On 11th June I opened my garden for the National Garden Scheme, which raises money for nursing and caring charities including the QNI.

This year is the 130th anniversary of the QNI and the 90th anniversary of the National Garden Scheme, originally founded as a fundraiser for the QNI and district nursing.

I wanted to help celebrate both anniversaries, but I’d never done an open garden event before, so I confess I was slightly nervous!

The final week before the opening was made more difficult by monsoon weather conditions and by the fox cubs that often come and play in the garden at night. The strong winds snapped the leaves from my banana plant and blew flowers in every direction. Meanwhile the fox cubs trampled and dug up anything they could reach. A plague of box tree moth caterpillars added to the trail of destruction.

As the big day dawned the weather was good though – dry and airy. My father Hugh – visiting from Birmingham – helped me with final preparations and making everything ready. The first volunteers, QNI colleagues Crystal, Anne and Mary arrived and began setting up the tea and cake stall (pictured above). Other volunteers including Aga and Hanna prepared to welcome people at the front door. My small greenhouse was transformed into a pop up plant shop selling tomatoes and other home grown plants, staffed by my dad.

And then suddenly the public began to arrive!

Group shotL-R: QNs Gill Allen and Jyoti Patel, Annabel and George Plumptre, Dr Crystal Oldman.

With the garden finally ‘open’ the next few hours just flew by; so many people to greet and talk to and discuss points of interest. It was great to welcome so many people, including a former college tutor, neighbours, friends and family from all over London, Queen’s Nurses and QNI Vice-chair Nicky Goulder.

It was also a very nice surprise to welcome George Plumptre, chief executive of the National Garden Scheme and his wife Annabel. However, when Annabel asked me the name of an apricot coloured rose growing in the border I had to confess myself completely stumped! I usually save plant labels but I’m not sure this little rose ever had one – finding out will be a challenge as the number of named varieties is almost countless.

Including volunteers, there were over 120 visitors altogether and the garden has never been so busy. We raised an amazing £750 on the day and with other donations afterwards we were able to give £800 to the National Garden Scheme, which will go directly to support nursing and caring charities.

I’d like to say thank you to all my generous colleagues (including Joanna, Charli and Jo!), friends and family for making the day possible by baking cakes, making bunting, serving teas, selling plants and preserves and helping in every way. Also to Susan Bennett and other staff and volunteers from the National Garden Scheme who have been very supportive over the past 12 months.

I hope to open the garden again next year, maybe at a slightly different time of year so visitors can see it at a different stage. The home made wine was a big winner: we sold out, so I’ll have to start making some more, now the gooseberries are ripe…

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