the history and purpose of the national garden scheme
We had a very enlightening and informative talk by Mark Porter in October who is the South East Regional Chairman of the NGS with over 1100 gardens under his wing. He opened with anecdotes about his privilege of being able to escort various members of the royal family around Chelsea each year. He made a special warm reference to the Duke of Edinburgh who quipped about hating gardens and flowers so
was taken to a barbeque stand instead.
The NGS was formed in 1927 but has much earlier beginnings. In 1851 William Rathbone established the School of Nursing and to raise funds to support the school it was the idea of Elsie Wragg to open gardens and charge an entry fee. In the first year 600 gardens were opened charging an entry fee of 1 shilling. That year over £8000 was raised. By the 1980’s the fund raising was broadened to include Macmillan, Madam Currie, Parkinsons and many more. By 2020 over 2.1m was raised for the various charities through entry fees, catering, and plant sales.
The objectives of the NGS have not changed over the years with all money raised going to the various charities supporting nursing care. It has adapted over the years and now has an APP to be able to scan for the various gardens that are open in your area and has a web site www.ngs.org.uk The popular figure of Mary Berry is National President.
Whilst Covid made last year (2020) a very difficult year, there are currently 3600 gardens open with 2900 serving teas and 2100 selling plants. Several sites now require pre-booking so worth checking before setting out.
He stressed that to be eligible for your garden to be included there is a rigorous assessment required.
There needs to be enough in the garden to keep interest for 40 minutes. It does not have to be a large garden but must have quality, be attractive, have character, owners keen, must be long term and not a one-day wonder, and must have parking and be accessible.
He highlighted a number of gardens in Hampshire that he thought we would be interested in, that are open every year.
Garden Location Months Open Specialism/highlights
Colemore House Alton June Roses
Blue Bell Wood (100 acres) Alton April Blue Bells
The Down House Itchen Abbas Feb March Winterstems/Snowdrops
Bumpers Long Sutton Hook July Veg/Structure
Wheatley House Kingsley Alton August Colour
Old Camps Headley, Newbury August Sub Tropical
Brick Kiln Cottage Alton Beefburgers/Children
Old Thatch Winkfield Hook April/June Canal side/Donkeys
Terstan Stockbridge April - Sept Music
Bere Mill Whitchurch March/May/Sept River through garden
Little Court Crawley Feb til Jun Snowdrops/crocus
5 Oakfield’s Eastleigh July/August Japan influence/Rock pools.
St Cross Hospital Winchester July Cakes baked by Brothers
Meon Orchard Droxford July/September Specialist Growers
8 Birchwood Grove Fareham July Small exotic garden
The Island Greatbridge, Romsey April &July Expansive lawns and river
21 Chestnut Road Brockenhurst 5 days per year Spring bulbs
House in the Wood Beaulieu May Rhodies/Azaleas
Ferns Lodge Hordle, New Forest June & August Cottage Planting
Fairweathers Beaulieu July Specialist Nursery
146 Bridge Road Sarisbury Green May Small Garden
Woodpeckers Care Home Brockenhurst September
Heckfield Place Hotel Hook May & June Founders Garden (ticketed)