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How old is the National Garden Scheme

01:00 Tue 19th Feb 2002 |

A.� The National Garden Scheme started in 1927 making this its 75th anniversary. This year there are a number of special events and openings to mark the occasion.

Q.� How did it come about

A.� Before the NGS came along visiting great private British gardens was a privilege of the elite, while your average gardener was confined to a handful of public gardens and parks.

In 1927 a certain Elsie Wagg was looking for a way to raise money for the Queens Nursing Institute and struck on the idea of asking some of the nation's great gardens, including Sandringham and Blenheim Palace, to open for a day with an entry charge of one shilling, which went to the charity. It proved such a success that the NGS was formed.

Q.� How many gardens take part now

A.� This year will see over 3,600 gardens taking part. Last year the scheme raised 1.2 million that went to charities including Marie Curie, McMillan Nurses and Help the Hospices.

Q.� So what are the special events this year

A.� Over 100 of the original gardens are opening again to commemorate the year. There will also be a number of prestigious first time openings. For instance, The Hurlingham Club, the home of polo and croquet, 42-acres of grounds by the River Thames at Putney Bridge will throw open it gates for the first time on June 10th.

The NGS are having a garden specially designed for this year's Chelsea Show and there are going to be a number of special workshops, musical evening, talks etc throughout the year.

Along with the annual Yellow Book, there is a special publication to mark the anniversary�entitled Making Gardens, which features articles by leading writers such as Dan Pearson, Alan Titmarsh and Christopher Lloyd. The book gives a brief history of the scheme and then highlights a series of gardening themes using entirely NGS gardens to illustrate as case studies and illustrative photographs.

Q.� When do the gardens open and how often

A.� From now right through to the end of autumn. It often depends on what time the garden, or particular plants in it, are at its peak.

Some gardens open for just one day, usually weekends but increasingly during summer weekday evenings, while some may open a number of times throughout the season.

For details of the gardens in your area and their opening times you can buy the now legendary NGS Yellow Book from bookshops from the end of February, priced 5. Alternatively you can do a geographical search on the website

Q.� How do gardens get onto the scheme

A.� Any garden, be it rolling country acres or a small city courtyard can qualify to open under the scheme, as long as it is deemed good enough, obviously.

The basic criteria is that there should be enough in it to occupy the visitor for 45 minutes, although smaller gardens in the same neighbourhood are often grouped together and open simultaneously.

It has to be safe and should ideal contain at least one distinguishing feature, anything from a national collection to an outstanding view. Gardens are assessed by a committee of NGS volunteers.

For more information call the NGS on 01483 211535.

If you've got a question about your home or garden, click here.

By Tom Gard

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