The National Gardens Scheme

by James Alexander-Sinclair

The National Gardens Scheme (NGS) is one of those great British institutions like fish and chips, cricket, morris dancing, Victoria sponge and Alan Titchmarsh.

View of a garden, with garden furnitureThe National Gardens Scheme (NGS) is one of those great British institutions like fish and chips, cricket, morris dancing, Victoria sponge and Alan Titchmarsh. The idea of spending the weekend wandering around other people's gardens appeals to us on so many levels. It satisfies an inquisitiveness; it allows us to compare our gardens to others; it gives us the chance to admire great design and plantsmanship; it is a chance to eat excellent cake in convivial surroundings and to pick up something unusual and interesting at a plant stall. For the owners it is the opportunity to show off all their hard work and raise some money for charity.

There are literally hundreds of gardens opening all over the country over the next few weeks so you are spoilt for choice, but here are a few recommendations to get you started…

The Yellow Book is the directory of all the gardens which throw open their doors so a good place to start would be with it's cover shot. This features the garden at Brook Farm in Worcestershire (there is another good picture on page 574), which is opening for the first time this year on Friday 24 June. I like the description of the garden very much: “To paraphrase the lovely Eric Morecambe ‘They’re all the right plants, just not necessarily in the right order’.”

Secondly, if you are within driving distance of Monmouthshire you really, really must go to The Pant near Fforest Coalpit (and not just because of the sniggery schoolboy name). This is a garden that encapsulates a formal Islamic area, a very romantic orchard and 25 acres of wooded hillside scattered with eccentric sculptures (including a vast drystone turtle), streams, a whale-shaped lake and a ruined village. Oh, and there is an outdoor green theatre which will, weather permitting (this is Wales after all), play host to a string quartet on the day. There are also demonstrations of coppicing, charcoal burning and yurt building. This is a two-day opening, on 11-12 June.

Many villages combine their gardens in order to make a proper afternoon of things: one near me is the village of Sulgrave in Northamptonshire. For the modest entry fee of £4.00 (children free) you get to visit seven gardens including the Herb Society Garden and the village allotments. There is also a garden that I have designed around a 17th Century watermill, which also includes some newish woodland and four new ponds (including one which I have named after our own delightful wildlife fanatic, Kate Bradbury). I wish I could be there but on that day (19th June) I will be charging around that other great horticultural event, Gardeners’ World Live. With luck, I will see some of you there.

There are details of all the gardens at the NGS website or, if you have any personal favourites you would like to recommend, please make liberal use of the comments section, below.

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Gardeners' World Web User 06/06/2011 at 14:00

If you live near Bristol don't forget the Bristol Botanic Garden is open for the NGS on Sept4th. We volunteers have been potting up hundreds of plants for sale and there is a Celebration of Bees and Pollination as well.

Gardeners' World Web User 07/06/2011 at 08:55

I forgot to say there is a beautiful Quilting Exhibition as well ,all for the inclusive price of £4.50 and children are free. This is a great opportunity to buy nectar- rich plants for the bees which will be sold by local nurseries.

Gardeners' World Web User 07/06/2011 at 23:01

I have to say that I've never really thought about opening my garden despite enjoying visiting others. I started and on line blog about my madcap gardening antics as a bit of a joke on the back of a flippant comment from a friend, I have since been overwhelmed by the interest and positive comments that I have received! Currently it's still a little new with ongoing landscaping but I certainly would consider opening it in the future. I know that the NGS supports some great charities but not one that is dear to my heart, do you have to support the NGS charities or can you choose your own as a member opening up your garden? Happymarion, I work in Bristol but have never visited the botanical gardens so these are now on my list! Higgy

Gardeners' World Web User 08/06/2011 at 07:25

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Gardeners' World Web User 08/06/2011 at 07:47

Higgy50, you are in for a treat! I defy anyone to take a tour round the Garden and not finish feeling their life has been enriched. The garden has only been on its present site since 2005 so you will see recent landscaping and work in progress which will interest you and give you ideas for your endeavours. Many of our visitors have just discovered us and go round the Garden breathing "What a find!". The vice chancellor of the University called it the "Jewel in the University's crown" but I call it the "Jewel in Bristol's crown". Do visit soon. We are open to the public Wed. to Sunday inclusive from 10 to 4.30 and there are tours with the curator Wed.15June, 6.30-8pm, Thursday14 July ditto and Sat.1Oct. 10.30- 12noon. But the BIG weekend when the Garden looks glorious is when we have the Open Day for the NGS on Sept4. I believe many people divide the proceeds of opening for the NGS half and half with their favourite charity which seems fair to me since you are using there publicity. It would be lovely if you could aim for it as your website has sparked a lot of interest in your garden just like my blogs have in mine.

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