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The Aftermath of the Day Before


Well, here we are.

It’s the day after the one before.

Actually, it’s the day after the one before the one before because numpty-me didn’t get round to posting this the day before.

The day before (the day before) being when we had our first, ever, NGS Open Day with a local Gardening group coming as the first, ever group to see the garden beyond friends, neighbours and family.

Rather staged, but just as delicious

I needn’t have panicked, it went very well, from the initial introductory talk to the garden to the cakes, it was all well received and I’ve a guestbook with some very glowing comments to prove it. The volunteer help I had on the day were fantastic, ensuring visitors’ safety on dodgy steps and serving drinks and cakes a-plenty, as well as staying on afterwards to help clear up after the final visitors left.

Could we have been better organised? Perhaps

Could I have done a bit more in the garden to make it look better? Probably

Could there have been a more efficient way to lay out the drinks and cakes and table arrangements? Maybe

Does any of it matter?


Did I manage to get any “action shots” of the garden mid-visit with people milling around and enjoying food on the terrace? Of course not, but thankfully, the group organiser was better organised than I, and took some. I would have loved to have analytics into which parts of the garden were most popular, which were not really visited, which were explored, which plants were appreciated most, which route did people take. Did they spot the plant labels, the watchful hare, the three monkeys, the fact that the Armillary Sphere is facing backwards? Which benches and bistro sets were the most popular? Which one did they think had the best views? and so on.

In the end, if everyone seemed to have a great time, great cake and didn’t leave in the first 30 minutes, does it even matter?

I think that’s what I’m trying to convince myself of the next time we have one of these (in three weeks for those counting).

It didn’t matter that not all the pots were planted, that the bedding was three weeks behind, that there is still a large gap in the main border where there should be a stand of Crocosmia, that I hadn’t pruned all the roses back.

In the short introductory talk I gave about the garden, I said that I tried to make it in the Romantic Style, which affords a certain looseness and flexibility when it comes to ensuring garden jobs are done when they should be. I said that a Romantic garden – above all – is about atmosphere, perhaps a sense of faded past and neglect coming from overflowing borders. A few rough edges shouldn’t spoil that, it might even enhance it. The garden has enough plants, interest and atmosphere to support a rose that might still have its hips from last year, or a gap in the border where something hadn’t survived.

Being gardeners, they could also sympathise with the fact that the statement phormium is most likely dead, because theirs is the same. They also understood why the patio bedding plants weren’t brimming with flowers – because theirs were just seedlings as well.

In the end, the evidence is in the comments written in the guestbook, the few crumbs left behind when 26 people have 36 slices of cake, the continual stream of questions about pristine hostas, scented roses, the quirky compost heap. It’s in the round of applause from the group and most tellingly, in the much-relieved face of the trip organiser, who saw the garden as it was in mid April, when the patio had no pots and wasn’t washed, when the borders weren’t edged and hadn’t had their full winter clean up, when we had yet to assemble the Armillary and screen off the compost heap.

She had a combination of confidence and blind faith that in just four weeks (much of which was wet), the garden would go from an embarrassment to a jewel worth visiting.

She put her reputation on it.

I should learn from that.

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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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Wendy 23/05/2023 - 6:04 pm

Wheeee! It was a success. Congrats on surviving the first visit. We were aware that it was worrying you a little! It’s so early in a very slow season that everyone should have been aware of this, and made allowances for small plants and lack of blooms. After all, if they want to see the garden in full summer glory they can always visit again in August.

I’m trying to think of a non-insulting reason why 26 people consumed 36 slices of cake! Seconds anyone? Who can blame them though – that first picture of cream cake on your blog……. Careful or you will become more famous for your baking than your gardening skills. I’m so glad everything went well.

Sunil 24/05/2023 - 9:06 am

Hello Wendy, yes, it was a success and I think/hope people genuinely enjoyed themselves. I was actually hoarse from all the talking. One of the most frequently asked questions was about the hostas – how did I keep them so pristine? I told them they had missed the other hostas that were just ribbons. About the cake: we encouraged them to have a slice and then take another for seconds or for a take-away, so it is partly our fault. I think I’m known on the street more for the baking than the garden, though that might change if people come to visit this season.

Jean 08/06/2023 - 9:43 pm

Sunil, Congratulations on your first (of many, I’m sure) successful garden visit. I think you’re right that starting with a group of gardeners was ideal because they completely understand just how bizarre this year’s weather has been and just how unpredictable the results in the garden. It all looks beautiful (and, even with your slow, late spring, your garden is still may ahead of mine).

Sunil 11/06/2023 - 2:07 pm

Thank you for the encouragement, Jean, I’m also very glad we started off with a private group as it seems to work out much easier with everyone arriving on time, knowing the exact numbers and of course – understanding why things are dead or not flowering. Compared to the public open day we’ve just had, private groups are a piece of cake, or a walk in the park (as it were). We’re looking forward to welcoming our next group on Wednesday afternoon, which is why it has been rather quiet on here recently!


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