The garden visiting season gets underway this month with the publication of The National Garden Scheme guide and there’s plenty to see in the Cotswolds.
The National Garden Scheme in Gloucestershire is not just on the hunt for new gardens this season, it’s also looking for a new leader.
Norman Jeffery, who has headed up the team of county volunteers for 11 years, is leaving the post in the autumn and the search is on to find someone to replace him.
“I’ve really enjoyed it but I think I’ve done long enough,” he says.
His final garden-visiting season in charge sees four new gardens opening in Gloucestershire, along with two new group openings and new gardens joining existing groups.
They will join a successful charity scheme that hit a record-breaking £114,000 for the county in 2017, bringing the total raised by Gloucestershire during Norman’s time with the NGS to around £1m.
“We’ve managed to increase the number of visitors over that period despite the number of gardens remaining fairly stable.”
Around 3,700 gardens open nationally and the money raised goes to a range of charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie and Perennial.
Norman works closely with a team that vet prospective gardens, liaise with garden owners about posters, leaflets and signs and organise the county’s entry into the Gardens to Visit guide, formerly called The Yellow Book. He also gives talks about the National Garden Scheme to groups across the area.
While you don’t have to be a fanatical gardener to do the job, he says an interest in gardening is definitely an advantage.
“I think anybody is going to tackle the job with more enthusiasm and interest, if they do have an interest in gardening.”
Norman admits it is getting harder to attract new gardens to the scheme and the team has to work hard to find replacements for gardens that stop opening, often when properties are sold or owners get too old to continue.
The first of this year’s newcomers to open is The Garden House at Condicote. Formerly owned by Pamela Schwerdt and Sibylle Kreutzberger, long-time joint head gardeners at Sissinghurst. The garden is open on February 18 for snowdrops and then on March 18 and July 15.
Topiary, perennials and flowers grown for cutting are just some of the features of the country house gardens at Charlton Down House, Tetbury It opens on April 22 and June 10.
Oxleaze Farm, near Lechlade, combines formality and informality with a potager, wild meadow, topiary and mixed borders. It is open for the NGS on May 21 and 22.
There’s a new garden in the open by arrangement group; these are gardens that welcome visitors by prior appointment rather than on a specific date. Green Bowers, at Dursley, is a steep, woodland garden with views across the Cotswold countryside. It has mix of garden and wild flowers and, due to the uneven ground, isn’t suitable for anyone with mobility problems. It is open to visitors by arrangement on April 24, 25, 28, 29, 30 and May 1.
Winchcombe Gardens is the first of the two new groups to open. The Gate, a cottage-style plot with a separate kitchen garden, and St Mary’s, which is planted for year-round colour, will open together on July 1.
There are three gardens to see on September 9 when Brockweir Gardens hold their joint opening. Shrubs, asters, and a lake are among the features of these varied gardens near Chepstow.
There are also new gardens joining Blockley Gardens, Eastcombe, Bussage and Brownshill Gardens, and Oakridge Lynch Gardens.
And Herbs for Healing, at Barnsley, Icomb Gardens, Loders Gate, near Lechlade, White House at Mickleton, Woodlands Farm at Winchcombe and Wortley Farm House near Wotton-under-Edge are returning to the NGS for 2018.
Meanwhile, one of the county’s long standing members, Barn House at Sandywell Park near Cheltenham (pictured top), is opening for the last time this year on June 10, July 8, and August 26 and 27.
For full details of openings, including directions and admission prices, see the county booklet, available at garden centres and bookshops across the county in return for a donation. Details are also available on the National Garden Scheme website where you can also pre-order the national Gardens to Visit guide at a pre-publication price of £12.99 until March 7 when the price rises to £13.99.