Open gardens and Sylvanian families, all served up with a Victoria sponge

It's not just fairies down the bottom of the garden...

It's not just fairies down the bottom of the garden... - Credit: Archant

Sometimes I like to pretend I’m selling my house. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to. Far from it. However, as a motivational tool nothing beats it. You can stare for months at half finished DIY jobs and mismatched interiors without noticing a thing, but suddenly imagine a bunch of strangers staring at it on Rightmove and, believe me, you feel differently.

And I get a very similar feeling about my upcoming open garden event. Except of course, this isn’t just a mind-game-bordering-on-the-insane – it’s actually happening. Quite soon, in fact. And if only there was an emoticon to express horticultural panic combined with weed-based obsession, I would use it. But there isn’t so I’ll just type ARGHHHHH.

This will be my third year of opening the garden as part of the National Gardens Scheme ( – or Yellow Book – and to be fair it’s mostly a very pleasant experience. We throw open the gates for two afternoons over a weekend, people stroll around, ask polite questions about plants and eat flapjacks and Victoria sponge (because these are my go-to cake recipes and I’m a woman of habit).

Best of all though it ensures my garden never gets too out-of-hand because I’m only too aware it’s going to be judged by strangers. As soon as winter is over, I am on weed watch knowing that if I don’t keep on top of them I simply won’t have the time come May and June to grapple the garden back into shape. And the idea of a garden visitor finding a knee high thistle nestling in the borders is as horrifying as a house hunter discovering discarded knickers on the bedroom floor.

The other challenge I have with our open garden is making sure my kids get involved. After all it is as much their space as it is mine. I’m also conscious that this is a family garden and we hope to get children amongst the visitors so we try to make it an event aimed at them too. Thankfully we have our secret weapon – Sylvanians.

If you’re still blissfully unaware of these creatures, let me explain: Sylvanians are small, overpriced toy animals dressed in human attire with a mind-boggling array of accessories, all perfectly sized to disappear up a vacuum nozzle. However, despite cursing their existence for much of the year as they are strewn around the house, come open garden time, I develop a soft spot for them.

Yes, three years ago, at our inaugural opening, the children had the idea of The Great Sylvanian Hunt. This involved them setting up Sylvanian Family tableaus all around the garden for visitors to spot. Random, yes, but really rather effective. So we had Sylvanian stunt motorcyclists in the insect shelter, Sylvanian Santa Claus near the potted conifer and Sylvanian rowing boats traversing the mini wildlife pond, to name but a few. Add to this the games on the lawn and access to the Wendy house, sandpit and mud pie kitchen and hopefully the idea of ‘visiting a garden’ doesn’t seem quite so dull to the under 10s.

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The only sadness is our sunken trampoline isn’t covered by the NGS’s insurance and is a feature to be looked at rather than bounced upon. Still, if it makes you feel any better, I shall be adding carrot cake to my repertoire this year.

If you would like to try to spot weeds in my borders, the garden at 109 High Street, Hail Weston, will be open on Saturday, June 7, and Sunday, June 8, 1-5pm. It is part of a joint opening so your ticket will also give you entry to gardens at The Old Vicarage in Great Staughton and Old Farm Cottage in Staploe. Adult tickets are £3.50 but children’s entry is free. AND they get to hunt Sylvanians. What’s not to love?

The National Gardens Scheme raises around £2.5 million every year for charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Help the Hospices and Carers Trust.