An avid gardener from Co Down, who spent lockdown working on her garden and growing plants, said she was amazed at raising over £20,000 in memory of her friend who died from cancer, after opening her home to the public.
Rosemary Colwell (62), from Millisle, held three open days during the last weekend of May to allow members of the public to peruse her garden.
Funds for Friends of Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital were raised through admission fees, selling plants, fairy doors, tea and coffee, and generous public donations.
Mrs Colwell decided to open her garden to raise funds in memory of Thomas Dunn from Bangor, who passed away from cancer in 2016.
The Friends of the Cancer Centre offered great support to Mr Dunn’s family after his diagnosis and Mrs Colwell wanted to give something back to the charity.
She had hoped to raise in the region of £5,000 but was shocked when the final figure reached £20,500 — £3,000 alone was raised through selling her homegrown plants.
Along with her husband Denis, Mrs Colwell opened their home to the public when Covid-19 restrictions began to lift on outdoor gatherings and she felt it caught people’s imaginations as many wanted to get outdoors after lockdown.
“We have two sons in Australia and we had been out with them but when the pandemic broke out we had to come back a week early in a hurry,” Mrs Colwell explained.
“When we got back we couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t see our grandchildren or anybody else. I started to garden even more than I would normally garden.
“It was just a field to start with and over time I grew something else, then I had to make another flower bed, so I was working away quite happily and wasn’t a bit perturbed by the pandemic. Then I just thought all this work had gone into it but nobody ever sees it.
“That was about a year ago and for a full year I just did everything I could. I made signs, planters out of tyres and a lovely friend called Fiona did a driftwood horse and foal.”
Mrs Colwell originally planned to open her garden for just one day but there was so much interest she decided to allow a maximum of 50 people per hour over three days to comply with social distancing measures.
“After the weekend itself we had £15,500 and since then people have bought more plants and donated,” she said. “Everyone was just so generous.”