Meet the man behind Alan Titchmarsh's Dagenham 'Shangri La'
PUBLISHED: 07:00 30 December 2019
TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh has described it as "a little Shangri La in Dagenham".
For green-fingered warehouse worker, John Seaman, life approaches perfection in the form of his 50 by 30 feet tropical garden paradise at his council house home in New Road.
And now millions of viewers have marvelled at the 55-year old's banana trees, ginger plants, cannas and colocasias - a flowering plant with elephant ear shaped leaves - after it appeared on the ITV show Love Your Garden.
John, on his television appearance, said: "It was amazing to get the opportunity to share my garden on prime time TV.
"The more people who see it, the more people will visit and the more money goes to charity."
That's because every summer John throws open the garden gate to welcome admirers in to tour his Himalayan foothills-inspired plot as part of the National Garden Scheme, which opens private gardens for charity.
John has raised £560 to date and welcomed scores of people who wander between sections of a garden adorned with statues of Hindu god Ganesh, Buddha and tapestries - right where traffic once roared down the old A13.
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"You feel like you're in Dagenham, but miles away in some sort of lush, tropical environment. It's a complete contrast to Dagenham. It freaks people out who come in. It has a wow factor," John said.
Carer John added his 85-year old mum, Margaret, who has leukemia, enjoys sitting in his Dagenham paradise, improving her quality of life.
And each year is different, with Britain's harsher winters meaning many of John's plants fail to survive past October.
But the life-long gardener - whose school career advisor recommended he apply for factory work rather than pursue his dream to study horticulture - starts planting again every year with more dahlias planned for 2020.
On why he grows tropical plants, John said: "It takes a bit of time to care for them, but it's a labour of love. You know at the end of the day it will look amazing. I like people to enjoy it.
"Dagenham can get a bad press, but people here do some amazing things. We shouldn't do it down."
And John is hoping to cement Dagenham's place on the gardening map with plans under way to feature on the BBC's Gardeners' World.
Visit ngs.org.uk for more about visiting in the summer.