When Joe suggested opening our gardens to the public in 2011 I just laughed at him, never thinking for a moment that we would be approved. We are really an urban farm and while edible plants have their own beauty, by no stretch of the imagination are we the tidy manicured gardens that one usually visits as part of the Open garden scheme. As quite a private person, I was ambivalent about the whole idea but not too worried when the selectors came in December 2011 for appraisal. Imagine my surprise, and to some extent dismay, when they loved it and said we could open in February 2013 subject of course to some major tidying, construction and making it safe for people to walk around! It seemed so long away, more than a year, so we thought it was certainly possible to have it presentable in time. Joe has wonderful visions but an exceptionally busy life style and we both had health issues so it just flew by, behind schedule most of the time. Luckily we had assistance from members of the Rare Fruit Society in the form of three working bees during the final months. Even so, we were still scrambling around minutes before we opened the gates!
The first Open Garden is a bit of a terrifying experience with no idea whatever on how many will come, whether they will like it, whether they will cause damage and so on so one has to ask why would you do it? Our motivation was largely to share what we have done for educational and inspirational purposes. We live in a socially disadvantaged part of Adelaide that does have the advantage of full quarter acre blocks so we were hoping that the local people would be encouraged to put all the empty land to good use in growing their own food. In the couple of weeks before the Open there was immense media interest with print media, radio and local TV all featuring our gardens so people came from far and wide and the numbers far exceeded everyone’s expectations. We were also blessed with absolutely prefect weather, mild and sunny, quite a rarity in early February in Adelaide.There were 797 paying guest so with helpers, relatives and children close to 1000 people over the two days who did not so much as break a twig! The Rare Fruit Society helped us enormously by supplying skilled volunteers to work on the gate, act as guides and guest speakers and generally help things run smoothly.
The weekend was a stunning success with many people asking us to keep in touch so the next day we created out Facebook page which has been a major factor in the development of the gardens. Last time I looked there were 470 “likes”, many of these from all over the world! We still wonder just what we have started here but obviously the writing was on the wall for another opening in 2014!