Friday, 5 February 2010

Gardens are for people

It's brilliant when a day turns out so much better than expected, and Wednesday this week was a perfect example.

I hotfooted it up to the Royal Festival Hall in London for the launch of the National Garden Scheme's 2010 yellow book. If I'm honest, I thought this would be a small affair, full of candy floss haired ladies of a certain age, knitting through a rather laborious talk as I gently snoozed, whilst secretly anticipating the lunchtime canapes.
However, as I hurtled up to floor 5 in the lift, the laughter, hilarity and the general cacophony of joyous noise drifting down the shaft alerted me to the fact that I had got this lot completely wrong.

Now I've known about the NGS for all my gardening life, have visited a few open gardens and in my past capacity as roving TV reporter, I worked with a couple from Lincolnshire as they prepared their garden for the NGS's public. I really ought to have known better. This lot have more energy than I have witnessed in a long time.

After a swift cup of tea, a veritable celebration of the NGS's work ensued, delivered via the genuinely thrilled-to-be-newly appointed President Joe Swift and the efficacious and charming NGS Chairman Penny Snell. Following a slideshow revealing some surprisingly contemporary new garden additions, a delivery of cheques (all including more noughts than any I could ever hope to receive) handed out to the NGS beneficiary charities and some well deserved exceptional service awards, I was sold. This was inspirational stuff.

3700 gardens will open this year on behalf of the NGS. That's a lot of gardens and gardeners, industriously priming their private gardens for us to visit, garden owners which are keen to share ideas, experiences, successes (and failures) with us, whilst raising money for charity. Together through the NGS they hope to raise £3 million in 2010. And just a cursory flick through this years Yellow Book (which lists dates, entry fees and gardens open by area) reveals several gardens of appeal close to me. So I shall endeavour to do my bit for the NGS, whilst partaking of one of the joys of life, gardens. This year I am going to diary, then visit, as many NGS gardens I can.

The picture is of Great Dixter's produce table carrying the weight of some stunning dahlia varieties, taken in October of last year.


  1. Amazing how much good can result from people doing something so pleasureable as wandering around someone else's garden and enjoying a cuppa. Will be doing the same, going to as many as poss

  2. NGS is a fantastic scheme which I fully support. It's a great opportunity not only to see the many varied and once private gardens of talented gardeners, but also a good opportunity to meet and chat with like-minded enthusiasts.

    With the National Trust, RHS and NGS we are spoilt for choice in this country for discovering beautiful and inspirational gardens. My weekends are now fully booked for the upcoming year and I apologise to my other half in advance.

  3. I support the NGS. A gardening friend of mine opened her garden for the first time last September and although she didnt have as many visitors as she would have liked she still raised a tidy sum. I enjoyed helping, chatting to people as they arrived and pouring tea - it felt very English!!
    This summer she is opening again and another gardening friend is as well for the first time which is great.

  4. I think the NGS is a great organisation, and I certainly enjoy being able to visit gardens great and small because of it. I became a friend of the NGS a couple of years back, but am unsure if they still run the scheme! Anyone know? cant find it on the website

  5. Nice blog and glad i found you. I agree with Zoe, NGS is great, just the owners can be a problem (i got savaged by one last year for taking photographs!!)

  6. I always ask if I can take photos in an NGS garden GG - seems only right as its private property usually.

    Fallen foul of NT gardens too though, who claimed copyright on MY photos when a publisher asked to buy them from me!

  7. I agree fully with everything said. As gardeners, it is our duty to visit these open gardens, look at plants and eat cake.

    A few of my friends open their gardens, and hope Ms.Powell doesn't mind me posting some links to my blog posts here!

    Whets the appetite, doesn't it?