Passing the Test

DSCN0853As some of you may know, I open my garden each June for the National Gardens Scheme, or NGS, which raises over £3 million every year for charity. To be accepted your garden has to be of a high standard as visitors often travel over 100 miles just to see it. You couldn’t have them turning up to see something scruffy or lacking in design or plantsmanship now could you?


What you might not know is that i’m also an Assistant County Organiser for the NGS. “What does that mean?” I hear you ask. Well, it means that I’m like the Stasi police of gardening in that it’s me who inspects your garden to see if it’s good enough to join. And if it’s not? Well, I have to say so. We’ve got to keep the standard up you see.SAM_0723

I’d heard good things about Carolyn’s garden ( an ex pupil of mine) and asked if I could come along and have a look.

You never know what you might find but the pot display around the front door looked promising:DSCN1743

Carolyn welcomed me inside, looking rather nervous. “I’m sure it’s not good enough.” she said. I just smiled serenely and walked through to the kitchen. I always maintain that you can tell a lot about a person from their interiors, particularly the sort of garden they’re likely to have – so this one looked promising.The kitchen was stylish, detailed and quirky, and already the view from the windows was enticing:DSCN1734DSCN1735.JPG

But I just had to stop to say hello to the adorable Poppy curled up on the kitchen sofa:DSCN1733

And there it was, the new garden in all its glory. Carolyn said they’d only been in the house for three years so everything was very new- you couldn’t tell:DSCN1736

What I liked about this garden was that, like the interiors, everything was to their own design, unlike anything you’d find elsewhere, and was almost entirely made out of recycled materials reflecting their green ethos.

Carolyn said that this corner had once housed a jacuzzi where the previous occupants had got up to all sorts of shenanigans according to the neighbours! Now it’s a cosy seating area with mirrors and mosaics:DSCN1723

And a beautiful panoramic view out:DSCN1724

The planting was brilliant and I said so. “Well I just planted one of everything you ever mentioned in class”. Naturally, I basked in the reflected glory!

The only area needing a bit of work to come up to standard and that was the front vegetable garden- just a bit more paving, better plant supports and a tidy, that’s all.DSCN1742

“So Carolyn, on behalf of the NGS I’d be delighted to welcome you to open your garden in 2017.” I announced. Carolyn looked as if she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry!

But just to encourage you, this garden hasn’t always looked this good. In fact, it was only three years ago that it looked like this. Only three years ago this was the view from the kitchen:P1010102

And here is that very same view today with Carolyn and her partner Paul- amazing what you can do when you know how?DSCN1729

Isn’t creating a garden wonderful?

And sharing the pleasure of it with others too?

If you’d like to visit some beautiful gardens this summer go to or buy a Yellow Book. Happy visiting!DSCN1748










  1. Once again it is encouraging to know how soon a garden can look like this in such a short time if you know what your doing. I’m sure more people would love to be able to achieve this if only they had the know how and confidence. Wished I lived near enough to be able to come to your classes and work commitments also were not a bother. Love the blog Ann and Well done Carolyn and Paul on your garden.


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