I walk past 15th and 16th century houses in my village every day with their thatched roofs, cob walls, and character windows. One house always has the most wonderful perfumed roses with fragrance drifting over the wall of the back garden. I have always been curious as to what else is in that garden and how wonderful it must be. And that leads me to one of Britain’s most quintessential traditions that plays out in villages across the country in summer- open gardens.
The National Gardens Scheme has over 3700 locations that open their garden to the public on specific days each year. This is usually in aid of a charity. Some villages get together to hold an open gardens event where several houses in one area open their garden to visitors to view, walk round, and discuss plants with the owners.
Now I would be embarrassed to open my garden to the public as it is not the tidiest and I work and travel too much to maintain it every day. It does have weeds and the lawn is just about under control. But, I do enjoy seeing other people’s places. So how do people get involved? Well as a garden owner you can register your garden on the NGS website and open it once or twice a year. When villages get together and organise their own event, they approach people- or you approach the organisers and open the garden on the day. No one has ever approached me to open my garden- maybe one day they will!
As a village, open gardens day is quite an event. There’s usually a map of the gardens which are all clearly marked and you simply pay a fee which goes to a good cause, and off you go to discover some of the horticultural delights. Another big thing about open gardens is cakes. Home made cakes. Somewhere, someone will be selling home baked cakes and mugs of tea. Usually this is served in the grounds of someone’s garden.
So as a visitor to the UK, how do you get to find out about open gardens? Each year the NGS publishes a schedule of gardens open across the UK. if you are visiting an area in summer it is also worth checking out visitor websites and looking in local papers for villages where up to 20 gardens are open at a time. You pay a fee which goes towards a local good cause, collect a map or guide, and wander off to visit the gardens. It is a lovely way to pick up ideas on gardening and to talk to the owners. And a really special way to get to know the locals.