Last week’s grassy wand-waving, aided by your kind well-wishes, seemed to pay off. Despite the iffy weather forecast and localised heavy downpours, Brockweir Common stayed dry for Sunday afternoon’s garden visitors. This year, we have a lot both to be thankful for, and, to think about ….
A dry day was a relief to our furry meeters and greeters, as garden visitors are much more inclined to make a fuss of dry dogs 😉.
Nearly two hundred visitors raised lots of money for the National Garden Scheme, Gwent Wildlife Trust, Alzheimer Society and Brockweir Moravian Church. Among the more familiar faces was a lovely surprise – fellow garden blogger Brian and his wife of Our Garden@19.
Visitor numbers were a little lower than last year, but this gave us more time to chat with people. Happily, as a newer garden, Greenfields enjoyed the lion’s share (114). The straw poll taken at the gates shows that most visitors are still attracted by what used to be called ‘The Yellow Book” as well as the county booklets.
Despite the rebranding, which I wrote about back in March here, proportionally fewer visitors seem to find gardens via the attractive new website or social media. Speaking to other NGS garden owners and our trusty Assistant County Orgainsers, the new stationary may be less effective than we’d like it to be. The feedback seems to be that due the new poster’s background colour and quirky font the lettering is less visible from the roadside, plus there’s less information available to browsers of notice boards. For instance, both Greenfields and Barn House gardens are open by appointment, yet, this is no longer advertised on the posters. Another local NGS garden owner thinks that this sort of thing could be addressed if garden owners had access to the unique font and so were able to create/customise their own publicity material.
Maybe it’s going to take a while longer for garden visitors to switch to using the internet, yet, having set up a garden website in 2015 my experience is that this isn’t the whole story. Following the garden’s feature on Gardener’s World in August 2016 Hitesh noticed that our sleepy little WordPress website stats hit the roof causing us to fear ensung gridlock on the lane not to mention mayhem in the parking field. Luckily, the virtual interest translated into a far more manageable 85 visitors spread over the 8 weeks after the programme was aired.
Hitesh also pointed out that it’s a bit odd that this is the first year that Askimet hasn’t shown any referrals from the new NGS website.
One way or another, hundreds of intrepid garden visitors have found their way to us since we first opened the gates in July 2013. Over the last 5 years we have hosted an NGS Open Day 8 times, in addition to which 20 groups will have visited by appointment by the end of September 2017. While there has been keen interest in the garden from further afield, such as from Swansea or Bath, it seems unlikely that many regional groups, with a sensible preference for travel by coach, would as happily brave longer journeys by car. Maybe they’ve heard that the secluded Lower Wye Valley’s winding lanes are charmingly pretty but prohibitively narrow?
This may be a blessing in disguise. Never mind the country lanes, our country drains wouldn’t cope with large parties without creating an almighty fuss.
I’m considering a low-key opening of the garden in 2018 on a set day for a local charity while offering the garden to groups of 10-30 by appointment on behalf of the NGS. (Interested individuals or organisers considering a group visit are always most welcome, contact details are given on the website’s Visit page.)
For the last 3 years we’ve deliberately opened early in the summer, to show that a naturalistic garden doesn’t look too bad in June, months before ornamental grasses are ‘supposed’ to look good. Why, even the hedgerow bindweed winding its way up the bamboo canes looked rather marvellous to me ….
Update : On the afternoon of Friday 30th June, NGS garden owners received an email from Chief Executive George Plumptre reassuring us that teething problems with the new website, posters etc. would be addressed for 2018.