Here’s a quick quiz. In any given year do more people in the US visit Las Vegas or a garden? Gambling or gardens: no question, gardens win by a mile. In fact more people are involved in garden tourism in the US each year than visit Las Vegas and Disneyworld, combined. The man who has the figures is Richard Benfield, who literally wrote the book on garden tourism. It’s called Garden Tourism and in it he ponders why figures on garden tourism are not routinely collected, considering it has the highest revenue of any tourism activity in the US. He reckons garden viewing is like a secret activity, an underground passion.
The gambling or gardens question is a critical one for Andrew and Deidre Mowat who are betting that we love visiting gardens enough to make their new website, My Open Garden, a hit. “We were surprised when Open Garden Australia shut up shop,” says Andrew Mowat, IT specialist and under-gardener to wife, gardener and iGarden blogger Deidre. “We thought someone should step into the breach and make a simple arrangement for gardeners to open their garden and for visitors to find a garden open.” So they did.
Mowat scoured the internet, magazines and the OGA guidebook, and sent out 500 letters inviting garden owners to list on the My Open Garden site. He admits the timing – just before Christmas – wasn’t ideal, so is pleased that more than 70 garden owners are currently in the process of updating their profiles, while several thousand people have registered to have access to the listings on the site.
Garden owners can list their own gardens on My Open Garden. If you’re interested, the fee to list is $230, and insurance is not the problem you might imagine. A different kind of garden viewing is offered by Hidden. Where My Open Garden is owners opening their own gardens, Hidden features gardens opened by the professionals who designed them. In its launch in April last year, a thousand people snaffled the tickets to enter 21 gardens across the city. (I wrote about some of the gardens that were open. ) This year the event is on the weekend of March 14-15, avoiding the squish of Easter and Anzac Day, while coinciding with the late-summer fullness of Sydney gardens at their best. Hidden founder Catherine Stewart promises more inner city gardens this year, though the turnover of Sydney real estate poses problems. It seems that homeowners, especially in the hot property inner west, are having gardens designed 12 months before they aim to sell the house. One leading designer reckons that two-thirds of his gardens are in properties sold within the first year of being planted.
Undeterred, Hidden will find at least 18 top quality gardens that Sydney garden designers have convinced their clients to open. Tickets will be on sale from mid-January. Don’t procrastinate.
The garden featured at the top of this post was open for Hidden last year. It’s designed by Barbara Landsberg. What about that weather! The other two gardens are on my Tastings tours itineraries, and were highlights on last year’s trips.