Iris Jardine visits three different
private gardens, open to the
public under The National
Gardens Scheme, and tells
you what to expect.
National Garden Scheme private gardens in Cobham (left) and (below) at Shackleford, both in Surrey
Have you ever wanted to know what other
people’s gardens are like, particularly some
of your neighbours? Under the National
Gardens Scheme (NGS), you can visit 3,500
of them and at the same time support several
The gardens, except in a few cases, are
usually only open to the public one or two
days a year. With some, you can also visit on
non-opening days by appointment. I visited
three in London – a college garden; the
official open day for a private garden; and
a private visit.
The first, Regent’s College Botany
Garden, is based in the Inner Circle of
Regents Park, and is known as a secret
garden. Belonging to the President of
the College, the one and a half acres was
formally used as a teaching garden, and laid
out in botanical families.
In 1980 it was relaid in the style of an
English garden. It is maintained by the
college’s head gardener and his team, who
were on hand to answer questions, not only
on the actual garden, but queries that people
had about their own gardens.
My second visit was totally different.
This was a three and a half acre private
garden in Mill Hill. The owners have
been part of the scheme for some years
and are supported by many of the
As we walked in, there was a good
selection of plants for sale from the local
nursery at incredibly cheap prices, and a
continual queue for the home-made cakes
The garden has appeal for all tastes, and
is tended by a full time gardener under the
instruction of Penny Gluckstein. The formal
grounds have several sculptures, and hidden
from view when you enter is a lake with fish
and a waterfall.
Bordering the patio of the house is a herb
garden, while at the back is a woodland glade.
The garden is designed so that every time you
turn a corner, you find something new.
During the two-day opening the
Glucksteins had 1,039 visitors, and including
a donation, collected £5,600. Under the
scheme, they are allowed to give part of this
to a charity of their choice which, in this
case, was the North London Hospice.
My last visit was to a neighbour in St.
John’s Wood. When the family first moved
to the house 16 years ago, the garden was
completely neglected. The Kathurias had it
landscaped, but for the last six years Gerlinde
Kathuria has been tendering it herself.
She is enormously proud of her work and
has won many cups. This year, their garden
was featured on ITV’s Britain’s Best Back
Gardens. There are lots of evergreens and
shrubs, with groupings of colours, and she
has made it look pleasing all the year round.
“The benefit of coming to see a private
garden is that you can see what other people
do, and then go home and do it yourself ”,
“You go somewhere like the Chelsea
Flower show and see gardens, but if you
followed what they did, the flowers may die,
as it is just done for the show. For example,
the display may have flowers under trees that
would never normally grow in the shade”.
The National Gardens Scheme was
started in 1927 and supports 11 charities
including cancer, nurses, carers and the
hospice movement as well as those chosen
by the people who open their gardens.
All photographs: Nicola Stocken Tomkins
Gardens of England and Wales Open
for Charity (known as the Yellow Book)
is available from all major bookshops,
price £5.99 or direct through the NGS
website www.ngs.org.uk for £7.99