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‘I couldn’t stay away’ – a great weekend at Open Gardens

‘I couldn’t stay away’ – a great weekend at Open Gardens

The chance to see into several secret and private gardens tucked away in the Precincts of Canterbury Cathedral attracted thousands of people over the late May Bank Holiday Weekend.

Visitor Fungisal Matemadombo, a researcher at the University of Kent, visited the gardens on both days, and hopes to take part in the Cathedral’s planned BioBlitz. He said: “I couldn’t stay away. It is wonderful here.”

As the Cathedral processes the final ticket count and the resulting proceeds for charity, visitor numbers look set to show a 10% rise on 2018’s event. A rainy start to Saturday and an overcast Sunday did not deter crowds of all ages and nationalities from coming to enjoy glorious greenery, fabulous flowers, and sublime scents amid the magnificent setting. There was also strong interest in signing up to the Cathedral’s pilot BioBlitz, as individuals and families had the opportunity to be the first to register to become citizen scientists and help record the wildlife sustained in the gardens.

Head Gardener Philip Oostenbrink’s busy week had already taken in judging the Plant of the Year at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and an appearance on  BBC’s Gardeners’ World.

He said: “I am very pleased so many people came to our open gardens. It is always a joy that we can share these private gardens with visitors from Canterbury and much further afield. I am looking forward to seeing everyone who signed up to volunteer at our BioBlitz later this year. This BioBlitz will be a very important first step to understanding the ecosystem within our Cathedral Precincts.” 

One of the sites likely to be analysed in the BioBlitz is the Friends’ Garden.

Secretary & Administrator for The Friends of Canterbury Cathedral Caroline Plaisted said: “The Friends’ Garden is a special place where all Friends, pilgrims, and visitors can take a quiet moment of reflection or chat with others. It was created thanks to The Patron’s Fund and The Buffs’ Regimental Association to celebrate our 90th Anniversary in 2017. Philip Oostenbrink planted wonderful borders that not only have year-round interest but are especially attractive to bees and wildlife – as our friendly little resident robin proves!”

Regular favourites from previous years’ Open Gardens Weekends included a classic car display, the Dover and District Beekeepers Association and a wide variety of plant and plant heritage stalls. It was easy to spot the tea tent with its range of homemade delicious sweet treats by the long queue. 

Several charities will share proceeds from the weekend.

The National Garden Scheme donates to MacMillan Cancer Support and other nursing charities, while the Cathedral chose two charities for the support they give to gardeners: Perennial, dedicated to helping people working in horticulture when times get tough, and Gardening for Disabled Trust, which aims to get people back into gardens despite disability.


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