I don't know if this is just me, or whether we are all the same, but when friends or family are due to visit, I clean in places I hardly knew existed. Who is going to run their finger along the top of a wardrobe, or check for rolls of dust under a chest of drawers ? But somehow I feel impelled to clean there, just in case. The rest of the time I can live happily surrounded by dust, as I am out in the garden anyway !
I feel the same way about the garden too, and happily share with nettles and weeds without a second thought, but when I know that people are coming to look around the garden, I get the same hysterical urge to make it look its best. I venture into every nook and cranny and make sure that everything is staked, deadheaded and behaving itself. Working until dark is fine ...
So, when my partner and I were idly chatting a couple of weeks ago about the garden, one of us - probably him - mentioned the NGS (Yellow book), and suggested that we apply to open our garden for them next year. We had had a couple of glasses of wine. It seemed like a good idea.
We opened our garden for the NGS (National garden Scheme) in 2010 and thoroughly enjoyed the experience although the thought of it was quite scary initially. We intended to open again the following year but the terrible winter totally decimated the garden, killing lots of large exotics like tree ferns and palms and also the extensive hebe hedging. The low temperatures caused such devastation that we had to pull out of opening and replant. It has taken this long for new planting to establish itself.
Opening your garden for the NGS is a fantastic opportunity to make lots of money for charity and to chat with lots of passionate gardeners and swap ideas. Before we opened I had expected those visitors to be very knowledgable and very critical, if I am honest. Turns out that the former was true and the latter was false! Everyone was very forgiving and friendly, willing to share knowledge and ideas and to overlook the flaws in the garden.
So, that decision taken after a couple of glasses of wine became a reality, and we quickly received notification that Helen, our local organiser would be paying us a visit. Boy, did that goad us into action! We gardened through torrential rain, searing sun and darkness to get the metaphorical dust off the top of the wardrobe . We bought new plants to fill in gaps, and cut back unruly ones. We did unheard of things like raking the gravel and weeding between the raspberry canes. We waded into the ponds to remove excess weeds and cut back the marginals. 'Headless chickens' wouldn't begin to describe us, we worked every hour to get that garden to look as good as we possibly could. When we looked around it we saw only the flaws, the work undone, the rough edges. We asked ourselves why we were bothering to apply when we would surely be turned down.
Helen, our local organiser duly came, one warm sunny morning last week, and we showed her around the garden. She was lovely and very positive, and not critical in the slightest. And she told us, as we enjoyed tea and carrot cake sitting in the garden, that we are IN! Fantastic news ! And, to be fair, she actually told us BEFORE the carrot cake was in view, so it was a fair decision and not cake-based at all !
Euphoria presided at our house for all of a day. We drank more wine, we had a meal with friends, we drank some fizz... then reality set in !
Instead of spending a little time resting on our tiny laurels, one of us said "So, what improvements do we need to make before next year ?" and then we made a list. A very long list !
So now we are back out in the garden, planting, pruning, weeding and planning until late in the evening ... working towards our opening day next summer.