This Spring, as we emerge from lockdown, gardens hold the promise of brighter days ahead. To help you plan a great socially distanced day out, here’s inspiration from three organisations that support, run or care for beautiful gardens across the UK.
Charity begins in the garden
Every year over 3,700 private gardens across England and Wales open their gates for charity. This deeply-rooted community initiative is co-ordinated and promoted by the National Garden Scheme. Since the NGS was founded in 1927, garden visits, plant sales, tea and cake have raised over £60 million for nursing and health charities.
In 2020, against the backdrop of Covid-19, the NGS created an extraordinary library of over 190 virtual garden visits. These short films offer a glimpse into gardens large and small, many of which are rarely open to the public.
Several award-winning garden designers provide an insight into the development of their own gardens and virtual visits to some historic gardens are also featured, including Sandringham, the Queen’s Norfolk retreat; Goodnestone Park in Kent, which was frequently visited by Jane Austen; and Chilworth Manor in Surrey, with a history that dates back over 1,000 years.
Many NGS members are now busy planning to open their gardens again in 2021. The NGS website holds a detailed listing of gardens, which can be searched by area and by date, along with a new online booking system for visitors. Visiting an NGS garden offers a great opportunity to explore local gardens from your doorstep and support good causes at the same time.
Get inspired, Get gardening
The Royal Horticultural Society has provided gardeners with inspiration and advice on horticulture and plants since the early 1800s. The RHS recently reported that more than 17 million users visited its website within the first 100 days of lockdown and estimates that over 3 million people took up gardening during the pandemic.
In 2020, despite having to cancel its annual flowers shows, the RHS went online to launch its first Virtual Chelsea Flower Show. The show featured interviews with leading designers, tips from growers and nurseries, and a garden club encouraging children to get into gardening. Virtual Chelsea attracted around 2 million people from 134 countries and will take place again in 2021, running from 18 to 23 May.
With live events on the horizon once more, the RHS has announced its plans for flowers shows in 2021. This year, for the first time in its 108-year history, the Chelsea Flower Show will take place in the autumn running from 21 to 26 September. Shows are also planned at Hampton Court Palace, Tatton Park and the four RHS gardens across the UK: Wisley in Surrey, Hyde Hall in Essex, Rosemoor in Devon, and Harlow Carr in North Yorkshire.
A highlight of 2021 will be the opening of a fifth RHS garden: RHS Bridgewater in Salford. Covering an area of 154 acres, RHS Bridgewater is one of the largest gardening projects in Europe. The garden’s masterplan has been created by leading landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith, with areas including garden rooms within the Weston Walled Garden, an extensive kitchen garden, an education centre for schools and a focus on community involvement, health and wellbeing.
Historic gardens for our times
A recent YouGov poll commissioned by the National Trust revealed that green spaces and gardens have never been more important for our sense of wellbeing:
- Over two thirds (67 per cent) of those surveyed either agreed or strongly agreed that spending time noticing nature around them has made them feel happier in this current lockdown.
- Just under two thirds (65 per cent) said that watching nature from their window had helped their mood.
- And nearly half (47 per cent) said that they are spending more time in nature and want to continue to do so when things go back to ‘normal’.
Celebrating the power of nature in lifting the spirits, the National Trust is marking the arrival of Spring with the launch of #BlossomWatch. The campaign is inspired by the annual Japanese tradition of ‘Hanami’, which literally means ‘flower watching’, in celebration of ‘Sakura’ or ‘springtime’. Through social media, combined with an interactive Blossom map on its website, the National Trust is encouraging people to track blossom as it begins to appear across the country. For avid blossom watchers, there is also a handy online guide to identifying different types of blossom, from apple, cherry or damson blossom to blackthorn and hawthorn.
In responding to the climate crisis, the National Trust has committed to plant 20 million trees by 2030, planting new woodlands and orchards across the country and working with local authorities to create more green spaces in towns and cities. On 23 March, a year since the start of lockdown in 2020, the National Trust’s first circle of blossom trees was planted at the Queen Elizabeth II Park in London. With one tree for each London borough and the City of London, the circle of 33 cherry, plum, hawthorn and crab apple trees will provide a place for Londoners to remember those who have died, honour key workers, and reflect on the promise of hope and optimism that new growth brings.
Throughout lockdown many gardens have stayed open, providing places to exercise, relax and connect – with nature, with others and with ourselves. Advanced booking is likely to be the new normal for garden visits for some time to come, so be sure to plan your trip in advance. Whether you’re staying close to home or venturing a bit further afield, a visit to a garden always offers a great day out.
Featured image: “Blossom @ Nottingham, UK” by Tim Parkinson licensed under CC BY 2.0
About the Author:
With a background in communications in the health and charity sectors, Tina Gwynne-Evans is also a Blue Badge Tourist Guide. She specialises in creating light-hearted London tours for families, companies and community groups. She also lectures on gardens and garden history and leads tours to beautiful gardens all over the UK. Find out more at www.citytreasures.london.