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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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