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.