The National Gardens Scheme

Posted on: 28 May 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Open gardens give Michael Wale the chance to satisfy his curiosity and support good causes.

It is that time of the year to start being nosey and visit other people's gardens under the National Gardens Scheme. I would recommend a couple, one in Derbyshire and the other in Yeovil, for various different reasons.

Eric Crute, who opens his garden on June 7th and 8th 2008 in Yeovil, is partially sighted. He is a piano tuner and restorer, a business which is not as good as it was some years ago. Eric has been partially sighted for most of his life, having only 40 per cent visability from one eye, and yet he has been a lifetime gardener.

I explained that Joe Hughes, the Irish philosopher on my own allotments in west London, is gradually losing his sight. Eric has plenty of hints for partially sighted gardeners like himself.

"I have a three feet high raised bed to grow all the salad stuff. Then as far as growbags are concerned I use one growbag for a plant, putting all the earth at one end, and there I can put my tomato plant. If I put several in the same growbag I find I cannot remove all the side shoots. With just one, in a 'puffed up' bag as I refer to it, it works."

"My veg are in another lesser raised bed. I have one trick to pass on here, and that is you can put your carrot seeds, and anything else like that on the earth and then just sprinkle multi-purpose compost over each row. It is a good idea to have white corner posts to pieces of ground you are using, and different textures. I use island beds, so that I can walk easily all the way round and have easy access."

"Scented plants are another good idea. I hoe through my roses but I always let my wife do the first hoeing, because I might take out the seedlings with the weeds!"

If you have any disabilities Thrive is the best organisation with whom to get in touch.

Eric's Yeovil garden will be open on June 7th and 8th, and the entrance fee goes to the National Garden Scheme, but every garden owner is allowed to give other monies to the charity of their choice. So when you buy home-made cakes and a cup of tea at this Yeovil garden you will be helping save the moon bears of China, who were being cruelly treated for an alleged life enhancing extract. There are now sanctuaries looking after them.

Windward garden in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, pictured above, is open on Sunday June 8th. Husband and wife team Audrey and Andrew Winkler have been there for 40 years. They originally had half an acre, but then bought another half an acre and now the garden is complete, with ponds, lots of tadpoles and frogs, and so many nooks and crannies that the Winklers say their grandchildren love playing hide and seek in the garden. There are also lots of places to sit in comfort.

"This is our second opening this year," Audrey tells me. "We opened on April 6th, and woke up to look out of the window and see that it was snowing heavily and the garden was totally white. The sun did come out later in the morning but we thought no-one would come. But in the end 80 people turned up. Then it started snowing again in the afternoon. But it did look very beautiful."

Audrey says, "People tell me that it is the most relaxing garden they have come to. We try and be totally organic. We do home-made cakes and tea, and our own charity is the Ruddington Framework Knitters' Museum. It is a wonderful place, and shows exactly the knitters' lives in Victorian times."

The thing about visiting other people's gardens is that often the gardens tell you a lot about the owners. Also there is more often than not home-made food to eat.

As for those who throw their gardens open for the garden charity there is one danger. Every now and again visitors cannot resist taking a cutting from this or that plant.

Eric Crute has a simple solution. "I hand them a small plastic bag and invite them to put the cutting in it, and ask them for something for charity for what they have done. It always works."

Web Links

Full list of gardens open under the National Gardens Scheme:

News about the Derbyshire garden:

The photo above is courtesy of this website, where you can see more pictures of the Winklers' garden.

Thrive gardening charity:

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