Monday, 30 July 2012
Early in 2010, some friends approached me with an idea they had hatched.
'We are going to open our gardens to the public,' they said. 'To raise money for charity. Will you join us?'
I was a bit wary, to be honest. We do have a nice garden, but it isn't exactly Powerscourt, or Mount Stewart, or Kew.
There are a lot of weeds, and chaos, and things shouting 'I need to be done FIRST!'
'The thing is,' my friends said, 'it doesn't need to be perfect. Think how nice it is to look round someone else's garden.You don't notice all the things that need doing, you just enjoy the garden for what it is.'
How very true.
So, after discussing it with the In-Charge, we decided to go ahead, and another friend, DodoWoman (whose garden was also to be part of the scheme) and I put together leaflets and posters and other publicity material.
I suggested the name 'Secret Gardens of Sligo' and thus a new Irish Garden Trail was born.
It has been hugely successful and although not all the original gardens are still 'in', every year a few new ones join and the visitor numbers increase.
There is no entrance fee, but people are asked to make a donation instead, and all the money given is passed on to charity. Last year over €4000 was raised - a considerable sum from 11 private gardens.
The nicest thing of all, I think, is that each garden owner chooses the charity closest to their hearts, and all they money they raise goes directly to that organisation. Last year, these ranged from the local Hospice to St Vincent de Paul, and RNLI to Rape Crisis, and from Motorneurone Disease to Animal Rescue Centres locally and in Co Mayo.
As well as doing the publicity for the Gardens, I am PRO for Beltra Country Market and late last summer, while chatting to someone I know at RTE, trying to persuade them that Nationwide would LOVE to visit Beltra, the Secret Gardens crept into the conversation. I thought no more about it until the phone rang a few months ago and I was told that actually, what Nationwide would like to do was visit a few of the gardens!
They came, they filmed, they edited and on Wednesday 1st August, the programme will be broadcast on RTE at 7pm.
So if you like gardens, don't forget to turn the telly on!
Maybe you'll feel inspired to visit the gardens on your own local trail, or possibly even join it!
And if you haven't got a garden trail - well, why not start one?
Should you wish to do so, you can follow Secret Gardens of Sligo on Facebook by clicking here!