I am now mostly recovered from our open garden and plant sale on Sunday. We had the most amazing day and raised £725 for the British Red Cross, which I’m thrilled about! I’m hugely grateful to everyone who came, all the kind people who donated plants, and my wonderful family, who baked and helped out on the day. It was a lot of work, and I was exhausted afterwards, but it was totally worth it and really fun. We might do it again next year!
I thought I’d write this post as a helpful guide in case you’re thinking of opening your garden for charity. These are a few things to consider:
Don’t fret about the weather
I spent the week before constantly checking the weather forecast, which was a waste of time because it was continually changing, ranging from torrential rain forecast all day, to a mixture of sunshine and light showers. As a friend of mine pointed out, when I was feeling a bit downcast about it, no one expects the weather to be perfect at an English open garden and people will come anyway! So we put up the gazebo, just in case, and hoped for the best. The morning was fine but it did rain on and off all afternoon, including one memorable downpour! People still came. And my wonderful mum sat, stalwart, under a parasol in the drizzle, greeting new arrivals as they came in, in all but the heaviest showers!
Organise a plant sale
The plant sale definitely contributed a significant proportion of the total money we raised. I asked people for plant donations a few weeks ahead of the event, on Facebook and Streetlife, and also dug up spare plants from my garden. There was a fair bit of work involved in potting seedlings on, and dividing and potting up large plants, but it’s the kind of work I enjoy. Lots of our visitors also brought more plants with them on the day. So we ended up with a huge selection of annuals, fruit and veg, and large and small perennials. The perennials were the most popular. Next time, I’ll try to have more hardy geraniums, as they were (to my surprise) much in demand.
Bake lots of cakes!
Our tea table was busy all day. I and other members of my family (thank you!!) did lots of baking, so we had a table full of lovely looking treats. You can’t have an open garden without lemon and poppy seed cake or a Victoria sponge. We also had brownies, flapjacks, scones with butter and jam, chocolate cake, cupcakes, carrot cake, apple and raspberry muffins, oaty coconut biscuits, and lemon syrup cake. Yum! And little cups of fruit (apricots and cherries) sold well too. We also served real coffee and tea, as well as soft drinks. A hot water urn for teas and large thermos jug for the coffee made serving the drinks much easier. Our local Co-op supermarket very kindly donated a whole heap of stuff for the tea table, which helped keep our costs down.
Make it family friendly
I wanted to encourage people to bring their kids to the open garden so we set up a mini trail around the garden with a prize at the end. I laminated little pictures of garden gnomes, stuck them on flower sticks, and then hid them in the borders. Children had to spot as many as they could and then come and tell us how many they had found. The prizes were sweets (donated by the Lincoln Street newsagent) and flower balloons (my multi-talented sister is a balloon modeller extraordinaire!)
Decorate your garden
We put up bunting and Red Cross balloons, used a pretty table cloth, put colourful cushions on chairs, and generally tried to give the event a garden party feel. If the weather had been better, I’d have put out a picnic blanket and cushions on the lawn, and put up a fabric teepee for kids to play in.
Promote the event everywhere!
I adapted a ready-made poster template with photos of my garden, and the Red Cross printed the posters and fliers for me at their local office. I posted the event on social media boards, and asked friends to share it widely. I put posters up on local noticeboards and trees. The event was also featured on the Red Cross website.
Be serious (but not too serious) about the boring stuff
It’s really important that you have public liability insurance for an open garden event. God forbid anyone should be injured or get food poisoning from your lovely cakes, but if they did, you would want to be covered. The Red Cross provide this cover for their official open gardens, which saved me having to pay for it myself. Although I did have to write a risk assessment and put up ludicrous disclaimers like ‘Beware, hot coffee may scald!’ It’s stating the obvious but worth doing nonetheless, and I found a way to do it that amused me at least.
My favourite moment was when my son ran up to me, with great enthusiasm, and insisted I come with him immediately to see the frog that had hopped out of one of the borders. It was a moment when I saw that all my hard work to make my garden wildlife-friendly had paid off. And I loved that he was excited by it. Frogs are cool! And it was a pleasure to talk to so many keen gardeners about my garden and all the plants for sale. It was also brilliant to notice that our money bags were getting heavier and full of notes as the day wore on. When my sister and dad told me the final total, I was staggered. Raising money for a good cause, after all, is the main reason for doing an event like this.
There are only a couple of things I’d do differently next time. I’d like to know how many people came, so we’ll do a head count at the gate. We’ll remember to serve fruit again, as not everyone wanted high calorie cake. And I’d take photos. I was so busy on the day that I completely forgot to take a single photo. But to my relief, other people did take a few and they’ve let me share some of their photos here. Thank you again to everyone who came and helped! Maybe see you next year. x