Prime time slot for Shetland garden

One aspect of Lea Gardens looking resplendent under a blanket of snow. Photo: Rosa Steppanova
One aspect of Lea Gardens looking resplendent under a blanket of snow. Photo: Rosa Steppanova

It started as a top secret filming project – but Rosa Stepannova’s garden will tonight feature on prime time television.

Lea Gardens at Tresta was one of 600 nominated to appear in Alan Titchmarsh’s Britain’s Best Back Gardens, which was made to celebrate his 50 years of gardening.

The three-part series will feature 30 of those 600 nominations and the first programme, which focuses on his 10 favourites, includes Lea Gardens.

Rosa is delighted, and thrilled that she can now talk about it. “I had to sign something equivalent to the Official Secrets Act,” she said. “I wasn’t allowed to talk to anybody.”

She said the filming took place last summer after her garden was nominated, she thinks, after its inclusion in the Gardens Scotland scheme which sees people open up their gardens to the public.

“[A producer] Colin Lennox got in touch. It was all in June and it all happened very quickly. I hope it [the garden] looked okay, I really do.”

To try to ensure that it did Rosa bought in some bedding plants from Alec Henry to brighten up some of the beds. That is something she does not normally do, but she hoped it made the garden more photogenic at a time of year that can be “between phases”.

Rosa said: “You get these gaps in Shetland around spring as your spring blooms fade and you wait to get into summer. It was a bit daunting and it took up so much time.”

Mr Titchmarsh’s criteria for selecting gardens for the first programme was to focus on those created in the “most challenging circumstances”.

The harsh Shetland climate – far from being a gardener’s best friend – helped Lea Gardens qualify for that.

“I think it is really good that it is a Shetland garden,” said Rosa. “It does not matter that it is my garden, it puts Shetland on the map.”

And the tough climate never puts her off working outdoors. This year it has even been a working Christmas, “working round the clock to get access created” to an area of the garden which plays host to South American plants.

The plants were gifted to Rosa from the Milde Arboretum in Bergen and they do surprisingly well.
Rosa said that is because, unlike commercially available alternatives, they come from the south of the southern hemisphere.

Britain’s Best Back Gardens will be screened at 8pm. There’s only one problem – Rosa won’t be able to watch it as she does not own a television.


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