenants to get out in the fresh air too. I love to see them getting involved and with having the gardening committee no decisions are made without consulting them.”