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Public Gardens embrace new technology and join forces in unique collaboration

Helen_Allsebrook
Published on August 11th 2020
1
A photo of Kathy Brown and her husband
For immediate release, August 2020
Some of the largest and most prestigious public gardens, including Blenheim Palace and the Eden Project, have been brought together by Candide the gardening app, in a unique online collaboration with smaller independent gardens to share advice, support and to help each other through the difficulties of the pandemic.
During 2019, £2.9 billion was generated through garden visits in the UK, with 1 in 3 overseas tourists visiting a garden or park*. Since Lockdown began in March large and small independent public gardens have been struggling to stay afloat, with many having to furlough their gardeners and support staff and losing considerable revenue from caps on ticket sales, closure of gift shop and cafés.
Even after the reopening of public gardens was granted in May, many gardens were concerned about how they could open profitably with reduced staff while ensuring they still conform with the necessary social distancing and safety requirements.
Recognising the difficulties the independent garden sector is facing Candide, which already provided contactless ticketing solutions for The Newt in Somerset, decided to donate the services of its Gardens Team to offer technical solutions to help gardens safely and securely reopen during the continuing pandemic.
Candide Tickets: Gardens available to buy tickets from

Floral Therapy

Candide contacted 500 independent gardens including some of the UK's most significant visitor attractions such as Blenheim Palace (which usually has over 1 million visitors annually) and garden gems like Kathy Brown's Garden in Bedford (which welcomes 3,000 thousand visitors a year), inviting them all to join a gardens' webinar roundtable event. The 'therapy sessions' enabled the garden managers and owners to share their concerns and to discuss everything from contactless ticketing for social distancing to the cleaning of portaloos!
"It was an incredibly collaborative experience." said David Green, Head of Innovation at Blenheim Palace.
"So many independent gardens have struggled during Lockdown with visitor numbers dramatically reduced. It was wonderful to see how independent gardens large and small, got together in this unique way. We were delighted to be part of this and to be able to share our plans with some of the smaller gardens on how we were going to operate under new social distancing guidelines. We were one of the first public gardens to reopen, and we are lucky to have a large team to help make this happen. We are delighted to be welcoming visitors back into our gardens as it is clear how important green space has been in supporting their mental health through the pandemic."
Blenheim Palace formal gardens

Blenheim Palace

Upon entering the grounds of Blenheim Palace, it’s easy to see why the likes of Harry Potter, Spectre 007 and many other blockbusters have been filmed here. The lavish UNESCO world heritage site is home to award-winning formal gardens, swoon-worthy vistas and one of Britain’s grandest houses. Dubbed 'the finest view in England' by Winston Churchill's father, the showstopper is the vast lake and beautiful Vanburgh Bridge set in 2100 acres of naturalistic parkland designed by ‘Capability’ Brown. With its links to Churchill, history buffs will find plenty here to intrigue. But it’s not just the colourful history that draws people to this idyllic corner of Oxfordshire. A delight in all seasons, the grounds play host to open-air cinema during the summer months, while the Christmas period sees the palace and gardens lit up for the annual illuminated light trail. Whether you’ve come to marvel at the opulent Baroque architecture, seek out the serenity of the secret garden, bury your nose in the rose garden or enjoy the views from the water terraces, Blenheim Palace is sure to be an unforgettable day out.

One premier visitor attraction Cholmondeley Castle Gardens, which usually receives over 15K visitors a year, generously shared its entire opening strategy and resources during one of the webinars, to help others with their reopening preparations.

Advanced Tickets

In addition to the webinar sessions, Candide has extended its online ticketing service to all private gardens free of charge. The system offers visitors the opportunity to buy prepaid, advance QR coded tickets for gardens, which can be either downloaded on their phone or printed. The code can be scanned at a safe distance at the garden gate to reduce the need for close contact, and no money needs to change hands.
A hand holding a cell phone showing Candide Ticketing solution
QR Code Candide Ticket
Candide check in at a garden
Glide in at a distance
Watch below or download here

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A further benefit for gardens is that Candide's ticketing system also provides real-time information on the numbers of visitors in the garden at any one time, so owners can ensure they can manage appropriate visitor levels.
Since May, gardens using the online booking system have sold over 30,000 tickets.

Kathy Brown's Garden

Kathy Brown standing in her garden
Kathy Brown standing in her garden
Garden Owner Kathy Brown (pictured above with Husband Simon) said, "We were complete technophobes before this experience, but Candide’s very patient team helped us through the set up and now we have completely embraced the new technology. It has made it possible for us to open successfully and welcome visitors back while meeting all the government guidelines. We are thrilled to have had over 1600 visitors which considering the circumstances is excellent. What is also interesting is that our visitor age has come down dramatically over this period. Originally our visitor average age would have been around 70 years and now it is much nearer 40 years old, which is wonderful to see."
She continued, "Candide’s new system offers us flexibility because we have all the contact details of those in the advance booking, so when a deluge of rain was forecast, we were able to ask people to postpone their visit and choose a different date. When high winds threatened this week, we were able to open up extra slots in better weather. It causes additional administration, but the visitors are grateful, and it improves their experience. Flexibility and adaptability have been paramount throughout this period and Candide has very much helped to pave the way.”

Comments from Candide

Candide's CEO Andrew Philbrick was delighted with the collaborative approach of the gardens. He said, "We quickly recognised that public gardens were going to be badly affected during Lockdown and decided to bring them together to share their knowledge and advice. We then worked on developing a free ticketing solution for gardens to open contact-free. We ensured it was as simple as possible to set up without the need for any software downloads and helped the gardens launch the systems. We are also providing online marketing help for those involved with videos showcasing some of the most beautiful gardens across the country."
He continued, "We usually charge a small ticketing commission to the gardens we partner, but know that the industry has been hit hard during the pandemic and so our team, who are all garden lovers too, were committed to offering the ticketing service commission-free to public gardens, until the end of 2020. As a gardening app and website, we are dedicated to gardens, gardening and the horticultural industry. We love to be able to visit the myriad of beautiful gardens ourselves and we want to help them to continue to thrive through the difficulties of the pandemic and long into the future."

Candide's top 10 gardens operating its ticketing solution

  1. Court House Farm and Gardens
  2. Cholmondeley Castle Gardens
  3. Helmsley Walled Garden
  4. Leathad Ard Gardens
  5. Greencombe Gardens
  6. Attadale Gardens
  7. Cambo Gardens
  8. Sculpture by The Lakes
  9. Kathy Brown's Garden
  10. The Newt in Somerset
ENDS
* Source: Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, May 2019
For media enquiries please contact Jane Southcotte: jane@janesouthcottpr.co.uk T: 07787 527430

Notes to editors

  • Photos of Kathy Brown’s Garden: Here
  • Watchable and downloadable video: Here
  • Information for garden owners: Here
  • Information for the general public: Here

About Candide

Candide is a buzzing hub of inspiration, knowledge and plants for gardeners and plant enthusiasts.
Whether houseplants, veg, or borders brimming with perennials ignite that gardening passion or you just want to visit a garden for the day, Candide aims to be the most useful tool in a gardener's pocket.
Candide has been based in central Bristol since its inception in 2017. Three years later, they are a team of 60 germinating the first genuinely global gardening ecosystem to an audience of over 350,000 members of the platform.
Just like the garden-loving hero of Voltaire's novel of the same name, at Candide, we believe that gardening is the root of happiness, cultivating well-being for the mind, body and soul.