I was recently contacted by Mick about the Jardins Ouverts scheme which he started here in France in 2013. The scheme is proving to be a great success with both English and French gardeners joining in. This year has seen a huge increase in people opening their gardens, and as a result, in the monies raised for charity. Mick has written a piece below about the scheme and I hope that you can all join in, spread the word and help raise more money for charity by opening your French gardens.
The National Gardens Scheme (The Yellow Book) in the UK is an initiative which encourages owners to open their gardens to the public, the entrance fees for which are given to charity. No national scheme of this nature exists in France which is a shame because it provides the prospect for mixing people’s passion for gardening with the opportunity to raise money for charitable causes.
In 2013, a small group in the Creuse ran a trial open day which met with considerable success; 50 visitors attended and 300€ was raised for ‘A Chacun son Everest’, a French charity which organises activities for children with cancer or leukaemia. Spurred on by this success, it was agreed to repeat the project in 2014, form an association and register the organisation’s “marque”. The aim for 2014 was to have 12 gardens open for the weekend of 28/29 June. In fact, 28 gardens registered which were scattered throughout 4 départements: the Creuse, the Haute Vienne, the Vienne and the Corrèze. Visitors paid 5€ which gave them access to any or all of the gardens throughout the weekend and most gardens had refreshments on offer and some also had plants available for sale.
It was originally hoped to raise 1,000€ for the same charity as 2013 and, although the final figures have not yet been fully collated, this target will be easily exceeded and probably more than doubled. The feedback from all sides, visitors and garden owners alike, was exceptional and this was in spite of some very unkind weather.
The organising body is already looking ahead to 2015 and the next stage of the development of Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts. Opening for one weekend was fine at the early stage but it means that many lovely plants and shrubs (rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, magnolias, all the spring flowers and bulbs and those lovely autumn colours) don’t have the opportunity to be seen at their best because their flowering season is earlier or later. With effect from January 2015, owners will be asked when they wish to open their garden and an annual calendar of opening days/times on our website means that visitors will be able to view gardens throughout the year.
The other major development is to continue to roll out the scheme to a wider and wider audience. We are committed to the idea of seeing Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts throughout France at some point in the future although this will be some way off. As mentioned above, we already have gardens in 4 départements and in 2015 we already have gardens pledged in the Indre, the Dordogne, the Charente and the Lot-et-Garonne and at least another 3 départements.
Even though the project has only been going for 16 months, Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts has attracted considerable interest in the media. The local papers have run several articles and three national newspapers/magazines have featured, or are featuring, our project, including, much to our amazement and delight, a short article in Le Figaro weekend magazine on 27th June. Moreover, during the weekend of 16/17/18 May, we were very fortunate to have a presence at Courson, one of the premier horticultural events in France, which gave us some very good contacts for the future.
In order to develop the project still further, we need several things to happen:
- Firstly, we are looking for people who are prepared to open their gardens on at least 1 day a year and preferably two or more days.
- Secondly, we are hoping to recruit area co-ordinators who would be prepared to recruit a small cohort of gardens locally to them and act as the contact and liaison point.
- And finally, we want to encourage people to join the 2015 scheme by paying an annual fee of 12.50€ which will entitle them to visit as many gardens as they wish throughout the year.
The role of the area co-ordinator is pivotal in the development of Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts and is deliberately designed to be easily managed. Of course, if people wish to play a larger role, this would be welcomed.
We recognise that any involvement in Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts must be enjoyable and all of the people, be they visitors, co-ordinators or garden owners have said that it has been a hugely enjoyable experience and that they are eagerly looking forward to 2015.
This is nothing more than a brief outline of the targets and how we intend to achieve them and the website gives an in-depth description of our project (see below for website address). We would love to hear from anyone who may be interested and we are happy to visit you to discuss the scheme in more detail. If you think that this may appeal to you, if you want a more detailed report or you wish to talk it over in greater depth, please contact:
Mick Moat (President – Open Gardens)
Tel. 05 55 63 43 12