That was the week that was.

Actually ten days, but ‘those were the ten days that were’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

About day five, Mark commented that this may be both the wettest and the most successful Taranaki garden festival in the long history of the event. The numbers were huge – three times what we expected in our garden. Apparently over one million of us travel overseas every year and with that coming to an abrupt halt, there are huge numbers of people suffering from cabin fever so getting out and about in our own country. Added to that, we were opening for the first time in seven years.

I was delighted to meet so many people who follow this site and on social media. So often people recognised things I have written about and commented on seeing them in real life. Some had more retentive memories than I have.

Sodden overflow carparking

But it rained. Almost every day and many nights. Not constantly but enough to have us awash at times. The carparking was challenging in the extreme. I used to think we could park 27 cars in our parking area if we managed it carefully but Brian – Carpark Volunteer Extraordinaire – achieved heady new heights when he managed to stack in 54 vehicles at the same time, all with access to an exit. That was before the rain rendered parts of the overflow grassed area unusable.

An aggressive tree stump biding its time – as it was a few weeks ago
The same stump after it snared its prey

Yet another large tree stump leapt out to trap an unsuspecting vehicle. Lloyd had to get the chainsaw out to free the car this time (he jacked up the previous car that stranded itself on a different tree stump earlier) so it is now a shadow of its previous self.

Blocking off some paths because of mud baths and opening others

We were barrowing out wood chip to muddy tracks and redirecting the routes in the park meadow, to close off tracks that had become mud baths.

Look at the number plate!
Rarely has a specialised tradesman been such a welcome sight

I had thought that with friends volunteering in the carpark and at the entry, Mark and I might get to swan around like lord and lady of the manor. Ha! Wishful thinking. My life is all glamour – or not. On Monday the septic tank that services our visitor toilets cried ‘enough’ and backed up and overflowed. This is not what anybody needs on a day with hundreds of visitors in the garden including a large coachload. All credit to the company that sent a man with a truck, a pump and hose out within a few hours. I decided this event was best described as a poocalypse. The operator was a tad surprised at my enthusiastic response, commenting that it was a warmer welcome than he gets from his wife. I hasten to add that it was all smiles and words; I did not embrace this man, despite my relief at his appearance.

Dudley, settling into his new role at the garden entrance

Dudley came to us an adult dog – an SPCA rehome – five years ago after we had closed the garden, so this was his first festival. He took to it like a duck to water. He is very food-focused, our Duds. Despite being a well-upholstered dog, he suffers permanent anxiety about where his next meal might come from so he was delighted to find that most garden visitors who have food will share it with him. As he took to checking all car boots when they were opened, we couldn’t decide whether to confer the new title of Carpark Liaison Officer on him, or perhaps Biosecurity Manager.

Dudley in his element

Geriatric Spike is an old hand at such events but now past the role of greeting visitors. He would lurch out to make a guest appearance from time to time but being stone deaf, somewhat unsteady and with acute dementia, he caused us great anxiety each time he found himself in the busy carparking area. I lost count of how many times I carried him back to his beds in the house. We can’t shut him in because he needs the door open at all times to carry out frequent bodily functions. And because he came to us as a chained dog (another rescue dog), we have never tied him up again so that was not an option.

Come the final Sunday evening, we were people-d out and talked out. Monday passed in a zombie-like state. Only today are we coming back to life. Now we have almost dismantled the accoutrements that were needed for the festival and we can bask in the euphoria of all the positive comments we received. Clearly we have been doing something right in the last seven years.

Will we open again next year? Ask us in a few months’ time.

Dudley is wondering why the excitement has ended and where all the people who fed him have gone.

The sight on Monday morning when it was all over

12 thoughts on “That was the week that was.

  1. Cath

    Ha ha Dudley learned fast. On the first morning during the tour he was serious and dedicated to keeping you in sight. I don’t think any amount of food would have distracted him then. I guess he decided he could relax after that first tour. Which was fantastic. It was all wonderful but I especially loved the rimu forest with all the special bulbs and bromeliads underneath. It must be an amazing refuge on a hot day. I came down especially to see your garden, but managed to squeeze in one other which had plants for sale before returning. :)

  2. Alison

    We loved the garden. Managed to see it on the first Sunday in the sunshine. Full of ideas after my visit – particularly the summer garden theme.

  3. Jean Griffin

    Greetings from a wet Autumnal day in West Sussex! Your post cheered me up in our lockdown situation. I am a Kew trained gardener now working, in my old age, for the BBC as a freelancer , BBC radio kent Sunday Gardening. My daughter in Christchurch sent me your details,super photos, love the posts. Best wishes, Jean


    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      How nice to hear from you Jean. I had to look up West Sussex – it is not an area I am familiar with. I think we must have travelled via Hampshire and Surrey more than Sussex but I see you have the highest sunshine hours in the UK and that is not to be sniffed at. May your interests in gardening keep you sustained through your second lockdown. It seems that second time round is tougher than the first.

  4. Tim Dutton

    Well Abbie, the rain and crowds have certainly made a mess of your front lawn! We were lucky to time a break in the wet weather with our visit to the garden on Tuesday. It was lovely to meet you and be able to have a chat. We were super impressed with the changes you’ve been making and it is all so much better to experience in person than in photos, so we are very grateful that you opened for the festival this year, thank you.

  5. tonytomeo

    That all is so awesome; but also not what I would have expected. It is strange how it worked out. Our most popular Open House was immediately after a quarantine of all the plant material. It was grand! I though that the former quarantine would have been a deterrent. Instead, people wanted to come get what they couldn’t get the year prior, and more! Our gardens are not as refined as yours are, but the blooming stock really was spectacular.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      New Zealanders are great travellers. With overseas travel currently out the question, it is clear that many are feeling cooped up at home. Domestic tourism has taken off which is just as well, given the total lack of overseas visitors since March – and none likely in the foreseeable future. With no Covid on the loose outside of border quarantine, there is no requirement for physical distancing or mask-wearing except in a couple of very specific situations so people are very relaxed about getting out and about around the country. It all came together for this area over our ten day festival.

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