Opening my garden for the National Garden Scheme

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“You should open your garden for the NGS, its lovely”, a friend said to me almost two years ago. That got me thinking, “was my garden ‘interesting’ enough for visitors?” I do open it biennially as part of Hook Open Gardens, but for the National Garden Scheme? Really??

I mulled the idea over for a month or so and then decided to contact the local NGS coordinator for East Yorkshire and invite her to visit and take it from there. You don’t know unless you try, I told myself, but I wasn’t sure if my garden was big enough and interesting enough or what was expected of an NGS garden.

The NGS require gardens to have a minimum of 40 minutes of interest. It doesn’t have to be a half acre woodland plot. Size isn’t everything, it’s what you do with the space that is the important factor. My mind was reeling. Is there a theme running throughout the garden? Is it divided into separate areas, lawn, vegetable plot etc? Is it a scented garden or a small cottage garden?

Louise, the NGS coordinator came to visit in late August 2015. She was a lovely lady and after a cup of tea, we headed straight into my garden. I explained how the garden had ‘evolved’ and grown over the years; how the garden had a story and my different ‘garden rooms’ and especially the outlook onto open fields. We talked about the type of planting through the garden, if I had favourite plants/shrubs, seating areas etc. I had just acquired a new area of ‘field’ which was my blank canvas and we chatted about what I would do with it and how it would connect with the existing garden. She was very impressed with my plans and planting ideas and asked if it would be ready for opening May 2016. I reluctantly said “no”, as I wanted it to look established not newly planted and it also gave me chance to fill in gaps. So, I agreed to May 2017!

We discussed the date and details such as refreshments. My Mum offered to do a cake stall (raising funds for St. Mary’s Church, Hook) and we decided to have a plant stall, all of which sounded exciting.

Parking needed to be considered as Louise the coordinator said new Open gardens usually draw 200 visitors… wow! Fortunately, I have a neighbour with a large yard, accessible directly to my garden, which he generously offered as free parking. Parking is something you perhaps don’t think about, but when living in a small village, as I do, I think it is only considerate to think of how the event could impact on village life (albeit for a few short hours).

So, the date was set for Sunday 28 May 2017, 12 noon until 4pm.

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Louise complimented me on my lovely cottage garden and said the NGS would love me to be part of their National open garden scheme. I am the only one in this part of East Yorkshire (the nearest NGS gardens are 15+ miles away. Now all I can do is work towards everything looking as well as possible, and hope that people come and share my passion for gardening.

So, if you’d like to open your garden for charity, why not contact the National Garden Scheme. Visit the NGS website to find out more about what’s involved.

The NGS has been around since 1927 and now has more than 3,800 ‘Gardens To Visit’, as its directory is now known. A small admission fee (usually about £3 to £5) to visit the gardens raises funds to support their nominated nursing and caring charities and many of the gardens themselves raise additional funds for local charities. In 2016 NGS donated £2.7 million to a number of really worthwhile causes, such as MacMillan, Marie Curie & Perennial to name a few.

The NGS also work closely with the RHS and National Trust, awarding bursaries to amateur gardeners for community horticultural projects, funding RHS trainees and promoting the benefits of gardens and gardening.

You can find out more about my NGS Garden at, and on Facebook and Twitter.

The garden will also open as part of Hook Open Gardens on Sunday 25 June 2017 11am – 4 pm.

Happy Gardening

Justine Dixon

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Justine is the Founder and Organiser of Hook Gardening Club in East Yorkshire and has previously written a blog post for us about how to set up a gardening club.