One of Teesside's best known gardens is opening for charity this weekend. Graeme Hetherington talks to the specialist garden designer who has made it his life's work

The Heagney family have deep roots at Tudor Croft, a large house in Guisborough built by a wealthy brick manufacturer. They took over the property and its overgrown Arts and Crafts garden in 1952 and have spent spent almost six decades years filling the grounds with plants from across the world, all catalogued and discreetly labelled.

The five-acre garden features a fernery, a long rose pergola, borders, water gardens and many hidden areas, with a trout stream flowing through it all. It is an exciting, beautifully presented garden, full of surprises, and has featured on BBC’s Gardeners World and in many magazines.

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Now the home of Mike Heagney, the mansion on Stokesley Road, Guisborough, East Cleveland, is often said to be surrounded by one of the best gardens in North Yorkshire, and this weekend, plant and flower lovers can take a walk through the gates to explore this magical space as it opens for charity.

Mike, who has lived at the property with his sister Gel (Geraldine) for more than 50 years, has dedicated decades of his life to maintaining the garden's unique character. "It is looking better than ever," he says. "There is so much work that goes into keeping the garden in pristine condition and that is why we like to share our space with people while raising money for our chosen charity.

Mike and his brother John ran a dozen convenience stores across the Teesside area before selling up in 1999. And it was this sale that gifted him the opportunity to concentrate on his real passion – gardening and plant collecting. "Over the years, I have collected rare and interesting species of plants from around the world," he says. "There are so many different little gardens within the garden that there really is something for everyone to enjoy."

His passion is evident at every turn, with traditional English roses cosy up to New Zealand ferns, and hardy, but delicate, Himalayan flowers. The specially designed fernery, with its limestone walls and newly-replaced glass roof, has a humid atmosphere perfect for a variety of plants that cannot be found together anywhere else in the world.

The house and garden were originally built in the Thirties by Ronnie Crossley, a prominent Yorkshire brick manufacturer. The garden, which was created over a ten-year period, includes arbours, fountains, lily ponds, curving paths, old medieval stonework, streams and follies, and evidence of Crossley's craft can be found scattered throughout garden.

As well as the brick pillars, built using some of Crossley's finest, unusual masonry is tucked away throughout the garden. Carved stones from Gisborough Priory, which have all been catalogue by English Heritage, can be found scattered around the sweeping lawns.

Mike has also collected artefacts from around the area to incorporate into his designs, including a glazed stone bathtub belonging to John Vaughan, the man who discovered iron ore in the nearby Eston Hills and triggered the industrialisation of Middlesbrough and the surrounding area. There is also a collection of stone farm troughs that are now filled with flowers and plants.

A team of nine volunteers help Mike get the garden into pristine condition before the open days and he says without their help the task of carrying out all the essential maintenance would be mammoth.

“Tudor Croft gardens are special, unique and beautiful. They are part of the heritage of this area and we love to enable everyone to enjoy them," he says. “The gardens are very much an integral part of my life and I always feel that it is my responsibility to maintain and improve them for future and present generations."

The garden is also a destination for gardening groups from around the country, and this year there are also two visits planned by organisations based in Switzerland who are touring the country taking in some of the most memorable gardens.

The specialist garden designer will be opening his garden today and tomorrow between 11am and 4pm, with all proceeds going to the Tees Valley-based Great North Air Ambulance Service. And it is on these occasions that home-baker Gel, who lives in the original gardener's cottage at the bottom of the garden, really comes into her own.

"While Mike spends his time looking after the flowers and plants, I'm down in the vegetable patch or potting shed doing all the real work," she laughs. "There is a lot of work involved, but it is so rewarding to see people relaxing and enjoying our garden."

  • Tudor Croft, Stokesley Road, Guisborough, TS14 8DL. Parking is limited at the site and Guisborough residents are urged to walk. Entry costs £5 for adults, children free.