“I felt privileged to be part of her recovery…”
The benefits of opening your garden for the National Garden Scheme don’t stop at raising money for charity. Lucia, who opens 153 Portland Road in Kent, shares what a delight it is to learn how your garden can touch the lives of visitors – and in ways you’d never expect.
When I opened my garden earlier in August this year, a lady waited to see me towards the end of her visit. She explained she had a very difficult time last year, having lost two people very close to her and that bereavement had taken a lot out of her. The lady told me that she had visited my garden last year during this tough period and it was of real benefit to her, adding that she found the garden therapeutic and the greenery, planting and general atmosphere assisted her through the final chapter in her healing process. She added that she wanted to come back this year to tell me how my garden had impacted her emotionally.
Naturally, I was quite overwhelmed by her comments but at the same time, I was delighted to hear that my garden had such a positive impact on her wellbeing. I felt very privileged to have been a small part of this delightful lady’s recovery and so happy that the garden had helped her to overcome her grief as bereavement leaves such a big void. I think that by seeing lots of healthy greenery and having several areas to sit quietly and contemplate, the garden had provided her with an antidote to everything she had experienced in the previous year. It provided her with new growth, freshness, and the opportunity to close that chapter and move on.
I was also touched by a chat with another visitor that day. She was very complimentary about the garden, commenting on various touches which appeared to make her visit special. She mentioned that her own garden needed work but as she had recently been made redundant she wasn’t in a position to hire a gardener to make the required improvements. I felt sorry to hear that she couldn’t get the work done, but equally, I was pleased that she found solace in my garden. She loved the music, the Pimms and commented on how friendly my family and volunteers were in the tea tent. I felt for this lady as she was trying to get some order and money into her life but, against the odds, she said the garden had given her great encouragement and she might go home and start some of the work herself.
As a garden owner, you never know what issues people have or how they are feeling when they walk through your gate; nor have you any idea how your modest offering might inspire someone to make changes in their lives. I always try to wander around and ask people if they are enjoying the afternoon, especially if they are visiting alone as that’s a great way to get visitors to open up as people like to chat about all sorts of things.
Preparing your garden for an opening is a lot of work but I like to have things ‘just so’ for visitors. Aside from the garden, we have a guitarist, we have our cakes made and hire our china and accessories to give people a nice afternoon tea experience. But getting comments as I did from these visitors makes all the effort worthwhile. Most other visitors were complimentary from a horticultural perspective, but for these two visitors, I felt there was a different level of benefit for which I felt privileged to be a part. We had 75 visitors that afternoon – but if we only had these two – it would have been more than worthwhile.