A GARDENER who had to cancel his mammoth charity fundraiser under lockdown is hoping a virtual version will blossom in its place.

Geoff Stonebanks, who writes the gardening column for The Argus, has raised more than £84,000 for charity with his yearly Macmillan Coastal Garden Trail.

Garden owners across Sussex open their gates to the public in a fundraising drive for the charity Macmillan Cancer Support.

But the pandemic put paid to Geoff’s usual plans this year.

He said: “I contacted all the garden owners, some of whom were willing to consider opening, but many, including me, felt it was probably best to cancel the event and avoid owners going to a lot of trouble to get their gardens ready, only for it to be possibly cancelled at the last minute.”

Geoff and his Driftwood Fundraising Group were still keen to raise funds for Macmillan and the Horizon Centre in Brighton despite the difficulties this year.

He arranged for participants to film short virtual tours of their gardens in the run up to the event on the weekend of July 25,

which are set be posted on YouTube.

Geoff said: “There are quite a few to view now, including a short tour of the Stanford and Cleveland Community Garden in Brighton and a container garden in Telscombe Cliffs.

“You can also see 27 Balsdean Road in Woodingdean and two beautiful gardens at 18 Hill Rise and Windover in Chyngton Road in Seaford, to name but a few.”

He told The Argus: “Because people have been locked down, some of the gardens are looking better than they’ve ever done before.”

Geoff has also put up a clip showing his own garden.

He said: “Mine’s a seaside garden: it faces the sea and there are boats and lobster pots. It’s set out to cope with the south westerly winds.

“Then, out back, there’s a cottage garden crammed with plants.

“It would be impossible to social distance in it – but we’re trying to encourage people to look at the website.”

Among the other gardens included are The Stanford and Cleveland Community Garden, which has raised £1,000 over the years by selling homegrown plants.

Adam and Dan of Open House fame in Rugby Road in Brighton donated 20 per cent from all their June sales to Macmillan, in lieu of opening for the trail, and have raised £300.

Jan Wilks, a previous Driftwood garden visitor, from Telscombe was bored during her lockdown and made face masks to sell and raised more than £1,000.

She donated £500 to the fundraiser.

Trail patron Christine Walkden was so disappointed when she heard the trail had been cancelled she also decided to film a short piece.

Geoff said: “There is talk of a couple of trail gardens opening up as a one-off in the autumn so keep an eye on the website to see if it materialises.”

Visit www.macmillangardentrail.co.uk to see the gardens and https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/driftwoodmacmillancancersupport to donate. You can also visit www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk for more imformation about Geoff’s garden.