With the final two group visits last week, our 2018 garden openings are over and the house and garden are more or less back to normal routines, as are the Gardener and the Golfer. The most noticeable change, and the one I began implementing as soon as our last visitors had gone, was dismantling the pop-up cafe and returning the back sitting room and the downstairs bedroom (the latter shown above, in the state it has been for the last month) to their usual layouts. All the mugs and plates, the tea urn, bench cushions and tablecloths, signs and other assorted paraphernalia have been returned to the loft for a well-deserved rest.
The totals for this year were as follows (last year’s figures in brackets):
number of visitors 170 (155)
entrance £686 (£544)
plant sales £280 (£213)
refreshments £292 (£281)
bits and bobs £60 (£39)
total £1318 (£1077)
Like last year, I took 20% of sales for expenses (£126) and a similar percentage of sales went to my local charity, which meant a total of £1066 was raised for the NGS, up from £810 last year. This may be a drop in the ocean when you consider the £3 million raised for the NGS in total last year but as a sum of money raised purely from opening a garden and providing refreshments it is not bad at all and, more importantly, it was considerably more than I raised last year and topped the £1000 mark which, if anything, was my unspoken target.
I know some NGS gardens attract hundreds of visitors at a time, but I can accept that this largely depends on the catchment area and in many cases national publicity (apart from the NGS Yellow Book and website); also, some gardens are specifically geared for optimum flower power during their visiting season, leaving a largely bare plot for much of the rest of the year. Even just in terms of parking, we couldn’t cope with many more visitors at a time than we have had, and greater numbers would certainly affect the overall visiting experience for those who do come. I don’t aim to have a pristine and perfect show garden, and comments in the Visitors’ Book show that visitors like it as it is, quirky and unconventional, a garden for all seasons, and taking ideas home for their own garden is one of the most rewarding things that a visitor could say.
So will we do it again? Yes of course we will, with very little modification to this year’s arrangements and organisation, having already taken on board our 2017 experience. We may move our availability for group visits a little earlier to include June and hopefully reduce the opening ‘window’ that way, although we have so far been reluctant to have such visits prior to the main openings. We are also considering a second Sunday opening, to sandwich the existing Wednesday; there are gardens we would have liked to visit but if the date has clashed with something (like our own opening!) then we have missed our chance and I guess there will be others in the same position, so a second Sunday might help. That, however, would require more helpers and as they are such a valuable asset we would not like to overburden them. This year we had 6 to help us on Wednesday (including lovely blogging friend Anna of Green Tapestry again – thank you so much, and also to creative Mr Green Tapestry for supplying some of our bits and bobs items) and 9 on Sunday, although World-Cup-reduced visitor numbers on the second day did leave helpers twiddling their thumbs at times. Details for 2019 openings need to be submitted early in September so we have not long to decide!
It may be hard work (and to a degree it can be as much work as you want it to be) but I like working towards a target and the whole process was again a most enjoyable experience, with preparations slotting into place and all the opening days and group visits such fun, with lovely visitors, willing helpers, much information and many ideas exchanged, cakes appreciated and many positive comments left. Roll on 2019 openings, but not yet, thank you very much!!