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  • Mark Porter

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 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)

Simon Edgington


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