"A haven of peace”, the bouncy little lady said. “I love, love, love it”.
At first I was a little taken aback, wondering if she could possibly be a fellow blogger, given to such effusive praise. She was one of he very few I spoke to, I hardly bothered to go out at all. Even the photographs are taken from just one spot, namely the open door of the conservatory. Anybody who came to ask a question, usually the name or variety of a plant, was welcome, of course. The whole weekend was cold and drizzly, with a heavy shower thrown in now and then. I doubt we had more than 100 visitors over the two afternoons, less than half of what we have had in other years.
Millie had a few doggy visitors. She behaved very well, greeted them and their owners and never barked at any of them, although to her they must have been intruders. She was a little puzzled and kept close to us in the conservatory for most of the time; protecting us, no doubt.
Beloved and I drank tea and wine, read our books and looked up occasionally to acknowledge a wave from the visitors, all of them huddled inside anoraks and cagoules, hoods and hats pulled down firmly against the chill wind and drizzle. It is so sad to see them slouching past the flower beds, rarely stopping to take a closer look.
When I was manicuring and snipping and propping and titivating during the last two weeks of hard work, I should have remembered that most garden visitors look for vistas, the overall impression of a bed or even a whole garden, if it’s small; only keen fellow gardeners admire individual arrangements and plant groupings, and sometimes gratifyingly stand in contemplation of a single clump. It’s what I would do. It’s what makes the hard work pay off.
This year visitors had an excuse for scanning rather than looking closely: the long winter and damp spring have caused lush growth but little colour. That’s still to come. By next weekend, with a little luck and warm sunshine, the whole garden will burst into life. The signs are already there, just two days later. Isn’t it always so : you should have seen the one that got away.
We’ve been opening the garden to visitors for years. Mostly, they are appreciative and praise what there is. We have had lovely conversations with tourists, walked about with other gardeners and enthused over plans and new plant discoveries. We have exchanged views and, occasionally, addresses. Some people have returned year after year, “to see what you’ve done”. If I’ve been unable to recall the specific name of a particular plant, be it shrub, tree, climber or herbaceous perennial, I’ve promised to do research and have the information ready for next year.
In a good year 'Open Garden' is a pleasure; the event makes you look at your private space through foreign eyes, always a salutary lesson. I find I appreciate my garden more afterwards.
The bouncy little lady was right: I have every reason to be proud of my haven of peace.