Green-fingered help wanted by Anglo-French charity

This garden, in Saint-Pardoux-d’Arnet, Creuse, is open on May 26

Successful Open Gardens / Jardins Ouvert organisation, which donated €25,000 to good causes in 2018, is looking for more gardeners to help charities in 2019 and beyond

Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts are looking for new gardeners to join their association which raises money for charity by opening private gardens to the public for just one or a few days in the year, similar to the Open Gardens scheme in the UK.

Janet Greenwood has opened her garden at Le Busseau, Deux-Sèvres, for the past three years: “The benefits are innumerable. I’ve met some fabulous people and got to know some local people much better because they have come to visit my garden, and I have had the chance to talk to them. 

“It is a lovely experience to share your passion and most people come because they are really interested in plants and want to find out what somebody else is doing in the garden.”

Janet Greenwood's garden

She said that hard work is involved, “but, it is definitely worth the effort. It is a great feeling when the day comes. Local French people are so happy to have an invitation into your garden. It helps you integrate and you know you are doing it for a good cause and helping to give something back to society.”

Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts began seven years ago, when four British gardeners in the Creuse decided to open their gardens to see if they could raise money for charity.

In 2018 they were able to donate €25,000 to fifteen charities. There are more than 200 gardens signed up and the scheme is present in 39 departments, with 50% of gardens French owned. The association is proud it has become a truly Franco-British concept.

Visitors buy a €10 annual membership card which gives them access to any of the gardens for one year or pay €5 for a Day Pass which allows access to any of the gardens on the day of purchase.

This garden, in Sainte-Maxime, Var, opens on May 12 and 13

Gardens do not have to be big or contain an outstanding horticultural collection. They should have around 30 minutes of interest, or less if there are gardens close to each other. Janet has, in the past, persuaded other people in her village to open on the same day as herself: “Some gardens were just a small courtyard, but each one has its own interest and visitors were really happy to see several gardens on the same day.”

President Karen Roper said people prefer to visit gardens where they can apply what they see to their own garden: “We are not looking for something highly professional, but for gardens that can give other people ideas and are do-able. Working some magic in a small place is just as inspiring as a huge garden.”

She also said they are looking for people who can commit to opening their garden at least once a year and willing to decide the date or dates in advance so people can plan their visits: “Some people organise a short trip away to areas where they know there will be gardens open and so it is great to be able to get dates in the diary early.”

Karen also said you don’t have to open your garden to get involved in the association: “There are many ways to help out. Organising an event or manning a stand at a local garden show for example.”

If you would like to open your garden or help in any other way you can get in touch with either Karen Roper or the Garden Development Manager, Sue Lambert. Contact details at opengardens.eu - where you can also see which gardens are open to visitors this month.

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