Garden army lose a friend

For 27 years, the weekend routine for an army of green-fingered West Australians has involved an itinerary of visits to the most manicured and spectacular back gardens in the State.

But a steady decline in the number of garden lovers taking part in the weekly ritual and increased competition for weekend tourism has led to the closure of the country's longest-running open gardens scheme.

Open Gardens Australia announced this week it would close nationwide next year. The WA branch will close in June.

Hundreds of thousands of Australians have been involved in the scheme, in which homeowners open their gardens to the public for a fee or donation to charity.

Chief Executive Liz White said what started as the only event of its kind in WA was now competing with dozens of similar programs and families were too time-poor to take part.

Sales of the not-for-profit organisation's once-popular guide book have also been decreasing since the increase of social media usage, which means many now show off their garden photos online.

In its announcement, Open Gardens Australia cited the "economy and technology" developments as the reason for its increasing financial pressures.

Ms White said the decision to close was "the right one" but upsetting for staff and its loyal following, some of whom had been taking part since the scheme started in 1987.

"We're still coming to terms with the fact that it's not going to continue. We thought it was going to continue for ever and a day, it's such an institution and it has such a following," she said.

Paul and Elizabeth Caiacob used the program to open their Sorrento garden and raise $4000 for Save the Children this year.

Mrs Caiacob said news of its closure was not only sad news for charities, but also for the following of garden lovers who had filled their weekends with the open garden visits for decades.

The West Australian

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