The publication of the National Garden Scheme guide heralds the start of the gardening year and in Gloucestershire there’s lots on offer.
Maybe it’s the cheerful yellow cover but there’s nothing quite like the arrival of The National Garden Scheme’s handbook to lift the spirits.
It marks the start of the garden visiting season proper and opportunities to discover garden gems while raising cash for charity.
And it’s an anticipation that doesn’t dull with time; I’ve been writing about and visiting Gloucestershire NGS gardens for nearly two decades but I still eagerly await the new season.
Partly, it’s the possibility of discovering something new, partly the chance to revisit old favourites, to catch up with their owners and see what changes have been made.
The National Garden Scheme raises money for a range of charities, including Macmillan Cancer Support and Marie Curie Cancer Care, and this year celebrates its 90th anniversary – dropping the ‘s’ on Garden in its name as part of a rebranding. Four Gloucestershire gardens have been opening since 1927: Berkeley Castle, Sezincote, Stanway House and Westonbirt School.
In Gloucestershire, the combination of entrance fees, plant sales and the famous homemade teas raised nearly £120,000 last year.
“We are delighted,” says county organiser Norman Jeffery. “It was our second-best result ever and slightly more than the previous year.”
This season, there are five new main plots in the Gloucestershire collection spread right across the area from the Forest of Dean to the north Cotswolds.
First to open among the newcomers is Forsdene Walk, Coalway, on April 30 and again on July 2. Regular Gloucestershire NGS supporters will know the owner, Pamela Buckland, from her previous garden, Meadow Cottage, which she opened for many years.
This is her new plot, which she has redesigned to have different areas filled with perennials, climbers and lots of pots.
The garden will open jointly with her former garden, which is also in Coalway.
The next new garden to open is Downton House, another small plot this time in the heart of Painswick. Owned by a plant enthusiast, this walled garden features many rare and unusual specimens and opens on May 17.
Greenfields, at Little Rissington, is a two-acre country garden surrounding a classic Cotswold stone house. It’s been developed over the past 16 years with a mix of flowers, fruit, veg and free-range hens. It opens on May 28.
Oakwood Farm did open last year to stage a plant fair but this year it’s joined by three gardens in the village of Upper Minety, near Cirencester. The event, on June 25 will include a flower festival in the village church and the plant fair featuring specialist nurseries.
The last of the newcomers to open is Brocklehurst in Hawling, near Cheltenham. Described as a “romantic Cotswold garden”, it has traditional herbaceous borders and a woodland wildlife garden. The open dates, on July 2 and 9, will be combined with Littlefield, another NGS garden in the village.
In addition to these, there are several new gardens in long established village openings, including Blockley, Ashley & Culkerton and the Eastcombe, Bussage and Brownshill group events.
As part of the National Garden Scheme 90th anniversary celebrations, there is a special Festival Weekend on the Bank Holiday weekend from May 27-29. In Gloucestershire, 14 gardens, including two village events, will take place, promising a bonanza for garden-lovers.
• For full details of individual openings, including timings and ticket prices, visit the NGS website.
• The national handbook, Gardens to Visit 2017, is priced at £11.99. The Gloucestershire county booklet is free with donations welcomed.
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