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Countdown to opening - the day arrives


By AndrewR


Well this is it – our Open Garden day. The forecast is dry and not too hot. The garden is looking good (even if I do say so myself), we’ve done the publicity, now there’s just the setting up and waiting for the visitors.

First, I go to the top of the road and put up a big sign. We know from experience that if we put it up too soon, the Council takes it down again so it is always left till the day of the opening.

Next I do a quick dead-heading and plant the last two plants – a fritillary that is very prone to slugs and a jasione (alpine) I bought yesterday.

Put up all the signs within the garden (advertising other Yellow Book gardens in Berkshire, a list of the charities it supports, information on the Garden Club, price list for the sale plants and a warning sign for a step beside the garage).

Put out the sale plants – this always takes ages trying to get as many as possible on the tables but still all presented in the best possible light. The wind gets up and blows several small fuchsias off – they need repotting and placed in a less vulnerable position.

Gill comes over with the money for floats and a spare table (which isn’t very stable) but I mange to prop it up with a spare chair and fill it with more plants.

Having set everything up, I can stop for lunch and draw breath. The first of my two helpers arrives half an hour before we open and has a quick look at the garden. Then she tells me how wonderful Highgrove is!
I concentrate her back on today and she sits by the gate, waiting for our first customers.

Bang on 2pm, the first two arrive. My second helper is not here yet so I man the plant sales until she arrives. That leaves me free to chat and answer questions plus make the helpers a cup of tea mid afternoon. We seem to be getting a steady stream all the time so it never gets too crowded. There are about a dozen plants that everyone is asking about but sometimes someone will surprise you by asking about something else. Finally it is time to stop, but a couple of ladies arrive after 5pm (when officially we are closed) – they have spent too long eating tea at the other garden but I let them in anyway.
They loiter a bit but buy some plants on the way out.

And then it is all over. The garden is empty again and all the blood and sweat is over for another day. I clear away the sale plants, take down all the signs and store away the furniture. We have had nearly one hundred visitors and took over £290 on the gate, £80 from teas and a similar amount from plant sales. That’s it till the next time.

And to cap it all, my team – Exeter City – won too!
It has been a good day.

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your garden is just beautiful andrew. well done on your open day and on exeter city winning. sounds like you have a great day.

19 May, 2008


Sounds like you enjoyed it as much as the Vistors did Andrewr, Uv so much 2 look @ all your lovely plants,Trees ect how stuning it all looks :) Well Done 4 collecting so much money :)

19 May, 2008


Sounds lika a lot of work but very exciting and rewarding. The garden looks fantastic. And it must be interesting to talk to people about plants all day, sharing information. Great !

19 May, 2008


Congratulations - glad it went so well. I bet you are exhausted now! Maybe you could relax in your own garden tomorrow and just enjoy it - no work.

19 May, 2008


Glad your day went well Your garden is beautiful Andrew

19 May, 2008


Your gardens look GREAT Andrew. I especially love the look of your front garden.

19 May, 2008


That last photo reminds me why I affectionately call it "hysteria"! Just browsing on a grizzle day (gray drizzle)!

2 Nov, 2009


Org - we used to have a weather forecaster who referred to mizzle (misty drizzle) - sounds like the same thing

2 Nov, 2009


The gray never precipitated into mist, and has now burned off. But I'll file that phrase as it's sure to come in handy as the season proceeds! Luckily we can look back to May when the sun was shining (just after snow, wasn't it?!) That berberis certainly was tall right in front: think you did well to take it out, tho that shorter one you just got might add that burgundy base note...what was it,,,Admiration. But a friend who does feng shui discourages pokey, spiny or "death arrow" leaved things by the entry as unwelcoming. I thought your "carrot" shrub was by this front entry...?

2 Nov, 2009


Berberis 'Admiration' is in the new section of garden which is about as far away from the front gate in my plot as it is possible to get.
The "carrot" shrub (bupleurum fruticosum) is to the right of the front gate (just out of shot in the first picture)

3 Nov, 2009


Oh, I see (not)! I'm slowly piecing the vignettes into some sort of overall coherence, but it's mostly a kaleidoscope! (one of my favorite toys, still!)
Whom do the open days/yellow book benefit besides the visitors who must be so inspired? There are clubs like your Exeter City, and funds are raised, and prizes are awarded (such as a shopping spree at your favorite nursery! not a dull plaque, I cringe) and...?

3 Nov, 2009


The Yellow Book raises money for charities here, the main beneficiaries being cancer ones. Last year, the two main charities each received £500,000 from the scheme.

We have football (soccer, not your American football) which is our national sport even though countries like Croatia now seem to be able to beat us at it. Exeter City was the team I supported as a teenager, being the one nearest where I grew up. They have had a particularly lean time over the past few years, nearly going bankrupt when a corrupt Chairman siphoned off money from the club into his own pockets, and we had an important match that coincided with the day of the opening (which I couldn't possibly have anticipated when we set our dates nine months earlier).

3 Nov, 2009

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