Promoting your open garden

Wise words from Geoff Stonebanks on how to promote your open garden.

Open day at Driftwood Gardens
Open day at Driftwood Gardens
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When I first began to open my garden back in 2009, I had no idea what to do. I’d no marketing experience, having left Royal Mail as a Personnel Manager, after 27 years with them, in various jobs. I found gardening as a hobby and was cajoled into opening it up for visitors on the back of a local town trail. When I realised that I enjoyed gardening and better still the buzz one gets from others visiting and saying how nice it is, I decided I needed to spread it to a wider audience. 

So where did I start? There’s a great national website that’s free, www.opengardens.co.uk I began to advertise my open days there. It’s a great site for those on holiday in your part of the world to see what’s on offer. Because it has become so successful, they do ask, if you are advertising a village or group opening, to make a small donation to the upkeep of the site. Well worth it in my view.

As time moved on I realised that there were many local websites that posted ‘What’s On’. Many of these services are free too, with you just needing to fill in the details on an online form and sending it off.  Local radio stations generally do the same or local news websites, so it is worth checking in your area. Equally useful are the web sites of local councils, who again, tend to have ‘What’s On’ areas on their sites. Check out your local District Council. Some councils also produce quarterly magazines and if you contact them early enough, some work 6 months ahead of publication, you can sometimes get included as well.

As my garden became more popular I decided to produce my own A4 posters and double sided postcard flyers which I had professionally printed and I displayed around the town and on social media. Flyers were taken to other open garden events and permission sought to leave a few there for visitors to pick up. Don’t underestimate the power of social media, so if you’re on Facebook, use Twitter or Instagram, make sure you publicise your forthcoming opening there too.

If you are opening to raise money for your favourite local or national charity, make sure you get in touch with them so that they too can help promote your upcoming opening as well. 

If you really want to go to that extra mile then get in touch with your local newspapers and let them know of your opening but do try and include a good high resolution image of your garden that they might publish. If you  feel extra confident then contact your local radio station and ask if they will promote your opening, they may even call you up and discuss it with you live on air. If you have the space and are happy to do so, publicising that you will allow dogs on leads, can generally increase your foot fall.

Once you get to the event itself, why not have a visitors book and ask for comments and an email address. I have collected over 900 contact details now, that I can make people aware of events coming up. Make people feel welcome when you open and next time you do it you may well find ‘word of mouth’ works wonders to get visitors through your garden gate. Read more of my garden openings at www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk

Geoff Stonebanks

About Geoff Stonebanks

Geoff Stonebanks lives in Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex and spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden - Driftwood - he has raised over £76,000 for various charities in 7 years, £40,000 of that for Macmillan. The garden, which first opened to the public in 2009 has featured on BBC2 Gardeners' World, Good Morning Britain and in many national and local media publications. In his spare time, Geoff is also the National Garden Scheme's Social Media & Publicity Chair as well as an Assistant County Organiser & Publicity Officer in East & Mid Sussex.
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