All Done…

Tuesday afternoon saw the last of our gardening openings for this year, with a group visit from a local gardening club. The group had actually booked to visit last year but Covid put paid to that, so I was pleased to be approached by their organiser at our first opening this year, the last Wednesday in June, to see if I would accept a late booking for a group. Ideally, it would have followed on soon after the main openings but was in fact about three weeks later; fortunately, the garden kept its side of the bargain, despite the heat, and the lull in rose blooming was largely compensated for by the progress of clematis and dahlias.

Members of the group were happy enough, as were all visitors to the garden, and we are beginning to build up a group of repeat visitors, including our loyal pair of ladies who have visited each year we have opened, five in total. Parking could easily be an issue with a larger number of visitors, and totals on our main opening days over these few years average 30-50, the vehicles of which we have been able to accommodate in the local ‘school yard’, as kindly arranged with our neighbours who live in a converted Victorian school. We have previously had permission to use the village hall car park for our helpers and any overspill, but the threat of travellers/gypsies moving onto the car park meant the gates now have to kept locked, which meant ad hoc overspill was not possible. This was an initial cause for concern but in practice the schoolyard never got beyond capacity.

In total we had 39 visitors for our Wednesday opening and 53 on the Sunday, with 29 in the first group (with two friends arriving as they departed) and 16 in the second, plus a couple of visitors who had followed signs and turned up on spec without knowing what to expect (a country estate, I believe, but they still went away happy after their visit!). In two of our previous years of opening we have opened on two Sundays as well as the Wednesday, but this puts pressure on our much-valued helpers and may only have brought in a handful of extra visitors, so we shall probably stick with one mid-week and one weekend day in future.

For the main visits, people arrive within the allotted hours we are open (1-4 on Weds, 1-5 Sunday) and tend to spend some time looking around the garden (half an hour or longer), then have a drink and cake before going around the garden again to revisit or see what they missed the first time. All first-timers are astonished at how much garden there is behind the fairly narrow frontage, and how much we have been able to cram in. We also have boards displaying photos and explaining how the garden was created, as people are always interested to understand time scales – and why garden ownership of our own and neighbouring plots is so bizarre!

When the weather is good, people like to linger and enjoy the ambience and fragrance of the roses, but with plants and ‘bits and bobs’ (dibbers and seed tray tampers made by the Golfer and various garden-related items that we no longer have a use for) for sale we hope to raise more cash on their departure too.  Group visits tend to follow the same pattern as above, and I have never yet been asked to ‘lead’ them around the garden, not that this would be practical here. However, It is important for me to be on hand on any open day, mingling with visitors, answering queries and questions which are many and varied.

In our fifth year, we are pretty confident in what we are doing and have built up our experience base as well as our resources, so ‘just’ move everything into place as our visiting season starts in June. Pretty china mugs and plates were bought from car boot sales, as was a large quantity of fabric which made tablecloths and seat cushions for tables (both inside and out) and benches. Supports for roadsign posters live in the loft during the year, as do internal signs to provide information around the garden. Extra tables were created by adding temporary tabletops to a pair of tall stools, and chairs for our pop-up café came from the room I used for meditation and therapies. Our kitchen and ‘back sitting room’ are rearranged for the duration of the openings, so with a month between first and last visits this year we were more than glad to put everything to rights and return all those boxes to the loft!

And how have we done? Well, our 142 visitors contributed to total receipts of £1243 – £598 from entrance tickets, £345 refreshments, £220 plant sales and £80 from bits and bobs. We give 60% of the extras we provide to the National Garden Scheme (NGS) and the charities they support, giving a total of £1000, with £130 going to the local charity I volunteer with and £113 retained as expenses. There can be a lot of work involved, but it’s a hugely enjoyable experience and a delight to share the pleasure we get from the garden with other like-minded people.

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18 Responses to All Done…

  1. Heyjude says:

    Sounds like it all went off fabulously and your garden enjoyed by everyone. Hard work no doubt and now you can relax in the sitooterie and enjoy it all to yourselves. Just one thing missing from that table though – a couple of glasses and a bottle!

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Jude, and yes, it’s lovely to see everyone enjoying themselves – sometimes not all who come in a group find it of interest, if they just grow to eat or like neat edges and order! Now it’s time to begin cutting back, which I have delayed – early raspberries, Rambling Rector, etc and of course continual deadheading! But no timescales now, and if it doesn’t get done one day there will be other days…!

  2. Angie says:

    I am so happy all went well, Cathy. I especially love that the contributions go to various charities. And thank you for sharing the link to the National Garden Scheme. Sounds like a great project and I can tell I need to devote some time to read their website.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Angie – in a ‘normal’ year, the NGS raise over £3 million this way, just from people visiting gardens and eating cake! Most gardens are private gardens like ours opening on just one or two days, although sometimes bigger gardens that open to the paying public have one day when proceeds go to the NGS

  3. Cathy on Tuesday you finished with the opening to the public of your garden: 5 years already, congratulations! Now it’s time to rest and enjoy your garden alone. You do a fabulous charity with the proceeds from the Cathy Garden: for the National Garden Scheme (thanks for the shortcut) who does a lot of works, and for the local charity that you volunteer for – I love what you do. And you also enjoy the visitors of the garden, because you share with many of them the same hobbies and way of developing it. Cathy congratulations for the 142 visitors this year !!! I love!!!! Cathy I hope you got my email and know the reason why I haven’t been able to blog for so long. Take good care of the golfer and you. Happy weekend. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita.

    • Cathy says:

      It’s such a rewarding thing to do and makes our visitors happy as well as myself, Margarita. I have responded to your email now

      • Cathy I am very happy that it makes you happy to open your garden and see that you make your visitors happy too: I love it. Thanks for responding to my email, you haven’t had time until you have closed your garden to the public and you will be very tired from so much work: but it makes up for it with what you enjoy. Happy and rested Sunday. Take care. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita.

  4. Kris P says:

    Congratulations Cathy! You did a great job for your visitors and the charities – and I’m sure your garden appreciated the extra attention too.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Kris. We had a number of people who were surprised they had missed the signs and publicity in other years, but I think may become regular visitors. And some near neighbours who didn’t have a clue that there was such a garden here!

  5. Cathy says:

    Well done, that’s a tidy sum and a good number of visitors too. How lovely that so many are returning each year! So glad it all went well again for you Cathy. 😃

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Cathy, some gardens can get a couple of hundred visitors or more, and at first I hoped for more visitors than we actually got, but in practice it just wouldn’t work with many more than we already have. The most we have had on one day is about 60, which was just about OK especially as they don’t all arrive at once!

  6. smallsunnygarden says:

    It’s fabulous to see, Cathy. So glad it’s gone well for the garden, visitors, charity funds and, I trust, you and your helpers! I actually daydream about being able to go around visiting open gardens – not something I have access to at all!
    I love that your dahlias can pick up the slack after the main flush of roses. I haven’t grown dahlias in years and never grew very many; but I suspect that you are going to make them irresistible for me to try again in the long run. 😉

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks so much Amy – and I should have included info about our helpers, as they were integral to the openings…must go back and add something to the post. We are so well-blessed with gardens to visit in the UK but perhaps we take it for granted…
      Hard to believe it wasn’t that long ago that I did not think I liked dahlias, let alone grew them – now they are defonitely stalwarts of the garden and my planting routines!

  7. susurrus says:

    Well done – there’s a lot more to opening your garden than ‘just’ getting the garden to look lovely!

  8. Anna says:

    Gardening hats off to you both Cathy for another great year of garden openings and a sizeable sum raised for charities. I’m glad that the plant sales did well and hope that there were not many left over. I’m sure that your visitors had a most relaxing and enjoyable time whatever their garden interests and of course they would have all loved your cake. What was flavour of the year in 2021?

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Anna, they all did seem to go well, and apart from the slightly damp HPS visit, the weather was very kind. Perhaps about two thirds of the plants went, so I need to decide what to do with the remainder. Some can be repotted for next year and some may well end up in our own garden! Fruit cake and coffee cake were the favourites this year 😉

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