A visit to a beautiful garden with green-fingered friends has become a great British weekend tradition. Not only do these outings provide creative inspiration for your own plot, but they usually involve tea and cakes and a trip to the plant stall.
The National Garden Scheme (NGS) has more than 3,500 gardens opening for charity in 2022. Garden open days are not only hugely enjoyable but they do a tremendous amount of good: in 2021 the NGS donated more than £3 million to its beneficiary charities.
For details of all gardens open throughout the year (including those which take cashless payment), visit ngs.org.uk. Booking in advance is only essential when stated in a garden entry.
Gardens open June 25 and 26
East Cliff, Love Lane, Bembridge, Isle of Wight PO35 5NH
Every so often a stellar garden pops up and opens for the NGS for the very first time and East Cliff (above) is just such a garden. Fifteen acres surround the elegant 1930s house (not open) built by a pupil of Sir Edwin Lutyens and the garden sweeps away to the cliff edge which gives the garden its name and affords spectacular views out across the English Channel.
But the garden’s chief cachet is its design by Arabella Lennox-Boyd who first visited in 2014 and who created something that exemplifies her reputation as a designer and plantswoman. The combination of the overall conception that encircles the house, the subtle combinations and eye for detail, and the exquisite plant associations in every bed and border will have you spellbound all afternoon. Intimacy in some areas contrasts with the bold sweep of wild flower meadow that extends to the cliff. Take a notebook, there will be much you want to record.
Open Saturday 25 June, 2-6pm, £8, children £2.
Le Grand Dixcart, Sark, Guernsey, Channel Islands GY10 1SD
This is a notable year for the NGS because for the first time ever there are gardens opening in support of the charity in the Channel Islands. There are three gardens opening this weekend, two on Guernsey and Le Grand Dixcart on the smaller island of Sark, With their mild, maritime climate the islands are perfect for gardening and full advantage is taken at Le Grand Dixcart in a delightful setting at the head of a wooded valley, surrounding an old farmhouse (not open).
Organic flowers for cutting and vegetables have been grown for over 20 years and a permaculture system is well established which will be of interest. Echiums and other exotics confirm the sheltered conditions and the unspoilt tranquillity of an island with no cars is a rare treat to enjoy.
Open Saturday 25 & Sunday 26 June, 11am-3pm, £4, children £2.
Musbury Barton, Musbury, Axminster, Devon EX13 8BB
Six acres full of interest that has built up for more than 70 years surround a characterful, thatched traditional Devon longhouse (not open) and offer visitors an afternoon of delight. Roses are a forte - there are some 200 plants – and they will be in flowering profusion this weekend with some truly impressive displays of colour.
But as you might expect in a large garden of such maturity, there is much else besides, not least a collection of fine trees in the arboretum, a handsome horse chestnut avenue and a selection of unusual flowering shrubs, many of which have not attained full maturity. Flights of steps up and down enable you to explore the garden’s steep valley with a stream flowing through, you will head home well exercised and full of ideas.
Open Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 June, 1.30-5pm, £5, children free.
Gardens open July 2 and 3
This week we celebrate groups of gardens opening together, in towns and villages all over the country. Out of 200 garden open events for the National Garden Scheme this weekend, some 15 per cent are groups; these are just a selection, for details of all gardens go to ngs.org.uk.
Wolsingham Village Gardens, Wolsingham, nr Bishop Auckland, Co Durham
This groups says it is a village but Wolsingham is actually a small, thriving and very picturesque market town with Saxon origins, at the entrance to Weardale with the River Wear flowing through. The group includes eight gardens, many around historic stone houses (not open), most are centred around the town’s recreation field, one a short drive away.
One garden actually overlooks the River Wear, the others have rich variety, from traditional cottage-style planting to more contemporary decking terraces and outdoor living spaces. Dahlias will be coming out and the group of allotments will be approaching its summer zenith. All this and wonderful views out to the surrounding countryside will make for an absorbing vislt.
Open Saturday 2 July, 2-6pm, combined admission for 8 gardens £6.
Cardinham Gardens, nr Bodmin, Cornwall PL30 4BN
A quartet of gardens that together celebrate the wonderful, unspoilt landscape and countryside on the south-west side of Bodmin Moor where moorland merges gently into woodland and softer downs and meadows. Close links with the surrounding landscape are important for all four gardens, and Haygrove Cottage offers wonderful views out across the valley.
Pinsla’s position close to woodland edge gives the garden a more secluded feel and you can celebrate wildlife as well as some choice planting that is testament to Cornwall’s mild climate. Madderhay and The Beeches are characterful small gardens; Madderhay in particular has a tranquil palette of planting. Tea at the parish hall will complete a restorative afternoon’s enjoyment.
Open Sunday 3 July, 11am-5pm, combined admission for 5 gardens £6, children free.
Crawley Gardens, nr Winchester, Hampshire SO21 2PR
Surrounded by the open fields of Hampshire’s chalk downland, the charming village of Crawley is dotted with thatched houses and has a pub where lunch before your visit is recommended. Each of the gardens celebrates the links with the neighbouring landscape; at Tanglefoot the rich variety of planting in colour-themed borders provides the perfect introduction to the sweep of wildflower meadow created on one side of the garden.
Whether it is the immaculately trained fruit on Tanglefoot’s tall Victorian wall, Bay Tree House’s sophisticated mixture of a Mediterranean garden, pleached limes and a formal rill, or the gorgeous melée of planting in the country garden of thatched Paige Cottage, there is a feast of variety that will keep you in the village all afternoon.
Open Sunday 3 July, 2-5.30pm, combined admission for three gardens £5, children free.
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