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Gearing-up for an Open Season


We’re already in the last week of February.

I’ll invite you to read that line again and let it sink in. It’s only in the last few days that it’s been dry enough and warm enough (“warm” is relative for this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere) that I’ve been able to do a fair bit of gardening. Up until now, I’ve had odd mornings or afternoons pottering about here and there but this time, this time we got serious and pruned the roses at the front, cut back the lavender, the Corner Border was cleared, tidied and readied for the new season, the same goes for the Main border and l’ve since started on the Crescent. About 200 Crocosmia bulbs got planted and we started clearing up the Gaura that grow in the verge.

A short wall revealed after cutting back Ferns

It’s a good start, but as always at this time of year, it doesn’t feel like anywhere near enough progress. There are still hedges to cut, four more borders to clear and tidy, the whole patio to set out with the nomadic pot collection and countless packets of seeds to sow. Granted I’ve got until late April for some of these but that doesn’t mean I can rest now.

Full-on flowering of the Camellias means the new season is here – do try and keep-up

Adding to the sense of blind panic are the various articles arriving in he post from the NGS for this year’s first open season. I’ve received the 2023 Yellow Book and we’re mentioned as a new garden for the Berkshire county section, we’re on the map and we also have a half-page photo. We’ve been online for a while now but there’s nothing quite like the physical print staring back at you to hammer home the fact that it’s all real. The photo in the Yellow Book was actually taken by an NGS county volunteer, one half of the pair that came to review the garden in summer 2022. How he got the garden to look that good, I will never know. I do know where he stood (rather, knelt) to take it so I’ll be advising visitors do the same and then promptly leave before the picture-perfect feeling breaks.

The Landing Pad is still on the “To-have-done-by-now” list

Despite spending all my gardening time in a northern temperate climate, it never ceases to amaze me just how fast plants can get going once the tipping point of high single-digit night-time and double-digit day-time temperatures arrives. In three months the garden goes from dormancy to peak flowering.

And that’s just what the garden has now – three months – as the first garden visit is by a local group towards the end of May. I’ll be sure to hang a large banner that reads “Mind the Gap” between the two cypress trees at the front. The “Gap” being the expectations given by the garden description and pictures, and the reality.

The (literal) printed article vs now.

As is typical of me, I’m yo-yoing between the extremes of “Oh my goodness, everything is dead, we need to move house and change identity before the first group turn up” and “It’ll be alright on the night”.

Beautifully printed cards for sale on NGS Open Days

I’ll come back to the five “P’s”: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance (some versions of this phrase have six). And so I’ll carry on clearing the borders and readying the garden for a rather unique season. I’ve gone through the same process every year since we moved and it’s not let me down yet. New for the first time, I have the added challenge of ensuring we have enough seating, tables, signs, volunteers and most importantly, cake.

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author & gardener

Sunil Patel

I'm Sunil Patel, this is me. I created the Garden at 13 Broom Acres and I open it to visitors. I also bake and write blog posts giving a "behind the scenes" look into what it's like to maintain such a garden.

Visit the blog, then come and visit the garden. We can have a good sit-down, a jolly chinwag and a relaxing cup of tea with a sinfully generous slice of home made cake.

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Jean 23/02/2023 - 7:18 pm

I’m pretty sure garden visitors are looking to enjoy a real garden, not some picture-perfect, virtual reality simulacrum. Having said that, though, I can relate to your yo-yoing emotions. I go through a similar thing every time I agree to give a talk somewhere or write an article about some new topic: First, there’s the “sure, I’d be happy to, sounds like fun” phase, which all too soon gives way to the “why did I ever say I’d do this? I don’t know enough!” phase. I talk myself down off the ledge by reminding myself that my talk/article doesn’t have to be perfect; I just have to know enough more than my audience/readers that they will learn something new! Good luck with your preparations, and try to remember to enjoy the accomplishment!

Sunil 26/02/2023 - 5:10 pm

Thanks, Jean, I think I can almost guarantee a “real garden”, complete with holes in hostas and gaps in borders where plants died of winter cold and wet. I’ve had ideas such as tearing out pages from the gardening catalogues, running them through a laminator, then pinning them down on the bare border soil. In the end I think it’s all about confidence and being proud of what’s been achieved while owning any shortfalls. If I’m happy with the garden, then other people will hopefully take the cue and be happy with it also. If not, then there’s always cake.


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