An unprecedented start to the garden visiting season

Plans by the National Garden Scheme to launch the 2020 garden visiting season with 585 new gardens and a record number of planned openings were put on hold this weekend. Chief Executive George Plumptre instead announced on Sunday 22nd March that in the current Coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, the charity’s Trustees had decided that all National Garden Scheme gardens would be closed to the public until further notice:

“In light of the current crisis and based on government advice for safeguarding the public our Trustees have taken the difficult decision to ask all our garden owners not to open their gardens in aid of the National Garden Scheme until further notice. Managing social distancing and preventing people from travelling unacceptable distances has become a priority for the public good.”

This is the first time in the charity’s 93-year history that all the gardens have been closed. Even during the Second World War and the swine flu pandemic of 2009-2010 many gardens remained open.

Donations continue to contribute to the country’s health and wellbeing

Despite the current crisis National Garden Scheme Trustees are still able to commit in excess of £1 million to its beneficiary charities and to 44 community garden projects throughout England and Wales this year.

“The current climate of uncertainty and the loss for the foreseeable future of garden openings which provide 90% of our income, compounded by a poor start to the season with storms affecting many of the stunning snowdrop gardens, means that the National Garden Scheme has been unable to distribute as much as it would have liked to our beneficiary charities,” said CEO, George Plumptre. “However, we are still donating in excess of £1 million to the majority of our nursing and health beneficiaries this spring and are delighted to be able to announce the tripling of funds to community gardens that make such a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of so many.”

In 2020, new Community Gardens Award funding of £97,210 is being distributed to 44 community gardening projects across England and Wales in memory of the garden writer Elspeth Thompson, who died in 2010. From community-based training initiatives and social prescribing garden projects in GP surgeries to mental health programmes and gardens to foster community cohesion, the selection provides solace and support to people across the country. (See below for full list of awards). £165,000 of the total donation will also go to granting bursaries to support gardeners in a variety of training or apprentice schemes, or who find themselves in hard times.

George Plumptre, added: “It is thanks to the overwhelming generosity of garden owners, volunteers and visitors, both past and present, that we have been able to raise such staggering amounts for charity by opening beautiful gardens to the public. Whether our beneficiaries provide community nursing and care, build gardens for patients with spinal injuries, care for individuals with a terminal illness, support people with mental health conditions or champion community cohesion, we are proud to continue funding the amazing work they do to change people’s lives for the better.

“Donating over £58 million in our 93 year history and being the largest cumulative funder of most of our beneficiaries is no mean feat, and we hope very much to open our garden gates again soon, for the benefit of the visiting public and our beneficiaries.

“The National Garden Scheme’s history, its portfolio of exceptional private gardens and its support of nursing, health and community-based charities is full of stories of hope and of people coming together to create peaceful spaces, reduce isolation and to find respite. Although we won’t be able to share all of those stories with you in person over the coming weeks, we’ll continue to share them via our website and social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.”

With a significant fall in income inevitable people can continue to support the National Garden Scheme and its beneficiaries by making a donation in lieu of the gardens they may have visited at:

A video highlighting the positive partnership between the National Garden Scheme and one of its key beneficiaries Hospice UK, its garden owners and the nation’s health and wellbeing – with introduction by Hospice UK ambassador Martine McCutcheon can be viewed here:

Over 800 new and returning gardens were to open in 2020

The news of National Garden Scheme garden closures comes at the start of a season that would have seen 585 new gardens and 308 returning gardens enhancing the rich portfolio of gardens opening to the public. This is the largest increase in gardens for a decade to more than 3,700. Gardens great and small were set to open in 2020 including the enchanting former dairy farm and now home to garden designer Alasdair Campbell Silver Street Farm in Devon**; the first house-plant only ‘garden’ run by plantswoman Mercy Morris at 52 Cobblers Bridge Road, Herne Bay, Kent*; the stunning Seend Manor in Melksham, Wiltshire** designed by Julian and Isobel Bannerman with its walled garden and four quadrants evoking important parts of the owners lives – England, China, Africa and Italy; an artist’s pretty cottage-style urban garden at 7 Norwood Park Road, SE27** and the Oswestry Gatacre Allotments & Gardens Association* in Oswestry, Shropshire, two adjacent, large allotment communities in the heart of Oswestry – well supported and well-loved by local residents with a vast array of fruit, flowers, vegetables in every shape and form. The gorgeous secluded gardens at The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, Bath, Somerset* were also due to join the portfolio this summer. Gently winding lavender paths take you across the beautiful lawns, with various stunning floral displays along the route. Century-old trees, glamorous rose bushes, historic buildings and interesting statues; this garden has it all.

One of the most distinguished gardens that planned to return, after 40 years, was the iconic Rousham in Oxfordshire * where the ornamental 18th-century landscape overlooking the River Cherwell was designed by William Kent. There are also walled gardens with herbaceous borders a pigeon house and kitchen garden, and the park is home to a herd of Old English Longhorn cattle.

An overview of new gardens for 2020 by George Plumptre in the context of the present crisis can be found here:

Championing trees in a domestic garden setting

Despite the impact of the Coronavirus crisis the National Garden Scheme is delighted to be partnering with the Woodland Trust in 2020, the Year of the Tree, to promote a wider understanding and appreciation of trees within both a wild and domestic garden setting.

We’ll bring focus to the importance of trees, share the wonderful gardens in our portfolio that hold national collections or are home to historic or special trees and look at their role in carbon capture and climate resilience.

Commenting on the partnership, Dr Darren Moorcroft, CEO of the Woodland Trust said: “Trees are a powerful weapon in the current fight back against both the climate and nature emergencies, and we hope that this partnership will help encourage the wider community of garden owners and supporters to appreciate their importance and to plant more trees. We want to see a country rich in native woods and trees, for people and for wildlife.”

Discover more about the partnership here:


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