Saturday, 25 June 2011

Annual NGS Garden Open Day; Ready or Not!

I love the concept of the National Garden Scheme (NGS). Visiting private gardens, secret for rest of the year, is very special indeed. Particularly, with the knowledge that one's visit will generate much needed capital, for several worthy charities. Though despite much bestowed esteem, several days passed, where the concept of an NGS open day, generated little more than a profusion of anxious frustration. You see, last Sunday (19/06), saw the arrival of the much anticipated annual NGS Garden Open Day, where we, along with four other esteemed gardens in the village, opened to the public.

Greenhouse Borders 19th of June 2011

In the run up, there is just never enough time in the day, to work through one's forever urgent, list of must-be-completed jobs. One of the visitors, was under the impression that opening one's garden is no big deal, just any other day in the garden, though this time for more people.  However, that could not be further from the truth. Indeed, gardeners work hard to make their garden their own, but that is just it. The garden is to a standard that one is personally happy with. The odd weed, imperfect lawn, scruffy borders and veg patches, are normally of little consequence. Though for the fervent NGS garden visitor, that is probably not the case. One memorable open day, several years ago, an elderly visitor shrieked, "Ooh, I don't envy your dandelions". My husband didn't flinch, but replied calmly, "Indeed, it is their best year ever!".  Fume as we did at the time, there was some truth, as admittedly, the odd mass of dandies did thrive in the garden, though happy to report that their numbers have been reduced dramatically. 

Kitchen Garden 19th of June 2011

As per usual, nothing went according to plan this year. Broken lawnmower four days prior to the open day; heavy rain storms, including a mammoth shower the day before; drastic blunting of tools due to mysterious disappearance of sharpening device; ever increasing mound on bonfire but no dry spell long enough to burn it into oblivion; nutter dog recovering from surgery, rampaging amongst the 'just finished' borders whilst wearing super garden destructive 'cone of shame'. And all that, to the constant voluble sound over the garden wall, of the talented Gordon, the neighbour's gardener, beavering away from dawn till dusk, with a staggeringly enviable array of exciting garden machinery. Usually, by this time, the desperate 'I don't care anymore' sentiment comes in, which must be nature's way of stress alleviation. Even though, a tad defeatist, the sentiment has some truth. In my book gardens are not meant to be perfect. Well, that was what we were saying to ourselves anyway.

Rosewalk 19th of June 2011

The hard work does pay off though. Despite our somewhat fatigued, broken and superbly stiff physiques, the NGS visitors were charming. Interested in plants, gardens and keen to share gardening experiences. As a bonus, as there are four other garden open, we have a chance to venture into the village to admire their hard work. Though, often to the bemused snipes of our garden visitors, accusing us of corporate espionage.

Lush lawns at Sorbrook Manor Garden (much to Gordon's credit)

The Adderbury village NGS Garden Open Days, have been going strong since 1987. According to the resident, Oxfordshire County organiser, Dr. David White, the first year had a record 1000 visitors, causing traffic havoc. As more NGS gardens continue to open in the Adderbury vicinity, competition will increase, meaning that this illustrious record remains unbroken. This year our open day coincided, with the infamous Broughton Grange Open Day and BBC Gardeners' World live in Birmingham, which probably impacted the takings. None the less, a total of 170 visitors came through small village this year, all of which seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed their garden visits.

Charming plant combinations at Placketts' garden
Over the last five years, almost 2000 paying visitors have come to the Adderbury Open Days, excluding a number of private group openings. Dr. White added that, Adderbury village scores well compared to similar (NGS) villages. The NGS Blewbury group tops our takings in most years, though they seem to have a higher number of gardens open. Small as our village and NGS garden group may be, in terms of total NGS earning, Adderbury is in the top five Oxfordshire gardens/groups.

The stunning Old Vicarage

Crucially, Dr. White did mention that general NGS garden visitor numbers are down, meaning that continued support is needed by all. Do pick up the Yellow Book, and see what is happening where you are, it really is worth it.

The lovely Adderbury village front gardens

Finally, though not officially part of the NGS Open Day, commendation must go to the lovely cottage front gardens in the village. Certainly worthy of a mention in the illustrious Yellow NGS book.


  1. The garden looks wonderful - wish I could have been there!

  2. Interesting post, and lovely photo's. You're very brave opening your garden to the Public but it does look lovely ;)

  3. Oh, it all look sooo beautiful What a lot of work it takes, but it is rewarding. - and the dog with his hilarious cone of shame. Why do things like that always have to happen at the most inconvenient times? Thanks for sharing the beauty; it's so inspiring. I come in from working in my garden and enjoy yours from across an ocean. Thanks for posting.

  4. Thank you for the lovely comments! Much appreciated. We really enjoyed the garden today, after all that work it does look lovely. Nice to actually enjoy one's garden, rather than simply working it.

  5. I would have loved a stroll down your Rose walk! Everything looks wonderful. Gravel all nice & neat and veg patch overflowing with greens.

    It is so, so nerve-racking and vulnerable to open up your home to those who you know are looking with a keen eye. And yet, it is worth it in the end because it makes us rise to higher heights in our own garden standards.

    Beauty is the goal, unreachable as it may because we live in a world of storms, dogs and dandelions. Hope you have time to sit and have a cool drink in the garden for all of your labor. :)

  6. Hello Petra,

    It's a shame to hear that visits to NGS gardens are down as they do make for a great day out at very little cost whilst being of charitable benefit. Your own garden looks wonderful, I especially like the Greenhouse border and the rose walk which is stunning (and of which I am very jealous!) and the neighbours lawn is immaculate! I think one year my wife and I must try and make a visit as the gardens and the village are just the kind of thing we like.
    On a slightly different note, do you have, or would you be able to put together, a plant list of your Greenhouse border for the interested observer?


  7. Hi Jason! We hope to welcome you both in the garden for the next open day. The village really is beautiful, so certainly worth a visit. Thank you for the lovely comments. The Greenhouse borders are really starting to take shape, and yet there is still so much more to come. The Eupatoriums, Phlox, Veronicastrums, Sedums, Agastaches are all still to flower. Interesting you mention, the plant list. We are actually working on one! Originally thought to just be a guide to remind us what's what, though happy to make it public. It is not ready yet, and it may be some time, but hope to have it ready in a few months as it is part of a bigger project. Luckily my husband is a web2, database genius! I will keep you posted. Though in the meantime, if there are plants in there you'd like to identify, please do let me know by all means!

  8. I'll keep an eye out for the plant list; it's a very good idea to have one as an aide-memoire, so much so that I may have to put one together myself as I do forget what things are and where I've planted them!
    You're lucky to have a web2 genius at hand; I'm still trying to get to grips with html for dummies!


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