The Grand Opening

Wednesday at 2pm was the appointed time. It came and went without anyone appearing, which was a little unsettling.

We had signed up to open our garden for the National Garden Scheme, persuaded by the local organizers who were keen to add some smaller and perhaps more relatable gardens to their local offer. Small gardens struggle to engage people for long enough, so the arrangement we came to was that we would open jointly with another local garden and people would buy one ticket to cover both. I don’t think there was ever any compulsion on visitors to go to the other one first but that was what they all did.

Again, because both gardens are small and lack open spaces in which to socially distance, we limited the numbers to 10 for each of 4 hourly slots in the afternoon. Of the 40 available tickets, we sold 33, plus one who came only to our garden.

Our first arrivals came with a dog, which it was clearly stated on the NGS website would not be admitted, so the man went off with the dog and the woman came into the garden. It seemed an unpromising start. From there on though it was plain sailing. Everybody was terribly nice and very complimentary and interested in all sorts of different things. Plant sales were good too, leaving us wishing we’d had more.

Our garden lacks open spaces, it’s plants and paths, with the latter no wider than strictly necessary. A one way system was considered, and rejected; the layout doesn’t lend itself to one. We needn’t have worried. Everyone was polite and considerate to a fault, backing up when necessary without being precious about it. My faith in human nature was somewhat restored.

The last timeslot was 5pm and by ten to six the last of our visitors had left: we shut the gate, poured a beer and started to prepare food. At ten past six two more turned up. Their sat-nav had led them into the local quarry rather than our partner garden so they were running late. They were very nice people too, turning them away was never considered.

Only nine more to go, wednesday and sunday afternoons, fortnightly, until 22 August. I’m so relieved that the first one went off so well. From now on it’s the glitches that will seem like aberrations, not the days where it all goes smoothly. Our next slot is this sunday and so far we have only 9 bookings. The weather forecast is not very good, but is changing every time I look at it; I’m a little surprised we have even that many. (I just looked again and we have two more)

If there’s one thing that works in our favour it’s that we’re an unknown quantity, and being located in the middle of an unassuming housing estate, I can’t imagine most people’s expectations are especially high. I went out the front this morning and took a picture of our frontage. Admittedly it was bins day, but our visitors must have wondered what they were in for. They were all too polite to comment of course. The dead Fiat Panda that has graced one neighbour’s drive for the last twenty years isn’t even in the shot, it’s just to the left.

22 thoughts on “The Grand Opening

  1. I’m glad your first day went well. Although it was a couple of weeks earlier in the season when we saw your garden (can you believe that was 2 years ago?) it looked lovely then. Well done, Jim.

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  2. Based on the fact that there is an assortment of plants in the front, I would have guessed that there was more than just grass and a couple of shrubs in the back, but I would NEVER have guessed that there was such a wonderful garden in the back. Glad your first open went well, and I wish I could visit in person!

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  3. I’m glad it all went well too! You had a good day for it. I will try and get along on one of the days. My worry is about parking if everyone arrives at the same time. I am guessing it is all on the street.

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    1. We were a bit concerned about parking but it didn’t seem to be a problem. It might be trickier on sundays when our neighbours are at home. It’d be lovely to meet you.

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      1. Too bad I’m in Minnesota, and will not likely be traveling to GB any tome soon! Have a great rest of the weekend.

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    1. It’s going to be a challenge to have it looking good for every opening. It doesn’t normally matter if it takes a few weeks to fill a space where something like foxgloves or sweet williams were, now it’s going to have to be as quick as possible.

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  4. I’m delighted it went well for you, Jim. There’s a huge amount of work, stress and worry, preparing for such events and it’s a great relief when worries are dissipated as all goes well. Only another nine to go now! You’re a martyr for the cause!

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  5. Panda? It is known as a ‘Panda’?! Okay, that just seems silly to me.
    Anyway, it is nice that it went well. I used to go to tours because it was expected of a garden columnist. Although the tours were all so interesting, and some were very diverse, some of the most spectacular were ‘too’ spectacular, and put together just for the tour. That aspect sort of took the fun out of horticulture. Some of my favorites were the simpler sorts. I also happened to like the suburban garden, perhaps because I used to live in a suburban area while in high school, and always wanted to live there again.

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    1. The National Gardens Scheme organises garden openings across the country as a means of raising money for charity. They have become a very significant source of income for the charities they support simply because of scale. Many of the gardens that open are private gardens that are not otherwise open but there are others that are regularly open but do one or two a year for the NGS. In our area there has been a lack of smaller gardens opening and given that most people only have small gardens they were keen to bring us on board, thinking our garden would be more relatable for visitors. It’s incredibly hard to resist doing things because you’re opening that you wouldn’t have done otherwise, especially plugging gaps where things have gone over. It seems disrespectful not to make a bit more effort given that people are paying to visit but in a way it’s the imperfections that best convey the personality of a garden’s creator, and visitors love spotting imperfections every bit as much as the best bits.

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  6. I’m really pleased it went so well, and that it proved enjoyable rather than stressful. I’m sure you won’t read this ’til you’ve done your second day of visits, so I hope that went as well as the first day! Hope the weather holds out.

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    1. It hasn’t happened yet and we’ve been expecting phone calls to reschedule, given the weather forecast. We have a weather warning for heavy rain starting at 14:00, the same time as we open. I just looked at the NGS website and we have one more person who has booked this morning! which makes 12 for the afternoon. 15°C, breezy and raining, I don’t hold out much hope for it matching the first day. On the other hand, there isn’t much rain showing up on the Met Office radar, so it may be just fine.

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  7. Congratulations on your opening Jim and I hope today’s goes well too. So much work goes into something like this and you garden is a hidden gem that will surely delight any visitors.

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