HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?
By Ann Evans
Photos courtesy of the NGS
Now that spring is definitely here, have you noticed that along with the sounds of birdsong filling the evening air there’s another familiar sound – particularly on a Sunday. The hum of the lesser-spotted lawn mower!
Now that it’s warm and dry enough to actually get out into the garden, and shops are full of bedding plants, summer bulbs and sacks of compost, we’re once again a nation of gardeners.
For people like myself – fine weather gardeners, there are fortunately, plenty of keen gardening enthusiasts who don’t let a bit of wet and windy weather stop them. Also fortunately for those of us who appreciate an attractive garden, every year thousands of gardeners all over the UK open their gardens up to the public for a small entrance fee to raise money for charities.
Many thousands of these home owners belong to The National Gardens Scheme (NGS) which is itself a registered charity that began in 1927. Over the years it has raised a staggering £45 million for nursing and caring charities.
The NGS gardens come in all different shapes and sizes, from sprawling gardens surrounding stately homes to tiny suburban gardens in bustling towns and cities. But every one of them is a little haven of beauty and tranquillity in its own way, showcasing the skill and dedication of its owners.
Wandering around someone’s else’s garden is such a delightful way of spending an hour or two. The owners are all keen gardeners who enjoy chatting to visitors about plants and gardening, and you always come away relaxed and inspired with new ideas for your own home.
George Plumptre, Chief Executive of the National Gardens Scheme says: “Many NGS gardens are particularly beautiful in spring, full of blossom, daffodils and bursting into life. Over the holidays families will be looking for an enjoyable, relaxing place to visit and an NGS garden will always provide a very welcoming and affordable afternoon out. Many will be full of surprises for children and in most cases you can round off your visit with a delicious home-made tea. Last but not least, you can leave knowing that as well as having had a good time, the money you have spent will go directly to charity to benefit others.”
The NGS produce The Yellow Book, which lists – county by county, gardens which are open to the public, along with a brief description of what you’ll find, the opening dates and times and entrance fee, which is generally just few pounds.
DO YOU HAVE A GORGEOUS GARDEN?
Opening your garden for charity can be a very rewarding experience, for you, your visitors and the charities that benefit. So, if you have a garden that is worth visiting, why not think about opening it for the NGS.
The NGS explain that gardens don’t need to be large or elaborate to be enjoyable and interesting for visitors.
They say if you can answer ‘yes’ to the following questions, your garden may be just what they are looking for:
- Is your garden interesting?
- Is your garden attractive?
- Is your garden well maintained?
- Has it got ‘character’?
- Can you offer refreshments?
- Do you enjoy talking about your garden?
- Are you ready for an enjoyable and inspiring day?
HISTORY OF THE NGS
William Rathbone, a Liverpool merchant, employed a nurse to care for his wife at home. After his wife’s death, Rathbone kept the nurse on to help poor people in the neighbourhood. Later, he raised funds for the recruitment, training and employment of nurses to go into the deprived areas of the city.
Based on the idea of local nursing set up by Rathbone, `District` nursing spread across the country. With support from Florence Nightingale and Queen Victoria, the movement became a national voluntary organisation setting standards and training nurses.
The organisation decided to raise a special fund in memory of their patron, Queen Alexandra, who had recently died. The fund would pay for training and would also support nurses who were retiring. A council member, Miss Elsie Wagg, came up with the idea of raising money for charity through the nation’s obsession with gardening, by asking people to open their gardens to visitors and charging a modest entry fee that would be donated.
In 1927 The National Gardens Scheme was founded. Individuals were asked to open up their gardens for ‘a shilling a head’. In the first year 609 gardens raised over £8,000. A year later, the district nursing organisation became officially named the Queen’s Nursing Institute.
By 1931 a network of volunteer County Organisers had been set up and over 1,000 private gardens were open. Country Life magazine produced a handbook that would become known as “The Yellow Book” because of its bright cover.
After the Second World War, the National Health Service took on the District Nursing Service, but money was still needed to care for retired nurses and invest in training. The National Gardens Scheme offered to donate funding to the National Trust to restore and preserve important gardens. In return, the National Trust opened many of its most prestigious gardens for the NGS.
In the 1970s the entrance fee of a shilling per head was raised to more realistic level and the gardens began to raise significant donations. 1980 saw the NGS was established as an independent charity, becoming The National Gardens Scheme Charitable Trust. In 1984 Macmillan Cancer Support joined the list of beneficiary charities. In 1996 Marie Curie Cancer Care, Help the Hospices and Crossroads (now Carers Trust) also became beneficiary charities. As mentioned earlier, £45 million pounds has now been raised.
For more details about the National Gardens Scheme, please visit: www.ngs.org.uk