The National Gardens Scheme Yellow Book

by James Alexander-Sinclair

Last week marked the beginning of a very important part of the gardening year. It was the official launch of the National Gardens Scheme Yellow Book.

The cover of the National Gardens Scheme Yellow Book 2010Last week marked the beginning of a very important part of the gardening year. It was the official launch of the National Gardens Scheme Yellow Book. As many of you will be aware this is the bible for garden visitors. It lists about 3000 gardens throughout the country: not all big public gardens but mostly private gardens varying from rambling rectories to little, plant-stuffed back yards in towns and cities.

The launch allowed the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) to flag up some cracking gardens that are definitely on my must-visit list and also to report on how much money they had raised. The scheme acts as a conduit in order to raise money for some very deserving causes: this year they gave £550,000 for Macmillan Nurses, the same again for Marie Curie Cancer Care, £450,000 for Help the Hospices and £350,000 for Crossroads Care. That is a pretty impressive bit of fund-raising bearing in mind it was raised by volunteers opening their gardens and selling (often absolutely delicious) cake. Their fundraising target for 2010 is £3m.

You don't have to wait for the summer to start visiting gardens. At this time of year there are marvellous snowdrop and early-spring flower collections to visit. This coming weekend you could visit gardens from Wiltshire (Avon Cottage) to the Wirral (Dunham Massey). Or from Cornwall (Tregoose) to Kent (Copton Ash). The following weekend (the 28th), by the way, there is a particularly good snowdrop collection near me: it belongs to Jim Leatherland, who lives in Hollowell, Northamptonshire.

The book is available in all good bookshops and from the NGS website. Also, they are always looking for new gardens so why not open your garden? It gives you the chance to show off what you have achieved, to meet other keen gardeners and to raise money for charity.

My friend Joe Swift is the president of the NGS, but I suppose not every organisation is perfect. We did however manage to get him away long enough to make this. It may be too late for Valentine's Day when you read this, but I think you will find the romantic tips useful for any time of year!

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Talkback: The National Gardens Scheme Yellow Book
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Gardeners' World Web User 15/02/2010 at 15:37

I'd love to show my garden but l don't think it's big enough or perhaps as interesting, ho, well perhaps some time in the future. I'd never heard of the yellow book, l'll have to buy it and look at some other gardens.

Gardeners' World Web User 16/02/2010 at 17:05

I started visiting yellow book gardens four years ago and have been hooked ever since. I love meeting other gardeners who are always willing to chat and share tips and I always come back with some inspiration for my humble plot. The best value for money is the group openings where you get lots of "real size" gardens all close together. The only problem is fitting all the visits in!

Gardeners' World Web User 17/02/2010 at 11:01

What a wonderful scheme the yellow book is. Going round a group visit to a village is a real joy, to see how with roughly the same soil, gardeners can make and create such beautiful and differently designed gardens. There is usually a plant sale (my downfall!) with handy growing tips from the owners. Some people offer a tea which rounds off the day nicely. Even in poor weather one can come across real delights

Gardeners' World Web User 19/02/2010 at 12:07

The NGS is a wonderful organisation which we became involved with 2 years ago. My husband & I have now become joint County Organisers for East Suffolk. In reply to Chrissy on 15th Feb - above, please check out the NGS website which gives guidance on gardens thinking of opening e.g. size, quality etc. - if you still feel that your garden is too small, contact your local organiser anyway, they may have another small garden near you who would love to open as a 'Group' opening.

Gardeners' World Web User 21/02/2010 at 16:37

I was also worried that our garden would be too small for the NGS, but was very pleased when we were accepted. The last three years of opening for the NGS have proved to be wonderful, you get to have wonderful compliments from visitors and make money for a very worthy charity. Visitors tend to linger interested in our plant combinations and garden design. That combined with the teas means that most visitors easily find 45 mins of interest. It obviously helps if you have a particular "hook" for your garden. For us, it is our dogs, but it could just as easily be a particular plant group, colour, soil type, art or some such thing.

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