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The National Gardens Scheme
The 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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