A YEAR ago, the idea of holding a gardening competition in Ancrum was first aired.
For eight years, the silver cups of the village’s horticultural society had gathered dust in the attic of former president Bill Turnbull.
The certificates from earlier days spoke of Ancrum’s past successes in competitions such as Scotland in Bloom and Floral Gateway. However, the most recent commendation was dated 2000 and since then local gardens had bloomed unnoticed and unrecognised.
Ancrum Community Council believed it was time for things to change and set up a small committee, first under David Thomson and later Patrick Copsey, which decided on a softly, softly approach. Interest in such a competition had to be awakened. Everyone was so busy and had so many other commitments. Would there be any support?
The ball started rolling at the end of January with an illustrated talk from Andy Simmons, head gardener at Floors Castle on A Year in the Gardens at Balmoral, which attracted a wide audience from both inside and outside the village.
The cause was then taken up in April by Woodside Garden Centre proprietor Emma Emmerson, who invited the gardeners of Ancrum to tour the centre. Advice was given on plants and planting, plans for the future were revealed, tips for competition gardening given and every visitor was given a free selection of seeds.
She also promised to give a fuschia plant to every child at Ancrum primary who wanted to take part. These were distributed at the school at the end of April and the children, to be divided into two classes – under five and under 10 – were asked to grow the plants and bring them back for judging in August.
Older children were invited to produce a garden corner or a display of flowers or vegetables in a tub or trough. With every encouragement from the school staff, no less than 31 children eagerly agreed to take part.
The organising committee of the proposed competition – christened Go Gardening Ancrum! – had hoped to attract around 15 gardens into the adult section and, at first, the response was slow.
Judges were appointed. Charlie Allison, head gardener at Faldonside House, was to judge the children’s classes, while Mary Beaton, many times a winner at Jedburgh, and her sister Ena Lunn were given the task of judging the adult gardens.
As the final date for entries drew near, the gardens started to come in. By the end of July, 28 gardens – large, medium, small and new – had entered: almost double the original expectation and far beyond the committee’s most optimistic prediction. Furthermore, 23 of these were happy to invite the rest of the village in on the day to see their gardens.
The days leading up to last Saturday were awful. Rain followed rain and wind battered the gardens, but fortunately, with the exception of one shower, Saturday was grey but dry.
The judges had a major task on their hands. Starting at 9.30am and with just a short break for coffee, they had 28 gardens to judge before 2pm at which time visitors were allowed entry into participating gardens. Exhausted, they just made it in time to sit down with the committee members for a splendid lunch given by Elizabeth Forsyth.
By 3.30pm Patrick Copsey was able to welcome a sizeable crowd to the village hall. Prizes were handed out by Mrs Beaton who was presented with a bouquet by Mr Turnbull. Tea and biscuits were served by Rosemary Grieve, Janet McLeish and Sally Henry. When the efforts of children and adults were added together, 59 entries had been received. And the aforementioned eight silver cups are no longer gathering dust, but are shining proudly in homes in Ancrum and one five-year-old’s in Jedburgh.
Go Gardening, Ancrum! looks like becoming a permanent fixture in the village’s calendar.