|Dean House opens on six days for the NGS this year - described as "one of Hampshire's best-kept secrets"|
It's that time of year again and the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) is gearing up to offer another gourmet menu of public and private gardens around the country. Every year there are more properties on offer as owners dip their toe in the water and agree to show their gardens to the public, in a unanimous effort to raise funds for some of the most valuable and needed charities in the United Kingdom. Plots range in size from small front and rear gardens, to huge estates and public gardens, but all entrance fees go directly to the NGS, which disperses them to its chosen charities.
|Brandy Mount House - snowdrop lovers heaven, which opens for the NGS for just one day this year|
The number of properties open under the NGS banner grows every year, and although some gardens are entirely seasonal, like Brandy Mount House in Hampshire (above), which has always attracted huge crowds because of its snowdrop collection, although it only opens for one day this year (Saturday, 11th February) there are other stalwart owners who open every week for charity, during the summer months. But what's encouraging for all of us who love gardens is the commitment by owners to the NGS and the good work it does in terms of supporting charities that have become household names, including Macmillan, Marie Curie and Crossroads - who all provide valuable support to cancer patients.
|Feeringbury Manor in Essex, opens its doors every Thursday and Friday from 5 April to 27 July|
This year sees many interesting and innovative improvements on the NGS website, which will enable garden enthusiasts to pick and choose the gardens they visit. The "Garden Finder" search facilities are geared to allow gardeners to choose by opening dates, region or interest and the postcode search enables a quick method of finding gardens near home at the last minute, if you suddenly fancy a day out. You can also search by garden name, or use key words. But the good news is that the search engine is a lot faster and more efficient than ever before.
And then there's the infamous "Yellow Book" which provides full listings of all the thousands of properties on offer around the country, which you may just want to keep in your glove compartment in case you're suffering with garden withdrawal symptoms, as I regularly do during the summer months. Properties are divided by county and if you suddenly find yourself at a loose end and with no access to the internet, you can dip into your Yellow Book and see if there's a garden open locally.
Properties like Vann come up immediately if you use the keyword "Gertrude Jekyll", and you can also search for gardens with accommodation if you're planning to tour the UK looking at greenery, which will give you the chance to stay on site at gardens on your wish list that you might not be able to access on an open day. My new year's resolution is to stay at NGS gardens whenever possible so I can review them for readers and have the added bonus of seeing them in the early morning light, without crowds obscuring the view finder!
|Old Buckhurst, Kent - a real jewel in the NGS crown, which opens regularly throughout the season|
|Vann is home to a Gertrude Jekyll water garden and opens regularly from March to June|
|Sussex Prairies opens regularly for the NGS and is also a gourmet bed and breakfast choice|