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How to open your garden to the public under the NGS National Garden Scheme

Ever thought about opening your garden to visitors? You don't need a garden that looks like Hampton Court in order to open it 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. You might want to look at joining the NGS open garden scheme. The criteria for open gardens uner the NGS is quality, character and interest.  The National Garden Scheme (NGS) reputedly recommends that the garden needs to 'offer 45 minutes of interest to visitors'.


Popular leisure activity

It seems that visiting gardens is now one of the most popular British leisure activities When we are able to go out and about we tend to love wandering through beautiful and interesting gardens. 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. Who wouldn't want to walk through the arch below in order to explore?

Now, just about anyone can do it! You will need garden passion, vision, commitment and a bit 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 generally more than 3,500 gardens which open each year under the NGS Scheme and these can be found in the Garden Visitor's Handbook which is often known as the yellow book.


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.


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!

T‍hge Yellow Book includes symbols to show visitors what the grounds include, even whether or not the dog can visit too! 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! 


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. Home-made cakes and scones always go down well!




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.


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 and normally well worth the stress of getting it all ready to go.

Visit the NGS website to find out more.


By Perfect Plants


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