When Lewis Cottage Garden opened to the public over the May bank holiday weekend, Richard Orton was not just surprised by the number of visitors but the wide age range of the people who came. Here he reflects on the joys of sharing your garden with others and what even those with the smallest outdoor spaces can learn from such visits. The garden is open to the public again on the weekend of 26/27 June.

To view your garden as others see it is a rare delight indeed, but it’s one that we are lucky enough to experience each time we have an open garden weekend. The recent bank holiday was no exception; a bigger than expected number of visitors resulted in marathon cooking sessions, a wide selection of new photographs and more excitingly, a much wider age range too. 

Each year we say that there can’t be anybody left who would want to visit the garden and are constantly amazed that each year more and more new visitors appear. These past couple of years we’ve been delighted to welcome more young visitors than ever before; mostly young families who have moved into the area but young couples too. We hope that this continues for these are the new gardeners of today and tomorrow and they more than any of us will have responsibility and need to deal with the fallout of the current climate emergency. 

The joy of visiting private gardens is that, in the main, they are all attainable. Whether you own a large garden, an allotment or have a small plot in the middle of town there is always something to take from a garden visit. It may be an unusual colour scheme, a new plant perhaps or a garden structure. Perhaps it is simply the atmosphere that has been created, be it one of calmness or drama, a place of reflection or one of activity. Whichever it be, I would urge you all to visit these private gardens if you can and to talk with the owners. 

We get asked a lot about how to downsize the ideas in our garden and make them appropriate for smaller spaces. Often, it’s just a case of using mini versions of the same plant, or perhaps a less invasive species but sometimes it’s the aspect or soil conditions that can contain or restrict a plant’s growth. The drama or calm atmosphere we leave to you!Looking through the images we get sent of the garden, we are sometimes surprised that we don’t recognise the view, often because the view has been taken in reverse or from a slightly different angle. It is exactly this that we love about opening the garden; so many different ways of seeing the same space. 

But you don’t have to open your garden to benefit from this, having a group of friends round for a drink in the garden will do the same thing and suddenly you start viewing the garden differently. 

Now that the weather has finally chosen to right itself and we have some sunshine, plants and seedlings that have been sluggish to grow this year are suddenly going to spurt into growth, so in readiness for the next opening at the end of the month we will be planting out our annuals – cosmos, nicotiana, tithonia and ammi majus amongst many others. We will also be looking forward to the foxgloves and sweet peas flowering too, both of which are normally in bloom for the bank holiday opening. 

If you didn’t manage to visit us this time (and even if you did) here are the details for our end of June open weekend.

Gardening jobs for the coming month

  • You can start to lift tulips now, once they have stopped flowering.
  • Cut back spring perennials such as the pulmonarias to encourage fresh leaves.
  • Prevent annuals from getting leggy by pinching out tips of Fuchsias etc.
  • Fill gaps in your borders by planting pots of annuals or summer flowering bulbs which can then be easily taken out at the end of summer.
  • Treat your pots to a good dose of vine weevil control, particularly if you’ve suffered in the past, as larvae get active this month.
  • Plant out your sweetcorn in blocks after hardening off.
  • Spreading mulch across crops of beans and courgettes to help retain moisture.
  • Try planting up hanging baskets with trailing tomatoes or herbs.

Some other gardens open for the NGS in June 

19th & 20th June – Littlefield, Woodbury

24th & 27th June - Foxhole Community Garden, Totnes

26th & 27th June -  Stone Farm, Bideford

All photos courtesy of  Liz Mary Photography Devon

Jun 14, 2021

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