Show Off Your Garden!

Show Off Your Garden!

by Ruth Lawrence

Ever thought about hosting an open garden? Ruth Lawrence talks to Terry Thompsett about what’s involved and the pleasure gained from doing it to raise funds for St Peter & St James Hospice.

Opening your garden for charity has become a seasonal feature of rural life. I met Terry Thompsett, member of the Plumpton Support Group for St Peter and St James Hospice to find out how you can be part of this valuable initiative.

It’s Terry’s task to persuade people to open their gardens to the public; apparently there’s a misconception that gardens must be grand, immaculate or designed. Nothing could be further from the truth according to Terry who told me “the size of the garden is unimportant and they don’t have to be perfect.” Terry and fellow member Gill Gamble go knocking on doors to ask people if they’d be willing to show their gardens, and word of mouth is often the way that gardens become known and added to an open day. Visitors are just as fascinated by smaller, modest gardens because they feel they can gain inspiration for their own plots with an achievable plan.

Terry can offer people advice on how to prepare the gardens for visitors. This can simply be from making sure that ponds, low arches and steps are signposted for safety, sweeping paths to removing rubbish. When gardens are part of a group opening, they are generally preferred to be as close to one another as possible to avoid people having to drive from one to another; cars can then be left in a central village location to ease congestion. Although a side entrance is an advantage for disabled access, it’s not essential and even a rear garden in a terrace cottage can be included if the host doesn’t mind visitors entering through the house.

Providing tea, coffee and cakes is a great way of raising funds but it’s not compulsory and group openings often have a single refreshment point which may be the local village hall. If hosts wish to provide advice or answer questions, visitors appreciate the chance to engage and open gardens often prove a catalyst for new social connections. The reward for hosts often centres around the comments from visitors and the new contacts made, although the money raised for charity is a huge incentive too.

St Peter and St James Hospice costs around £8,000 per day to run and so any money raised by open gardens is a real help to those badly in need of support. Terry and Gill find that twelve gardens is an optimum number for a village group opening as this allows visitors a leisurely stroll round with a refreshment stop on the way.

If you are considering opening your garden for charity or want to organise a group opening, Terry advises that’s it’s easier than you imagine and the numerous rewards may make it an open day to remember.

If you would like any further information about opening your garden, please contact Terry at