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A day in the life of an amateur gardener at Tatton Park

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Dori Miller Dori Miller | 07:00 UK time, Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Imagine starting your working day driving in the early morning sunshine towards a Tudor Old Hall, spotting red and fallow deer roaming freely across 1000 acres of immaculately landscape gardens with the odd rare breed sheep. Just idyllic.

And then spending the rest of your day digging out and replanting willow trees and water plants, slowly filling in a 'flooded area' with water for hours and frantically phoning around growers in the North of England to ask them to lend you... 400 water cresses. It might sound not so idyllic- and yet, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world right now.

When the waters rise garden plan

When the waters rise garden plan

I am at Tatton Park and I have only a few hours left now to complete, 'When the Waters Rise', an Oxfam garden which will showcase at the RHS Show at Tatton Park this week. The show is opening to the public on Thursday and the pressure is definitely on.

Last year I designed a garden for Tatton called 'A Handbag of Harmonies' - named after the all women's Chester based community choir that I belong to. The other 'Handbags' and I wanted to celebrate 10 years of music together.

My youngest son helped me design and build the garden which won the silver medal in the back to back section of the show. I could not quite believe it. What I had enjoyed the most was creating a beautiful garden together with my youngest son, my family and my choir friends. By the time the show was over I was hooked; I started thinking of another garden to propose to the RHS for 2011.

Just a few weeks after last year's show, I got talking with an Oxfam campaigner about climate change, and how women in poor countries struggle to grow their food to feed their families. What fascinated me was how women, however poor they were and however simple the tools they had, managed to adapt and grow plants and food, using very simple gardening techniques.

In Bangladesh for example, women now grow edible plants on floating rafts, in order to be able to cope with sudden and unpredictable floods. They don't keep chickens any more for eggs and meat, but ducks - because they survive in the water. Their environment is changing fast, and more often than not, it feels out of control. But these women keep going. These resilient stories inspired me and I wanted to create a celebration of their resilience and abilities.

I wanted to make it as beautiful as possible and together with Oxfam, I soon found out that hundreds of people wanted to help me.

When the waters rise

" In North Wales, I found Helen and Alan, from the Woodlands Skills Centre, ready and happy to help building a shed."

My eldest son Howard helped me with the design and the building of the garden. In North Wales, I found Helen and Alan, from the Woodlands Skills Centre, ready and happy to help building a shed. Hundreds of neighbours, friends and family started growing plants to the best of their abilities, so that they could be exhibited in the show. And my friends from a 'Handbag of Harmonies' wrote the music and the words for a very moving anthem, 'When the Waters Rise'.

We will perform it together for the first time in the garden with a special choreography at the RHS Tatton show on Wednesday- and I just can't wait.

Dori Miller first exhibited a garden at Tatton in 2010 and was awarded a Silver flora.

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