The two most commented on plants during our open garden were the clematis I showed the other day, C ‘Franziska Maria’, and Inula magnifica – not surprisingly as the former is now three dimensionally larger than a tennis ball whilst the leaves of the inula are HUGE, this one measuring 21 x 14 inches (53 x 36 cms) and amazingly the plant was grown from seed only a few years ago.
So what else did people say? Most of the time I was playing hostess inside, making teas and coffees and encouraging the eating of cake, leaving the Golfer to meet and greet, but it was clear that people particularly liked the fact that the garden just seemed to go on and on with all the different areas creating interest. As the house directly fronts the street and from there has the appearance of a fairly narrow Victorian cottage, the garden inevitably comes as a big surprise, the unusual historic division of land ownership not being evident until you enter it. The brickwork and water features were noted, as were the sculptural bits and bobs, and as most of the visitors were drawn from groups I was involved with in one way or another and therefore knew me it was perhaps not surprising that it was generally agreed that the garden reflected ‘me’, which I guess is a good thing!
Other things that went down well were the map of the garden (which you can find under ‘The Garden’ tab above) of which I had provided several laminated copies, and the multitude of seating options. It was good to see people sitting around and chatting and enjoying the ambience, and one of my recent brainwaves was to make thin cushions for all the benches which could be plonked on them just before the event to cover up murky paintwork and leafy debris and the like; they were just as quickly removed afterwards as the showers began and the covers can be removed for washing before the next time. The fabric came from a big bundle of large tablecloths we bought at a car boot sale and the foam came from eBay.
One of the things I worked on in the few days beforehand was tying in overhanging and loose growth, remembering that most people are a good deal taller than I am, and access around the garden being one of the things the NGS (National Garden Scheme) county representatives who did a preliminary visit last year mentioned, along with parking. The parking issue has also been successfully resolved, thanks to one of our neighbours to whom we are very grateful. The NGS couple were due to follow up that visit this year, at the time I would like to open the garden, but were unable to come on Sunday. Admittedly I found myself wondering at that point if I should just stick to opening for my own charity without going down the Yellow Book route – having complete strangers and in potentially large numbers is an enormous step up from welcoming a smaller number of people I ‘know’ and is a rather scary proposition, a real unknown.
However, once Sunday was out of the way I felt braver and having put spare cakes back in the freezer and thus passed the ‘never run out of cakes’ test that Kate of Barn House Garden has mentioned as a pre-requisite for NGS opening, I will await a second visit from the county reps and see what their verdict is. If a 2017 NGS opening proves to be on the cards I know I will have to enlist support on the day, unlike Sunday, but feel confident that planning and preparation will not entail very much more effort than what we have put into this year’s ‘soft’ opening.
It was especially pleasing to hear people say they had picked up ideas for their own gardens from their visit, but it would be dishonest to finish the post without admitting that it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea – one was fascinated by it all, but wouldn’t want that informality in her own garden, and for another there were just too many hiding places for eight legged creepy crawlies… 🙂 Which of course is why our own gardens being a reflection of who we are is a good thing!