How to open your garden under the NGS National Garden Scheme

Ever thought about opening your garden to the public? How to join the NGS open garden scheme.

You don’t need a garden that looks like Hampton Court in order to open it up to the public. Your garden could be of interest to others, provided it is considered to be ‘worth visiting’ and to be exceptional in certain respects. The criteria for open gardens is ‘quality, character and interest’.  The National Garden Scheme (NGS) reputedly recommends that the garden needs to 'offer 45 minutes of interest to visitors'. NGS, national garden scheme, gardens, open gardens, day out, visit, garden, flowers, plants, gardening, Garden lovers just enjoy looking at other people's special places!

Popular leisure activity

It seems that visiting gardens is now one of the most popular British leisure activities. And the NGS provides a highly efficient co-ordination scheme. It commenced back in 1927 with the aim to raise money for The Queen's Nursing Institute. At that time it was largely the aristocratic or wealthy who opened their doors to the middle classes who couldn't wait to see what went on within the garden walls. garden, secret garden, visit, garden visit, day out, gardening, ngs, national garden scheme, plants, flowers, trees, Who wouldn't want to take a look inside this secret garden? Now, just about anyone can do it! You will need garden passion, vision, commitment and quite a lot of time, but most people feel that the rewards are well worth it. If you are highly enthusiastic about your garden and other people seem to like it too, it’s possibly a candidate for opening under the NGS.

How to find gardens that open to the public

There are currently around 3,700 gardens which open each year in this way and these can be found in the Garden Visitor’s Handbook which is often known as the ‘yellow book’. ngs, yellow book, national garden scheme, open gardens, day out, garden visit, garden, gardening, The famous NGS 'Yellow Book' is a great way to plan some rewarding days out. They are also detailed on the NGS website: These are all private gardens that open for charity, so opening to the public not only gives visitors a great day out but also helps to fund good causes. Some people open their gardens once per year, others open the garden gate several times, it’s entirely up to the owner. ngs, national garden scheme, open gardens, visit a garden, spring, day out, flowers, bulbs, Spring is a great time to visit other people's gardens!

How to open your own garden under the NGS

Personnel from the National Gardens Scheme need to approve gardens before they are accepted for opening. The organisation has a team of volunteers who can not only provide information to gardens owners, but they will also come and visit to see if your garden is suitable and offer advice where needed.  Every garden that opens needs to be identified, categorised and itemised for the website and publication and there are health and safety issues to be considered too. It's impossible to prevent absolutely every type of mis-hap, indeed there are records showing that 'granny fell into the stream' at one open garden event! NGS, symbols, yellow book, visit a garden, day out, garden visit, open garden, flowers, plants, family, take your dog, dog friendly, parking available, wheelchair friendly, The Yellow Book includes symbols to show potential visitors what it includes at a glance. Each garden is labelled according to many different criteria including whether or not it is wheelchair-friendly, dog-friendly, whether it has refreshment facilities, toilets, car parking, plants for sale and whether or not it can accept groups. Some gardens even provide music and entertainment for their visitors! visit a garden, ngs, national garden scheme, open day, garden visit, gardening, day out, dog friendly, Other people's gardens are fascinating!

Plan for the future

Planning ahead is essential! Opening a garden under the NGS can take many months to set up. The  NGS official representative will generally time their visit to coincide with the month in which you would like the garden to open. This means that they will view the garden during the appropriate season.  Don't imagine you can open next week without any preparation, it is more likely to be next year. There’s a lot that happens behind the scenes at these events. Not only must your garden be ‘visitor-ready’ but you’ll need to think about baking cakes; marketing; publicity; organising volunteers to take entry money, serve teas and even to guide traffic and tours. cakes, baking, visitors, home made, open garden, ngs, make some cakes, garden visit, Home made cakes are always popular at an open garden event!


open garden, gardening, ngs, public, talking, inspiration, garden, garden visit, sharing views, What can you gain from attending or hosting an open garden event? Hopefully, you will meet lots of friendly people, receive great feedback and gain plenty of enthusiastic inspiration. What’s in it for you? After all the hard work and possible anxiety generated by getting things ready, satisfaction is the number one benefit! Gardeners and garden lovers are mostly friendly, positive and interesting people and you are likely to gain new friends and a lot of fun from their visit. What’s more, it’s a great way to exchange ideas and to receive compliments from those who have enjoyed their visit. You’ll also know that funds raised are going to a good charitable cause – it’s a win-win situation. gardening, open garden, ngs, public opening, public, members of the public, visit a garden, garden visit, Getting a garden ready for opening to the public can be rather stressful, but the rewards are worth the effort. Telephone 01483 211 535 to speak to one of the NGS team. ngs, open garden, open to the public, gardening, garden, flowers, visit, plants, explore, days out, You need to prepare for opening a garden to the public. You can't organise the weather but everything else is up to you.  Competitions! Garden lovers have plenty of opportunity to engage in their favourite pastime whilst entering competitions. There are competitions for having the best lawn (a recent winner claimed to mow his lawn six times every week including on Christmas day), village in bloom competitions, horticultural shows and photographic competitions. If you are an amateur photographer or simply a garden enthusiast, you might be interested in The National Garden Scheme photography competition which is held in association with the BBC Gardener's World Magazine.  Don't delay: the competition runs from 15th March to 28th August 2018. Photography, competition, photographic, photographic competition, wildlife, flowers, butterfly, gardens, enter, prize, Photographic competitions are a great way to make people really look at a subject in order to capture its beauty.

Competition categories

There are categories to inspire all budding photographers:
  • Town Gardens
  • Design Details
  • Beautiful Garden Views
  • Garden Wildlife
  • People in gardens
  • BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine – Fantastic Flowers
Clematis, flowers, photography, photographic, snap, photo, competition, prize, enter, entry, garden, gardening, flowers, Do you have a beautiful Clematis that will be flowering soon? You could try entering your photos into a competition! Judges will put forward category winners into a competition to win the Best Overall Photo prize. Each category winner can choose tools from the current WOLF-Garten range, up to £100. The overall winner will win a WOLF-Garten 72v lithium bundle, including lawnmower, leaf blower, hedge trimmer, and grass trimmer, worth £950. competition, photography, photographic, snap, enter, garden photo, gardening, flowers, wildlife, bees, butterflies, Flowers make a great subject for close-up photography. Is your photo good enough to enter into a competition?

Entry requirements:

All photos entered must be taken at a National Garden Scheme open garden between 15 March and 28 August 2018. Entry and further details from