Retired teacher's grand design wins award from Gardeners' World

Frank Bowdler in his award-winning garden
Frank Bowdler in his award-winning garden

A green-fingered pensioner has been praised for his award-winning garden which critics have described as “theatre with plants”.

Frank Bowdler’s amazing garden was selected as BBC Gardeners’ World magazine’s garden of the year, a prize which included not only prestige but also a holiday to Costa Rica!

When Mr Bowdler, a 73-year-old retired art teacher from Tyldesley, first moved into his house it was dominated by a long side lawn and was sparsely planted.

But over the past three decades he has filled it with hundreds of plant species, from woodland ferns to tropical cannas.

“It’s got three different sections, but it’s not really very big, only about 12 metres or so,” he said.

“I’ve used reclaimed materials and it has a well, and a section that’s quite tropical. It’s packed without about 250 different plants.”

His garden attracted praise from the judging panel, including Alan Titchmarsh who said: “This is a gardener who knows his plants - I want to sit in this garden!”

And fellow judge Diarmuid Gavin praised the garden for its “theatre with the plants”.

He added: “I used to do scenery paintings, for the Three Tenors Society and the local amateur dramatics group, so there is a little bit of theatre involved. It’s been dressed with tables and chairs.”

Mr Bowdler used to be an art teacher at Fred Longworth High School and has used his artistic talent to transform his garden over the course of several years.

He said: “My mum said I used to talk to the trees when I was little! I used to have tomato boxes filled with little plants, but my cat would always use it as a litter tray!

“I bought this house when I was 40. The garden was there to work on, but I didn’t really have time then because I was still teaching, so I really only started when I retired, and more so in the last 15 years.

“It was nowhere near like this. It’s been worked on and been changed and adapted, and it’s still not finished.

“A garden never really is and I’m already planning on more changes over the next year.”

He went on: “It’s difficult to say how many hours I’ve put in. I don’t think I spent that much time on it, really. I just potter about, pruning bits every day, but the hardest bit tends to be the lawn because you have to do that on a regular basis.

“But it keeps me occupied, keeps me busy. I get a sense of satisfaction out of seeing the product of my hard work. It’s very rewarding for me, it’s a pity that more people don’t do their gardens.

“So many pave over them or put artificial turf down, which is one of my pet hates, and have plastic flowers

out.”