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Open gardens in France - show off your garden or visit one near you

The charitable Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts scheme is looking for gardeners in France to open their gardens, large and small, to the public

Open Garden President, Karen Roper,and garden

President, Karen Roper, says Open Gardens raised €20,000 for children’s charities in 2021 Pic: Tim Roper / Sheila and Alan Cole

There will be gardens to visit throughout France in the months to come under the Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts scheme, which started in 2013, when four British gardeners in the Creuse decided to open their gardens to see if they could raise money for charity, and the idea quickly caught on. 

Now gardeners all over France have joined the scheme and open their gardens just once or several times a year as they choose. 

Scheme raises money for children

Visitors pay €5 for a day pass or €15 for an annual membership card, which gives entry to as many gardens as they wish, and the money goes to Open Gardens’ chosen children’s charities. 

In 2021, despite the challenges raised by Covid-19, Open Gardens raised €20,000 distributed amongst seven children’s charities. 

Call for keen gardeners to volunteer

President, Karen Roper says she feels the pandemic encouraged more people to spend time gardening, and hopes this will make them keen to visit other gardens. 

She would also love more gardeners to join the list of those who organise open days.

“We always need new gardens, as some owners have to stop opening for many reasons such as health related, family problems or a difficult year in the garden, perhaps due to the weather. 

As a result, we always have a changing group of gardens, which also makes it interesting for the visitors, as it means lots of variety.”

Your garden does not have to be big or exceptional and there is just one rule.

“We ask that there should be 30 minutes of interest for a visitor. If you have a small garden you could team up with someone else local to you. 

We have found it works well when owners get together, open on the same day and support each other. 

They can open for as many or as few days in the year as they like and there is always someone on hand from the Open Garden’s team to give help and support.”

Non-gardeners can still help out

If you are interested in opening you can contact Garden Development Manager, Sue Lambert who says they are also looking for area coordinators to act as the personal face of Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts.

“Our coordinators work in many different ways.  

Some prefer to help organise three or four gardens very near to them, whilst others are happy to take on more. 

Some stay in contact with their garden openers by email, others might organise a get together, from time to time, with the gardeners on their list. 

“Some tell me they prefer not to travel too far to visit new gardens whilst others are happy to go further. This is entirely their choice.

“A coordinator will initially contact a potential new opener, visit the garden and show them all the paperwork, including the items they will need to complete on an open day, and immediately afterwards. 

They will give advice on the best way to promote their open day locally. If they find they have two or more gardens near to each other, it is possible to suggest a joint open day to attract people to travel from a little further away. 

Plant and cake sales

“Coordinators might be linked to local “Friends of Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts” who are members who do not want to open their garden but are happy to help by selling tickets at the garden gate, supplying openers with plant cuttings to sell, or even helping them by baking a cake! 

Some might offer to help an opener themselves if they are free on their open day.  Sometimes a coordinator will arrange to have a stand at a local plant fair to help promote us or give a talk to a local garden group. 

We are very flexible and appreciate any help a coordinator can offer!”

She says they are quite well known on the western side of France, but are hoping to gradually develop eastwards and to have new coordinators in those areas would be wonderful.

All ideas welcome

President Karen Roper says they welcome all help in whatever form, and she has been heartened by the ideas members have come up with.

“One lady held two “Dividing Perennials” days and demonstrated how to increase perennials by division, cuttings, and scaling. 

By offering free coffee and biscuits during the introduction, and a light lunch of soup with a selection of cheeses, she kept her visitors happy and well fed! 

“Although technically free, people were asked to donate, if they wished, to Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts. 

Both she and her coordinator thought this might be something others might enjoy during the spring or indeed next autumn.”

To find open gardens near you go to opengardens.eu

To help out, contact Sue Lambert at gardendevelopment@opengardens.eu 

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