Elsie Powell’s back garden is her haven away from it all.
Eighty year-old Elsie is a widower; her husband David passed away over four years ago and she now lives in Esker Gardens home with her loyal and friendly Rough Collie Lucy.
Elsie won last year’s Older People North West/Age Concern gardening competition. She has also won Caw community awards for both her front and back gardens.
There’s a ‘welcome’ sign near the archway at the front of Elsie’s house. She likes it when people pass by and have a look at her pristine front garden.
“I just love gardening, it gives me focus and keeps me going,” she said.
Elsie, who is originally from Manchester, moved to Derry over 20 years ago and despite severe arthritis in her back she always finds the energy to make sure her garden’s neat and tidy.
“I’ve a Rollator to help me around the house but I use it when I’m gardening - it’s really useful for bringing water from the kitchen to water the plants.”
Elsie joined Age Concern on the Chapel Road a few years ago. She’s an amateur artist and wanted to continue on with art classes.
“I read about art classes in the paper so I decided to go along and give it a go - it was one of the best decisions I could have made.”
Elsie’s home is full of her own paintings. They are bright, colourful and uplifting. Some are of trees in the summer sunshine whilst others are of the raging sea.
“I love art and I love painting,” she said.
“It was through the art classes at Age Concern that I heard about the gardening competition.
“I’d never entered a gardening competition in my life before but I thought to myself ‘why not?’ so I did.”
Elsie was awarded the first prize for the best kept garden in the Waterside and she was also awarded a prize for her dedication to gardening despite her arthritis.
“I was delighted to be selected but I was completely shocked when I won the whole thing,” recalled Elsie smiling.
“I find gardening very therapeutic, it gives me a reason to keep going and I have my pet dog Lucy to keep me company too.
“Gardening definitely lifts my spirit and that sense of peace I get from it confirms to me that there’s a creator - if that makes sense,” she smiled.
When asked if she had a particular favourite plant or flower, Elsie thought for a few seconds and decided: “I enjoy all of it. Gardening can’t be enjoyed through one particular plant or flower - it has to be enjoyed as a whole.”
One problem Elsie does not experience is not being able to enjoy her garden. At the end of a hard day of potting plants she likes nothing more than to relax in her small patio with a cup of tea and inspect her horticultural heaven with critical eyes.
“I am always trying to make the garden even more beautiful than it is. I have some lovely plants and I like when I am sitting outside a little bird will come into the garden and sing.”
Age Concern, Derry are accepting entries for this year’s competition and are keen to hear from as many people as possible. If you are over 60 and live within the Derry City Council area you can enter. “This annual competition is an opportunity for older people who are keen gardeners to get the recognition they deserve for their efforts. We would like to see as many people as possible getting involved in this year’s gardening competition, whether you’ve got a huge garden with a rolling lawn and endless flower beds or just a small square of grass, a hanging basket or window box you can enter the competition. The competition has various categories so you are bound to fit into one of the categories or will know somebody who does”.
For further details and entry forms contact Age Concern Derry, Malvern House, Chapel Road, Derry or by telephone 028 71 347478.