Every year, for the weeks and months before the garden opening, I am focused on getting the garden ready to meet its public.  The opening is a wonderful opportunity to make sure that everything in the garden is looking as good as it possibly can be on that weekend.  The downside of this is that a lot of other things in life are put on hold.  So, when the opening is over, my thoughts tend to move on to other important things that have been neglected.  This means that the garden tends to get on with things on its own in June.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t avoid the garden.  I mow the grass, water plants and dead-head and prune where necessary, I just don’t have the garden at the fore front of my mind.  Now, that period is over for this year and I am back to thinking about the garden again.

NGS visitors 2013

NGS visitors 2013

Before I move on though, I thought you might like a quick update on the opening.  It was a lovely sunny weekend and we made over £200 for the NGS Charities.  I had been concerned that despite the dismal, cold weather we had this Spring, some visitors might have expected us to magically avoid all of it and have a garden with the plants that would normally be in flower in the first weekend of June.  Thankfully I was totally wrong.  People really appreciated the chance to see the Wisteria in all its glory :).

Certainly, over the years, I have come to learn that a different group of plants are in flower each time.  This highlights how it is impossible to plan one’s flowering for a particular time of year.  Yes, you can think that certain plants will be at their best, but you certainly can’t rely on that.  Particularly in a small garden, it is best to plan for a succession of flowering.In larger gardens, it may be practical to walk past areas not at their best, but in the size of garden that many of us have these days, every inch of space has to work hard!

We had a number of visitors making return visits, which was particularly gratifying.  This year, we had three canine visitors, but they were not necessarily as interested in the garden as their humans.  However, Anya was overjoyed to meet even more canine friends.

As soon as the opening was over, I did some major pruning in the hope that it wasn’t too late and that there would be some regrowth before next year.  We will just have to wait and see………………

Like us, plants need water to live so when water restrictions are imposed, then all gardeners are worried for their plants.  This situation is made even worse when you know that you are going to open your garden to the public.  Whilst people will understand that the restrictions have been imposed, they will still want to see a pristine garden with beautiful plants when they have handed over their hard cash – be it for charity or not.

Luckily Hampshire escaped the ban on hosepipes introduced on 1 April 2012 in much of Southern England.  But, given the lack of rain this winter alone, it cannot be long before one is imposed here too.

Many of us find it hard to remember what exactly the weather was like last week, but I have two ways of gauging how much rain there has been this year.  Firstly, the stats  for my new solar panels show how sunny it has been and secondly I am very aware that we have rarely had to put our new puppy, Anya, outside in the rain.

It is at times like these that I feel eternally grateful that

  1. I have no grass – It is hard to justify watering established grass.  It will bounce back when we eventually get some rain.  Still, yellowing grass does not set a garden off well.  With a bit of luck, my shrubs with their deep roots will survive the lack of rain and continue to provide a green backdrop to my garden.
  2. I garden on a clay soil –  Over the years, a great deal of compost and grit has been added  to improve the soil structure.  Clay tends to hold onto water and the improvements mean that it is still workable even in periods of less rain.
  3. My garden is (relatively) small – Whilst my garden is very well stocked, I have less plants that someone with sprawling acres and I also have shorter distances to carry my watering can.

Just because you cannot use a hose in the garden, it does not mean that you cannot use water.  Watering cans are perfectly acceptable for keeping plants watered.  The key thing is to concentrate on young plants and those that are showing obvious signs of distress.  Please remember, full watering cans are very heavy, so look after your back and don’t fill it to the top.  A few more journeys around the garden are worth it to avoid back pain.

Whilst the hosepipe ban is very restrictive, there are a few legitimate reasons for using a hosepipe.  One of these is that you can (and in fact the Southern Water website says “should”) keep your pond topped up to a minimum level to safeguard the fish.  Believe it or not, I have already heard of people acquiring fish just so that they can keep their pond filled up.

Another allowable usage of a hosepipe is that cleaning of paths and patios for health or safety reasons, so I will be able to pressure wash my paths so that my NGS visitors will be able to wander around the garden with confidence.

Wouldn’t it be ideal if we could have rain regularly at night and then nice sunny days, that way every one would be happy.  We will just have to see what the vaguries of the British weather has to throw at us – what ever it is, we will have to work with it!

Helper keeping busy while waiting for visitors
This year’s opening under the NGS was on 4 and 5 June.  We had some wonderful visitors, both human and canine.  There were a lot of lovely comments about the garden and our dogs.

Visitors enjoying the shade of the pergola

Saturday was sunny and we had a steady stream of visitors.  Toward the end of the day, we met two of Oliver’s daughters and their owners.  They were very well behaved and it was a pleasure to see them.

Tia and Lady

Sunday was our first wet day of opening (in five years, so not too bad) and you could almost hear the garden breathing a huge sigh of relief to have some rain after two months of virtually no rain.  We finally got to use the gazebos that we bought four years ago.  One provided shelter for people arriving and it was so good, we have decided that we will use it every year as it will protect from both rain and sun.  The other was over the patio.  It gave people a dry space to stand and chat as well as to look at the garden.

Rosa Falstaff from David Austin Roses

Our open days may be over, but we already have two appointments booked by people who couldn’t make it this weekend.  If you would like to make an appointment, please email fbarnes@barhi.net