Regular readers will know that I often visit two or three gardens in a day when I am out and about, but today I turned from "Galloping"to "Gadabout" Gardener on a wonderful tour of local gardens in Brighton, England. This scheme really appealed to me (and judging by the numbers of visitors at the gardens, it did to other garden fanatics too!) and it may well be something that like-minded gardeners want to try back home.
The formula is simple (although it does take some organisation!) and is an open garden scheme raising funds for charity. Private garden owners open their patch for a couple of consecutive Sundays and charge a £1.00 (($1.60 approx) entrance fee on the gate. The proceeds all go to a selected charity; the visitors get to satisfy their curiosity about other people's gardens; there are often plants for sale; but most importantly, this is a wonderful way of looking at the ingenuity of other gardeners; seeing new planting schemes; and realising that what you do at home is just as interesting to a garden audience as visiting many of the wonderful commercial gardens that open to the public.
The gardens I saw today were filled with novel ideas - like the wellington-boot planting (above); the fish sculptures (above and below left); and many different and original planting schemes that made small gardens feel like jungles, meadows or wide-open spaces, even though many of the gardens are in the middle of a town or city!
As we all know, each garden owner has their own vision of the way their plot should look and this scheme enables inquisitive garden lovers to attend a banquet, serving up innovative ideas, originality and charm.
The scheme in and around Brighton has been running for over 15 years and this year sees more than 70 gardens opening to raise funds for The Sussex Beacon - a purpose-built clinical care centre for men and women living with HIV. None of the gardens would normally be open to the public, and this is a great way of getting behind the scenes!
The Garden Gadabout scheme is masterminded by Bridgette Saunders, who opens her own remarkable garden for the event. Don't miss this one!! It is a joy and delight and when I heard a five-year old boy telling his mum that this was "just the best garden ever", my heart lifted! He was, of course, quite right because Bridgette's garden is fantastic.
This year's open garden scheme continues next Sunday, 19th July. There is a brochure listing all the open gardens, which are grouped into areas and means that you can plan your visits to cover Brighton and Hove, as well as other outlying areas including Rottingdean, Lewes and Seaford, to name just a few. The brochure includes maps and full details of the gardens that are open. Advance tickets are also available from The Dome Box Office in Brighton (tel: 01273 709709), costing £6 for the whole day, and giving you unlimited access to all the gardens in the scheme.
What really impressed me about today was the enthusiasm of all the people visiting the gardens and the way the owners engaged with their visitors - all the gardens I visited, large and small were remarkable in their own way; the owners were delightful and happy to answer questions; the sun was shining; and for me it made one of the best "Galloping Gardener" tours so far this year.