For Ginny Fairfax gardening has blossomed from ‘needs must’ to a wonderfully fulfilling joy of sharing. She has opened two beautiful gardens for the National Garden Scheme since 1991, and in 2024 they open together for the first time on 23 June. We found out more …

The gardens at Kirky Cottage and neighbouring Mindrum House in Northumberland share a common creator and a glorious sense of abundant chaos – the signature planting style of owner Ginny Fairfax.

“I’d never gardened before we moved to Mindrum over 50 years ago,” says Ginny. “There was a huge garden and I had absolutely no experience, but once we’d decided to do it ourselves I realised how much fun it was. It became a total fascination and I got the constant urge to rush out and have another go!”

From novice gardener to accomplished plantswoman, ask Ginny what she likes best about her garden and she confesses a passion for old fashioned roses, the pretty little violas that self seed, and the joy of moving things around.

“I can’t make a specific decision about any one thing that I love about gardening as I love it all – each season brings something different. I love seeing what comes up, deciding whether to leave it or move it and I’m always splitting plants and potting them up for the sales I hold each year at the garden.”

When Ginny moved to a smaller garden at Kirky Cottage ten years ago the site was so inhospitable, dry and windy that her only option was to lay down gravel.

“Mediterranean type plants do well on it like lavender and sage,” she says. “And my favourite old-fashioned roses seem to thrive. And, of course, gravel is just perfect for self-seeders. My favourite self-seeder is the pretty Viola cornuta ‘Alba’ which pops up everywhere. I love it when something new pops up, it’s like another little person to talk to! I think they’re so brave and I’m always grateful for their appearance.”

Most of the plants in Ginny’s garden have a history of coming from a friends garden or have been given to her as a present. So much so that for Ginny every plant is like talking to a friend. “In fact, I often call the plant by the friend’s name – especially if I can’t remember the plant name.”

This sharing of plants is Ginny’s biggest joy. From the ‘friends’ in her own garden to the plants she sells and shares, there is nothing better than spreading her love of gardening through the plants themselves.

“I’m always selling the plants,” she says. “So many young people visit who are desperate to get started and they want their gardens to look like mine – so I help them. And the plants, if being rehomed locally, usually settle in well.

“You make all sorts of friends of different ages when you share your garden, all with the shared interest of wanting to have a lovely garden.”

It is this combination of shared joy and endless activity that makes gardening such a pleasure for Ginny.

“There’s never a day that goes by when there isn’t something you want to do. You couldn’t possibly sit inside and think what am I going to do now? I usually have a list as long as my arm of small, big, easy, difficult things, warm weather things, cold weather things – there’s always some task that is a joy to do and you don’t need someone to do it with – you can be merrily doing it alone or with your dogs rootling about with you.

“I find such solace in the garden. Nothing matters any more – all the worries of the world disappear and you’re singing away and everything is happy and lovely and hours go by and you’ve been in another world.”


This sense of joy that Ginny experiences in her garden is one that she also exports in spades … and flower pots. Visitors have even been inspired to write poems about their visits and the plants they have bought as this snippet written by a garden group visitors on a bus back to Ceredigion illustrates:

When Mrs Fairfax works so hard, the plants she grew filled half the yard
Plants of yellow, red and blue and some of much subtler hue
They’ll take them home across the miles to gardens great and small
Hand cuttings out with happy smiles to friends who come to call
And so they bloom from year to year the pleasure never ends
As they bring back happy memories of Mindrum and of friends.

“What could be more satisfying than knowing that the plants that have given you so much joy are now creating a similar joy at gardens across the country,” says Ginny.

And, if the plant you want to buy isn’t potted up for sale Ginny is more than happy to rootle one out of the ground or take a cutting for you.

“The fun of it is sharing and seeing people go away happy, inspired and with a plant in their hand.”

Ginny’s top gardening tips:

  • Don’t listen to everything you’re NOT supposed to do
  • Do what you feel like – plant what you like – it doesn’t have to be like everyone else
  • Like decorating your house, it doesn’t have to be fashionable it has to be what you love
  • People often get too hung up on when they are meant to do a thing or not do a thing, absorb the general principles of gardening and just go with your gut

Mindrum House Garden and Kirky Cottage open together on Sunday 23 June
CLICK HERE for details

This story originally appeared in the 2024 Little Yellow Book of Gardens and Health, marking Gardens & Health Week, which you can view here




The post Happy, inspired, plant in hand … appeared first on National Garden Scheme.

Source: ngs.org.uk


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