The garden gate is open

In 2017, the National Garden Scheme celebrated its 90th Anniversary. Along with the official celebrations, our County Organiser for Norfolk, Julia Stafford Allen, took on a celebratory challenge of her own – to visit 90 National Garden Scheme gardens new to her over the course of the year.

We asked Julia some questions about this captivating challenge to capture her feelings.

What inspired you to take on this venture?

At the start of the 90th Anniversary year it seemed like a fun thing to do.  The National Garden Scheme’s anniversary also coincided with a special birthday for me that I was planning to mark by visiting 60 gardens, so I thought why not visit 30 more! There was no particular planning to the visits but I knew early on in the year that if I was to reach the target, I would need to get out visiting pretty sharpish at the start of the season. My main worry was would I complete the challenge I had set myself.

Marsh Lane Allotments

Marsh Lane Allotments

What were the main challenges you faced in setting out on this venture?

Without doubt establishing the website for the blog was a big technical difficulty. Something that supposedly would only take me 2-3 hours ended up taking nearly 3 days! Once it was set up it was then important to get people to actually follow the blog so they would be kept up to date with the visits.

I also hit a “wall” around the 70th garden blog.  Although the gardens I was visiting throughout were all inspiring, trying to find different ways to describe them whilst keeping my writing fresh and interesting was a challenge. The photography could also be fascinating and I have learnt so much about what makes a good photograph in the past year, that this has been very worthwhile.

What were some of the most memorable garden visits?

One of the most memorable was Marsh Lane Allotment, in Tottenham, North London (pictured above). This is certainly an example of a National Garden Scheme garden that I would never have visited had it not been for this challenge. The sense of community and the feeling of a calm oasis in the midst of a bustling city backdrop will certainly remain with me as a strong memory.

View from Park Farm of Southwell Minster

Another interesting experience was visiting Park Farm, which has a view of Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire. I visited this garden with my son a couple of weeks before his wedding day at the Minster, so for both of us it was a most special visit. The gardens provided borders abundant with the familiar and some unusual plants, majestic shrubs combined with beautiful vistas.

Visiting some of our gardens that offer evening openings was great fun. My most recent evening visit was to 42 Falconer Road in Bushey, Hertfordshire in November. The garden was lit up by myriads of candles and fairy lights to provide a truly magical moment.

Enchanting candlelight at 42 Falconer Road

Finally it was lovely to visit most of the gardens in my county of Norfolk within the same year and to remember that we have some stunning gardens right on our doorstep.

Julia hopes that her blog will continue to inspire garden lovers of all ages to explore some of the truly beautiful gardens the National Garden Scheme has to offer. Her advice of “You don’t have to be a gardener to enjoy gardens” is certainly something we agree with at the National Garden Scheme and we hope her challenge will encourage you to visit some of our lovely gardens in 2018.

Visit Julia’s blog, The Garden Gate is Open


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