Size Does Matter

sizedoesmatterThe 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 IMG_7520the 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!

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31 Responses to Size Does Matter

  1. johnvic8 says:

    It sounds like you had a most successful day. Open garden time can be fun for me and the Arranger, but there is that anxiety: Where is that obnoxious weed that everyone sees but I overlooked in the prep?

  2. Anna says:

    It sounds as if it was a most enjoyable occasion Cathy and many congratulations on not running out of cake. I’m sure that there are the odd garden visitors who just go for the cake and not the garden. Did you sell any plants or produce on the day? I’m chuckling over the comment that there were too many hiding places for creepy crawlies. You’ve put a lot of love, imagination and hard work into your garden. I hope that the NGS county reps return visits results in a well deserved positive outcome.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I am sure you are right about the cake Anna, and that’s certainly what it was like when I used to have a sort of ‘garden party’ for the church 😉

  3. What fun! I love to hear people react to my garden. You can’t please everyone. I does sound like you were well prepared and it went well.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Lisa, and I know from open gardens I have visited that we all want different things from our own gardens

  4. P. S. I laughed when I read that you had to tie up some things. I have often had to warn men that things are pruned to my height. If you are taller than I am you better be careful. 😉 Best of luck on the upper echelon tour. Your garden is certainly worthy.

    • Cathy says:

      The Golfer always decribes it to friends who come round as having been ‘designed and maintained by someone less than five feet tall’!

  5. Cathy says:

    I think gardens are often very much a reflection of the gardener, which is what makes each individual one so ingeresting. I would love to visit your garden one day too! I am glad it was such a good day with lots of positivity and feedback. Good to hear you mentioning ‘next time’ too!

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Cathy – although at the back of my mind I am aware that one of my friends describes me as ‘eccentric’, although I know (think?) he means ‘different’, which I am more than happy to be 🙂

  6. Christina says:

    Good luck with the NGS reps when they come back; it is sad they have to think about parking and access and not just whether the garden is worth visiting. Your planning paid off, well done. I for one am really looking forward to seeing your garden when I can manage to organise myself.

  7. What an enjoyable read, thank you Cathy. Good luck with the NGS inspection, sounds like you’re all set to clear the logistical hurdles. I’m so looking forward to meeting you and comparing notes in July.

  8. Chloris says:

    It sounds as if you had a good day with lots of happy visitors. Having been an NGS organiser myself, I can tell you that the guidelines are that the garden must of course be beautiful and have at least 40 minutes of interest and of course there must be enough provision for parking, or chaos would ensue. On my first NGS open day I had nearly 400 visitors. Luckily we had a field for parking or we wouldn’ t have been very popular in the village.

    • Cathy says:

      The neighbour of a friend who opened for the first time last year had around 130 but her village is on the fringes of Birmingham – but one in the next village to us had about 70 for their first time. Where on earth did your 100s come from?!

      • Chloris says:

        My garden had been a well known nursery in the past with a beautiful show garden, so perhaps people were curious to see what had become of it.

  9. Pauline says:

    It sounds as if you had a wonderful day, I’m not surprised your visitors enjoyed your garden. I hope all goes well with the NGS person, they can be a bit daunting! When we opened for the NGS we used the playground of the school next door for parking as it would have caused a problem in our small village.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Pauline – although one of my charity friends mentioned ‘weeds’ to me this morning…in the woodland! I do pull the odd dandelion out but generally it is left to its own devices apart from dividing primroses and bluebells and wood anemones 🙂

  10. rickii says:

    Ah, yes…the towering and/or huge do get a lot of attention but so do the unusually small. I guess the key word here is “unusual’. Congrats on vaulting over a barrier many of us are loathe to cross. Sounds like it was even actually fun for you.

  11. croftgarden says:

    Congratulations on a successful event and you are allowed to glow in the reflected glory of the garden. You have worked so hard for this and I hope that NGS will appreciate your efforts.

  12. AnnetteM says:

    Hi Cathy, I read this with great interest as I am now about to get stuck into the garden after 2 weeks away. My garden doesn’t have as many interesting bits as yours and I am getting quite worried about what flowers will actually be blooming. It is quite a worry isn’t it, but it sounds like you were very organised and all went very well. I would appreciate an email with any tips you have and/or lessons learnt. Thanks

  13. A brilliant day by the sound of it. Well done, I am impressed by your attention to detail. Who wouldn’t expect to see creepy crawlies in a garden? Reckon they should have gone to ikea rather than a garden to pass their time. Nought so queer….

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Dorris – but to be fair this was one of my Tai Chi ladies who was presumably supporting me and my charity and may in fact hate gardens! 😉

  14. Brian Skeys says:

    Congratulations on your ‘soft’ opening Cathy. One of the advantages of opening with the NGS is the insurance cover they provide, it is a sad fact of life today that it is something you have to take into consideration. Good luck with your next NGS visit.

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