Professional Gardener - Visitor numbers

Upping visitor numbers - As we swing into the autumn period, it is a good time to review this year's visitor numbers - even more so if you are in charge of a property that calls an end to open season and closes the gates for winter. Many gardens and estates have seen disappointing numbers for 2012. The weather and strain on household budgets have not helped, and the Olympic Games kept many potential visitors glued to the television. For some gardens there is still the attraction of autumn colour to look forward to, plus events such as Bonfire Night and Christmas fairs. But it is also important to plan ahead to next year.

Review the assets - Part of planning for 2013 should involve a thorough assessment of the assets - be they botanical, ecological, heritage, scenic or a mixture of all and more. It is these assets that attract the current visitors. But are they promoted sufficiently and in their best light? Can other events be linked to them? Do they need refreshing or redeveloping? A staff meeting may help with new ideas.

Autumn colours As well as ensuring that mechanical leaf-collection equipment is in good condition and ready to remove leaves from paths, drives and lawn areas, consider the opportunities autumn brings to boost late visitor numbers. Cameras should be ready to snap pictures as early as possible for distribution to local newspapers or regional television. Consider events linked to autumn colours - perhaps a local artist or teacher could be engaged to lead an art day associated with autumn colours.

Bonfire night - Fireworks should have been ordered by now but there is still time to secure supplies. Ensure that all fireworks are stored safely and securely. Some suppliers will keep them ready for collection just prior to the event.

Garden development - Consider what new attractions can be added in time for 2013. New display borders and reshaping of any areas needing refreshing need to be planned now so that groundworks can be completed in time for planting. Think too about drainage and irrigation needs for 2013. Assess pathways for winter repair work.

New plants and seeds - Check nursery catalogues and make any final orders of plants, especially roses. Request seed catalogues if they have not already arrived. Various berries and pods can be collected now with a view to growing plants from the seeds - but do not forget to leave some for the birds.

Sally Drury, Technical editor

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