Thursday 15 April 2021

The golden trowel

This week we received the National Gardens Scheme fabled ‘golden trowel’ which is given to people who have opened their garden for 10 years. We now need to do another 10 to get the matching fork….

Me with the engraved trowel which has now been mounted on a plaque!

We wanted our 10th opening to be memorable, and we got what we wanted with it being in the middle of the pandemic! The timed entry and longer hours actually made it one of our best ever openings as everyone was just so happy to be able to be out, eat cake and buy plants!

In total we have now made over £16,000 for NGS charities, and had over 2200 visitors. Our open day has turned into one of the big highlights of the year. It is a great way to bring people together, and very easy to make money for charity. I am very lucky that so many people want to help out, from my parents who do so much, to those who help on the day with the refreshments and plant sales.

It was kind of an accident that we agreed to open the garden. The NGS had always been on my radar as, but it was not something for the immediate future. It only happened when my neighbour, who was opening for NGS, mentioned to the formidable NGS volunteer who was visiting him that I may be interested in opening that I received an on-the-spot visit and inspection and acceptance! At that time the garden was fairly embryonic and we hadn’t any idea that we would be buying the derelict land adjacent to our garden within 6 months. This make a smallish job into one that was bigger than we had possibly imagined!  

The terror of preparing for our NGS opening along with the huge task of clearing the land and creating a garden was what led to this blog.

I also volunteer with the NGS helping to look after other garden openers in my area. Working full time, and with a garden that is a very demanding mistress has been a challenge, and I know I have not had as much time for this as I would have hoped. However, this role and opening the garden has given me a great insight into the NGS world and I have met some marvellous people and friends. The gardening world is full of good eggs! There are also lots of random things that have happened as a result of ‘being in the book’ such as filming Gardeners World with Carol Klein, The Instant Gardener, magazines and even some random artists using the garden for a photoshoot.

Don’t get me wrong, opening is still a stress…as it draws closer so does the frenzied weeding and watering, often late into the evening. But, every year it is easier and I now don’t wake up in the night in a sweat about how much to charge for tea and cake and how acceptable Styrofoam cups are. I have also come to accept a certain element of que sera as you can’t control the weather, and some years plants are early/late or eaten by slugs!

The opening days themselves have always been a lot of fun….it has become a ritual for all our helpers to have lunch on the lawn before we open and put bets on how many people would come. Afterwards, when the doors are shut we then open the wine and see who was right…

Every year we are always amazed at how many people come, and it is lovely to see how many people come back. In a way it is a bit like a party! I love it!

So, thank you to everyone who has come, and everyone who is part of the NGS and makes it the great thing it is. For those of you with great gardens and who are vaguely thinking about opening get in touch and do it!!

Snail attack!