A solo saxophonist and blue skies; the story of a Great British Garden Party

Great British Garden Party host, Maggy Keeble, explains what motivated her to take part, how she fundraised and entertained, and how even a rain delay didn’t prevent her from throwing a wonderful party with great results.

Every other year for the last eight years we have raised money for charity in memory of our darling son Patrick. Our loss never diminishes, not by even a single ounce, but doing something for others gives us a focus – and we know he would approve.

This year, after reading a National Garden Scheme email and realising how badly hit their fund raising was, we thought we would try to help them a little. So, I planned a garden party for the end of June.

I sent out invite texts to friends asking them to pop in 11.30am – 2pm on the day and suggested they bring a folding chair if possible. Shade would be provided by our huge eucalyptus tree.

Bring and Buy and Raffle prizes


At past fund raising events I have organised a Bring and Buy Sale asking everyone to come along and bring any unwanted item and pop it on our kitchen table. The idea being that you bought something and put a donation in the box provided. So no pricing – but people are surprisingly generous in bringing and in buying.

A raffle sounded a good idea too, as we have done well from them in past years. This time a friend bought some raffle tickets for me as two years ago we didn’t have any and had to scribble numbers on pieces of paper.  What we didn’t have were raffle prizes but I raided my husbands wine rack and the family dug out quite a few reasonably good bits and bobs they had squirrelled away. A few kind souls also said they’d donate a prize and we raided the bring and buy table for a few nice bits to end up with a quite a grand number of raffle prizes.

Some people undoubtedly won their own Bring and Buy donations but were polite enough not to say.

Musical accompaniment and food

I was fortunate to bump into a solitary saxophonist playing lovely jazz on a nearby beach. His notes floated on the breeze across the sea beautifully and I imagined them floating across my garden too. As he was packing away we got chatting and, much to my daughter’s absolute embarrassment, I told him about my fundraiser for the National Garden Scheme, and he very kindly said he’d come along and play for an hour or so!

My great Lancashire scone making pal came down to reside for a few days and made scones for a cream tea. My lovely WI friends were ready to help man the show.

Rain stopped play

All was sorted and the day arrived… so did the rain! My garden party was cancelled. But I had a list of names – and had asked all to rsvp because of covid – so I tried to let everyone know rain had stopped play – and managed to tell all but one lovely lady – she’s still not forgiven me.

A new date

I decided on another date two weeks later and the lovely saxophonist was still able to come along. We ate all of the the scones immediately after we cancelled on the pretence of rain stress and not wanting to fill the freezer but a nearby garden – Isabella’s Garden in Leigh-on-Sea – was opening for the National Garden Scheme two days before my new date and the WI were baking for them. The owners kindly said I could have any left over cakes and I prayed their visitors were all on diets. I supplemented the considerable left overs with some kind donations and a few Costco cakes and trays of sandwiches.

This time the day was blazing hot so we put up parasols, brollies, a tent or two. The gorgeous eucalyptus tree had let us down badly – it had looked a bit jaded for a while, so the tree surgeon was called out the week before the garden party. He had to remove our ancient pride and joy incase it depleted our garden party supporters by thwacking them on the head!


The poor stump was duly disguised as a table for the raffle prizes and the lovely WI team plus a few others helped on the day – they were wonderful. Friends came and supported and we just asked for donations for coffee, juice, tea and cakes and sarnies. They so kindly dug deep.

The sax player played his heart out for hours in the heat.

A big gin and tonic was raised at the end of the day and a jolly good donation of over £700 was sent off to the National Garden Scheme.

Have a go next year – if I can do it, so can you.

As always, this is for Patrick – mum loves you!


Don’t miss a thing

Sign up to hear more about gardens, events and our
activities throughout the year

By completing this form, you confirm that you are aged 18 years or over and that you are happy to receive emails from the National Garden Scheme in accordance with our Privacy Policy. We will never share your details with anyone else without your express permission.



Our donations in 2023

Donor 1
Donor 2 £450,000
Donor 3 £450,000
Donor 4 £450,000
Donor 5 £425,000
Donor 6 £350,000
Donor 7 £350,000
Donor 8
Donor 9 £100,000
Donor 10 £90,000
Donor 11 £80,000
Donor 12 £281,000
Donor 13 £260,000