Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Gardens that open for charity - don't miss them!

I am just re-posting this entry because there is a garden in Sussex that opens for the last time under the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) this coming Sunday and you won't want to miss it!! Town Place, near Haywards Heath in Sussex (pictured above) is one of the most stunning gardens that I have seen this season and it's open from 2-6pm on Sunday, 12th July. There's ample parking and excellent teas, and I hope that some of my English readers will make it!

We're incredibly lucky in the UK because there are so many gardens to visit. And, thanks to the National Gardens Scheme (NGS), which has a network of owners who open their gardens on just a few days a year to raise funds for the charities that the NGS supports, this is a wonderful way to see gardens that wouldn't normally be open to the public.

This year has seen many changes to the way owners operate, with many gardens opening on weekdays as well as weekends, which gives Mums a chance to visit while the kids are at school and has the added advantage of less crowds. Entrance to the gardens is set at a very low rate and many serve tea, so by planning your day carefully, you can take in a couple of gardens and get homemade tea for under £10.

Some NGS gardens open on a regular basis during the season, on the same day each week, whilst others are only open on a few days a year. So to maximise on the visiting season, you need to arm yourself with a copy of the annual "Yellow Book", which lists all the garden openings around the country, by county and date.

The book includes maps and a description of the gardens and if, like me, you are a garden fanatic, you will never leave home without it! That said, it certainly helps to have a good road map when setting out on a garden jaunt (or a good SatNav system), but you will also find bright yellow road signs as you near your destination, showing you the way to the NGS garden that is open on that day. These signs are quite distinctive and have guided me to many a garden that I was looking for when I thought I was hopelessly lost!

One of the joys of these gardens is the many personal features that you find in them and some are featured here in the photographs - including a homemade sculpture and a scarecrow that particularly appealed to me. Another noticeable feature of the private gardens is that the planting is often more informal than that found at commercial gardens open to the public; and an added bonus is that owners are often present and more than willing to answer any questions you may have. These gardens are also excellent places to buy plants that have been grown on site.

In addition to the Yellow Book (available from all good booksellers, and Amazon) the NGS has its own efficient and easy-to-use website that features a "Garden Finder". Enter your UK postcode and you can find open gardens within a 50-mile radius of your home, together with information about dates and times. Most entries give details of the garden in question and other useful information including website and contact details.

There are approximately 3,600 gardens that open for the NGS during the year in England and Wales and the principal charities supported include Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care and Help the Hospices. All are really worthwhile causes, so you know that your entrance fee is actually going to make a difference, and you have the joy of visiting a garden that is not normally open to the public.

In Scotland there is a separate organisation - Scotland's Garden Scheme, which operates on the same lines. There are other charities that run open garden schemes too, including the RNLI
and British Red Cross. Details of these will be available from their websites.

Gardens shown here are all open under the NGS scheme and include Moorlands, Sussex (above left); Witham Place Farm, Essex (above centre); and Conock Manor, Wiltshire (left). I'll be featuring all of these properties in greater detail in my blog at a later date and suggesting other local gardens to visit when in the area ... so watch this space!


  1. A great summary. I've just one thing to add - the NGS also has a 'friends' scheme, which gives you access to talks and special events.

  2. What a wonderful sculpture in the first picture!

  3. I really must make an effort to 'try out' more gardens down here. We have so many and yet I've only visited a handful. You are enthusing me! :-) Val

  4. I like the mix of gardens you get in the NGS openings - quite often it is the small ones that are the most interesting

  5. Some lovely cakes to be enjoyed too and often NGS open gardens can be a source of some beautiful plants at most reasonable prices. Enjoyed your post :)

  6. This is indeed a wonderful garden to be. I love the sculpture!

  7. What beauty you are surrounded with! There aren't too many beautiful gardens like that in our nearby vicinity. However, I'd love to find garden touring places for homes within our area. There are gorgeous places out there. The one thing I loved about Europe is their gardens. Many years ago I lived in Austria for 2 years and vowed when I had my own home, I would have such a garden place. My garden is small, but it is my haven.

  8. Love the sculpture in the first picture. I hope to visit the UK some day and see some of the beautifuls you have there. -Jackie

  9. Hi Charlotte, what a service you provide with the posts about English gardens. Your descriptions are excellent and if, make that when we come to the UK, I will be checking your blog for recommendations.

  10. That sounds like so much fun! Next time I visit the UK, I'll try to schedule it so I can visit a few gardens.

  11. I am so JEALOUS!!! To live in a place where you could visit so many wonderful gardens......sigh.


  12. Hi there, great to see you promote Open Gardens. I've visited a few in Scotland and especially like the ones where a whole town gets invloved! Falkland Palace (NT) up in my area has a giant chess set too. They do make quite a feature in a garden. Enjoy your 'Yellow Book' visits this summer :-D

  13. I wish I could be there...

    Amazing garden photos on your blog :)

    Thank you for your comment on blotanical

  14. Really impressed with the photos on your blog, I also enjoy visiting the NGS gardens but photography is a bit more challenging for me!
    And thank you for your comments!

    Sandy from Mygardendiary

  15. It is a garden making me feel happy.
    The tea to drink here will be really delicious.

    Thank you for showing a wonderful view.

  16. I like the combination of "garden" and "scheme!"