Monday, 29 June 2009

Open Gardens 2009

It's over, we've done it. The Gardens Open weekend in aid of Church Funds has been and gone.
It's been a triumph, even if I say so myself! I may open the garden again in autumn but it will be a much smaller affair, on a much more modest scale.

For two days the weather has behaved itself, the public appeared in their many hundreds, there have been no accidents, dogs and children were kept under control and a lot of money was raised. Tonight there's the social evening for the garden owners and all helpers on the day and that'll be that for another year.

Gardener and I were still working until an hour before "gates open" on Saturday. We had forgotten to sweep the entrances, chop back some of the verdant growth on the walls leading up to the gates which might have impeded access a little (can't have that!) and arranged several trays with plants for sale. On these occasions I sell surplus plants, plants which I have divided, grown from cuttings or simply collected where they have self sown and potted up throughout the year. It's another way of making money. Gardener gave the lawn a final trim, neatened the edges and helped me stow away all tools. He left, I had a quick shower, bolted down a bite of sandwich and awaited two o'clock.

We have two entrances, we therefore need help welcoming people and taking their money. We had barely set out our chairs and a table each, tickets, programmes, maps and a plastic box to hold the cash when the first visitors arrived at the bottom end of the garden. From now on it was all systems go. Because I am the gardener, designer, expert, and all round boss-in-charge of our plot, scraper and the helpers sent all enquiries my way which meant I was on my feet for four hours solid; my advice to anybody else in such a situation is "NEVER set yourself up as the know-all, you'll pay dearly".

As in other years, visitors were pleasant, some exceptionally so. I always like the ones who are willing to talk about plants and gardens best. Groups of elderly ladies often belong in that category. Unfortunately, they tend to recognize an unusual plant and invariably ask its name; invariably, my mind goes blank at precisely that moment; expert, me?

The ones I like least are the "tickers off". They have their programme always available, ready to tick off another garden. One such gentleman, on his own, in sturdy walking boots, his hold-all strap slung across his chest, rucking up his shirt, came marching up the long drive towards me; he looked neither left nor right, thereby missing a wide border of mixed flowering shrubs, many roses in full bloom and two very beautiful Japanese acers - you can tell how proud I am of that border. I greeted him and gently reminded him that he had come to see a garden and rushing through at his speed surely made that quite impossible? "Six more to go", he said, tapping the programme in his hand with a pencil.

There are single visitors who have all the time in the world and are only too happy if you involve them in a chat. Perhaps they come because they love gardens and don't have much of a plot themselves, perhaps they are lonely and have come for a pleasant afternoon out with tea and cake in the Church Hall on the way; they will stop and discuss the relative merits of various herbs, perhaps a purple thyme compared to a silver or golden thyme. Because they know their subject they are never boring.

There are bores, of course; I got waylaid by a couple who started to tell me about a pond they had stocked with koi carp which had all got eaten by escaped mink. Personally, I dislike koi carp, can't see the point of them, but that need not deter other people from being carp aficionados. It seemed they had taken the loss very hard indeed, the fish had had names; I am not sure they didn't say the fish came when called, but I had stopped listening by then; I must have had the life history of each fish several times; luckily my helper was more sympathetic to the bereaved couple, I handed them over to her and made my excuses.

Amongst the nicest visitors was an American couple, here on holiday, Stuart and Michelle from California. Michelle loved so many of my plants she soon ran out of paper to jot down their names. There will shortly be a variegated maple somewhere in a front yard in San Diego. We discussed which plants would survive the Californian climate and decided that a cistus would probably fit the bill; cistuses (rock roses) like it hot and dryish. Michelle and Stuart both fell in love with the roses, particularly "Dublin Bay", the rose at the top of the post. They stayed for what seemed a very long time and I enjoyed every minute of it. They were absolute sweeties. Stuart noted down my email address, I have been promised news of any plants they try to grow back home.

Finally, what is most gratifying, is the fulsome praise some visitors bestow on the garden. Their appreciation is what makes all the hard work worthwhile.


  1. WOW! Congratulations on having your garden show be a success! Sounds like everyone had a great time! :) Silke

  2. That's wonderful, Friko! The talking shop part must have been enjoyable because this is your turf. You definitely should showcase the next season like that! I meant to ask: did you have to serve refreshments? Guide anyone around? And how was the evening gathering? Must have been a time of gaiety for all after such a successful show. Now you can sleep for two days!

  3. Wish I could have been there. I do love garden tours and to have one in your climate would be lovely. sounds like all you hard work was appreciated.

  4. Hi Friko, that sounds as though it was a big success. I think I would be a bit daunted at showing my garden especially as so much of it is in my head rather than on the ground as yet! I agree that it is a bit late to move perennials but these two are being overwhelmed by some big thugs and need a bit of space so I think will survive.
    Love your roses!

  5. Silke - Vielen Dank auch, it was great.

    Margaret - No refreshment here, but afternoon tea was available in St. George's Hall and one other garden. Not so much guiding around as being with people, talking to them, answering questions. At the evening party we patted ourselves on the back for having done so well, all the while sipping wine and eating cake.

    Tabor - Thank you. I promise you, you wouldn't like to be here at the moment' it is horribly hot, humid and clammy, all conditions the plants love, of course. I just feel permanently damp.

    elizabethm - thanks for visiting. No need to be daunted, we actually have a couple of gardeners in the group who pride themselves on letting their patch go to seed. Haven't heard them mentioned by visitors, though. Perhaps all our visitors are polite.

  6. We just flew back tonight and I have a lot of reading to do with all the new posts. I am so pleased that many people came to see your garden. When one works so hard on a project, it is satisfying to observe people enjoying the results. I know how much work this must be – I used to grow roses, of all kinds, I had 250 bushes (back in the 70s and 80s), but slowly the bad weather here and my going back to work stopped their growth. There is something I believe in the English climate that is very propitious to gardens – there are so many lovely ones there. You must be very proud of your achievement and rightly so.

  7. After reading your description of the tour of your garden, I feel as if I had been there too.

    Thanks for sharing and happy gardening.


  8. Sorry to post as anonymous but that is the only way it would work


  9. Your garden sounds lovely and I am so glad open day went well.

  10. So pleased it all went well for you.

  11. Vagabonde - English gardens can be very beautiful; I only learnt to garden when we first moved to the country from London, about 18 years ago now. This is "my" second garden.
    Thanks for reading my blog so soon after your arrival back home.

    Chancy - I wish you had been here.
    The second comment worked as Chancy; what did you do differently?
    If you need to comment as anonymous, just mention your name in the first comment. Thank you so much for persevering.

    Twiglet - Thank you. Are there open garden weekends in Churchstoke?

    When I am Rich - Thanks for your kind comment.

  12. Pretty darned remarkable, I'd say. I can't imagine doing all you've done there, and then hosting hundreds. I'm glad the California couple were not only on their best behavior, but fine visitors indeed.
    I wish you could design my back yard!

  13. Lydia - Thanks for the compliment; it IS hard work, no doubt, but fun. AND very good for the ego too. What's the Oregon climate like? Any good for plants?


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