Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Speech for 2007 opening of 'Open Garden' Scheme at Government House

The Open Garden Scheme celebrated 20 years this week and the opening of the 2007-2008 season was held in Government House, Brisbane on 10 August 2007 and was officially opened by Her Excellency, Quentin Price, Govern er of Queensland. I was asked to make a speech from a garden owners point of view. Below is the speech I made.
Our garden is coming up for it’s November opening and of course we want to show it off to the most people possible because we are proud of the result of years of hard work and effort.
For our garden opening we enlist our family and friends to help with the gate and plant sales, there’s just no way Judy and I could cope otherwise.Having been through five previous ‘Open Gardens’ we pretty well know what to expect. Because Judy is such a good plant propagator we expect the bargain plant buyers first, and true to form they start to arrive at 9:00am.Judy prepares hundreds of beautiful Bromeliads all in flower and best of these are snapped up very quickly, Needless to say lots of people go away very satisfied owners of new plants.After the initial rush of plant buyers people then start to explore our garden, our philosophy is that on this open weekend our garden belongs to our visitors who are free to relax and spend as much time as they like in the garden and hopefully go away with a good feeling and perhaps some ideas for their own garden. Both Judy and I are more than happy to answer questions and give advice.When you think about it, a garden is much like a work of art, it is designed and created with just as much passion and creativity, it is then shown to the Public through Art Galleries, ‘Open Garden’ Scheme ect for people to enjoy. Perhaps the only difference is that a Painting/sculpture once completed is finished but a garden is never finished.
Remember that there is no other garden in Australia like yours, your garden is unique and this uniqueness is what you should promote, your garden is your own individual artistic creation.
For those here that open their garden please do not expect the ‘Open Garden’ Co-Ordinator to do everything for you, remember they are very busy and have many other gardens to look after.You know more about your garden than anyone else, so why not do most of the groundwork and promotion yourself, and you can start this several months ahead of your opening. Highlight what your garden has to offer be it a specific plant types, landscaping, sculptures, or the wildlife that visit or live in your garden ect. Look up the local Garden Clubs and offer to talk about your garden and how it started, how it has changed, what there is to see and any specific plant interest you have, you can also talk about how you came into the ‘Open Garden Scheme’ and what it has done for you.
Contact you local newspaper, they are usually very supportive especially if a charity gains from the opening.Most nurseries’, produce stores ect will put out your shop signs regardless of whether you are having a plant sale or not.
If you are into digital photography why not start an on line ‘Photo Album’ and promote it through garden sites ect, I have done this and my album now receives between 7000 to 10,000 hits every month.
It is really tough going these times of drought, gardening would have to be the most stressful hobby going. We gardeners have all had to adapt and change our gardening practices, sometimes at great personal financial cost, I know that because we have bought five rainwater tanks at a cost of nearly $10,000 just for use in the garden.
Our garden is that important to us.
It is always a worrying time in the lead up to the opening, too little/too much rain, storms, frost, hail ect can and do happen (this year our heliconias have been badly burnt from the cold). Google always gets a good work out, ‘googling’ trying to get a long range forecast for the opening weekend. Fortunately we have never been washed out, that would be terrible to see a whole years hard work washed away.
As it usually rains during September/October, the garden starts to look green and lush, especially after another year of drought conditions (has been like this since we started to open) the spring rain is most welcome as we are usually despairing by the end of Winter.
Nature is truly amazing; the difference the rain makes is incredible. We actually have a green garden for people to walk through.
To make the garden opening an experience we ask the inventor of the ‘Waterfork’ (Norm) to demonstrate his product and he is usually very pleased with the results for the weekend. We ask him to provide one of his ‘Waterforks’ as a ‘Lions Club’ raffle prize as his payment.
This year we have also asked our friend David to sell pots and fertilizers at ‘special’ open garden prices, he will also give a prize to the ‘Lions Club’. We have always asked the ‘Lions Club’ to cater for our ‘Open Garden’ openings which they do very well. Our back patio is converted to an outside eating area where visitors can partake in morning and afternoon teas with beautiful home made cakes and a sausage sizzle for lunch, they also run a Raffle (no escapes this) which has some nice prizes including a couple of nice ‘Bromeliads’ donated by Judy, a ‘waterfork’ , ten bundles of ‘sugar sane ‘mulch donated by the grower (Currants) and a couple of ‘worm farms’ and ‘compost mates’ donated by the manufacturer (Reln).
The Lions Club usually make about $2000 out of the weekend and this is donated to charities such as ‘Young Care’ prior to Christmas.On the second day we have a different type of visitor, these are the ‘lookers’ some of whom spend up to four hours in our garden, most are enthusiasts who have a million questions and photograph everything of interest.We try to make our garden opening an interesting experience with plant sales, food and drinks, expert advice on tropical fruit growing and care by our good friend Kasper Schnyder, demonstrations of composting techniques, demonstrations of garden equipment and last but not least the fact that Judy and I take the time to meet and greet as many visitors as we are able to, we also have lots of resin native animals hidden in logs and trees around the garden which are a hit with the children.We love opening as we find the open weekend to be a fantastic experience and a real pleasure to meet so many like minded people who are interested in Gardening.The comments both in the Open Garden visitor’s book and from the visitors themselves are a pleasure to read and hear, I must admit these comments do make us feel pretty good. We have never had a negative comment in the past five years from the hundreds of visitors we receive each opening, we have had nothing stolen or any damage caused to our property.
Another good thing about opening is that the Open Garden Scheme provides financial assistance for Community gardens throughout Australia, it is a great organisation that gives a great deal of pleasure to a lot of people and I would like to thank Kim and the Open Garden Committee for letting us be part of this great scheme.
After two hectic days and hundreds of visitors later we head up to the Sunshine Coast for a well-deserved break.
What do we do you may ask? Well we visit nursery's of course and usually come back with a car full of plants.
After it’s all over I am already thinking about new ideas and plans for next year and Judy is trying to dissuaded me, saying enough is enough.
Can I be cured?
The answer is of course NO.
Thank you and happy gardening and great openings.

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