85 Years of Gardening and Giving Dorset

Gillian Ford tells us about nine very special Dorset gardens that will be celebrating the National Gardens Scheme's 85th anniversary this month

85 Years of Gardening and Giving

Gillian Ford tells us about nine very special Dorset gardens that will be celebrating the National Gardens Scheme’s 85th anniversary this month

When the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) was launched back in 1927, across the country 609 private gardens opened to the public, between them they raised some �8,000 for charity a considerable sum in those days (worth around �300,000 today). Those that opened in that first year read like a roll-call of the great gardens of Britain and is headed up by Sandringham, the Norfolk country retreat of the Royal Family. King George V was keen to support the scheme in honour of his late mother Queen Alexandra who had passed away in 1925. Sandringham’s loyalty to the NGS is demonstrated by the fact that it has opened ever since. In a remarkable display of longevity, 120 of those original 1927 gardens will be opening for us again in 2012 to celebrate our 85th anniversary including nine in Dorset.

The fact that such a high proportion of gardens from the original group are open 85 years later says a great deal about the love of gardening and gardens upon which the success of the NGS has been built. In 2011 gardens across the country in the NGS raised more than �2.6million for the various charities we support, and Dorset has been a major contributor to that success.

Of the nine Dorset 1927 gardens opening this month each offer visitors something very special. For example Ranston at Shroton, which is opening for just one day, was winner of the 2006 Georgian Society Award for ‘Restoration of a Garden or Park’. We hope that as many people as possible will visit all these beautiful gardens as well as the other 80 or so Dorset gardens open in 2012. Your visit will help us to continue our fund-raising and also provides a stimulating and enjoyable experience for any keen gardener.

Full details of all NGS gardens can be found at ngs.org.uk

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Kingston Maurward Gardens

35 acres of gardens laid out in the 18th and 20th centuries, with 5-acre lake. Generous terraces and gardens divided between hedges and stone balustrades, Home to the National Collection of penstemons and salvias.

Open: Daily 10am-5.30pm.

More details kmc.ac.uk/gardens

Kingston Maurward, Dorchester DT2 8PY

Cranborne Manor Garden

Ten miles north of Wimborne, this historic garden was laid out by the great John Tradescant in the 17th century, and enlarged in the 20th century. It features several gardens surrounded by walls and yew hedges as well as a water and wild garden.

Open: Every Wednesday 9am-5pm

(March –Sept). Mostly wheelchair accessible. More details cranborne.co.uk

Cranborne Manor Garden, Cranborne, BH21 5PP

Parnham House

This beautifully presented spacious garden surrounding an Elizabethan manor house, features a terraced formal garden on the south side of the house and topiary features leading to a lake within a deer park setting; walled garden with themed borders and vegetable area.

Open: 19 June and 24 June 2pm-5pm. Partial wheelchair access, some steep slopes.

Parnham House, Beaminster DT8 3LZ


Open for one day only, this beautiful parkland on the River Iwerne was set out by the forbears of the present owner. The recently restored parkland and lake with Palladian bridge and house was winner of the 2006 Georgian Society Award for ‘Restoration of a Garden/Park’. Specialist nurseries and garden stalls, picnicking in the grounds welcome. Homemade teas.

Open: 23 June 12pm-5.30pm. Partial wheelchair access.

Ranston, Shroton, Blandford, DT11 8PU

Sherborne Castle

This Capability Brown garden, of more than 40 acres, offers magnificent vistas across the surrounding landscape, including the lake and views to the ruined castle. Herbaceous planting and notable trees, with managed wilderness, linked together with lawn and pathways. Dogs allowed.

Open: 1 April to 28 October, open everyday except Mondays and Fridays (open Bank Holiday Mondays), 11am-4.30pm. Partial wheelchair access.

More details sherbornecastle.com. Partial wheelchair access. Sherborne Castle, New Road, Sherborne, DT9 5NR

Kingston Lacy

The 43 acres of garden are approached through a magnificent lime avenue. The parterre and sunken garden is planted with Edwardian schemes and the Victorian fernery contains 35 varieties. The Japanese garden has been restored to Henrietta Bankes creation of 1910. The garden is home to The National Collections of convallarias and anemone nemorosa; don’t miss the rose garden which will be at its best in June.

Open for the NGS 6-7 July 10.30am-6pm. Lawns suitable for wheelchairs, some slopes.

More details nationaltrust.org.uk

Kingston Lacy, Wimborne Minster,

BH21 4EA

Abbotsbury Gardens

Tucked away in a woodland valley, just back from the sea, this 30 acre garden was established in 1760, and considerably extended in the 19th century. The maritime microclimate enables Mediterranean and exotic Southern Hemisphere plants to thrive. It is home to the National Collection of Hoherias, which flower in August in the New Zealand garden. The hillside walk offers fabulous views of the Jurassic coast.

Open: Daily 10am to 5pm/6pm (to confirm closing time call 01305 871387). Limited wheelchair access, some very steeps paths. More details abbotsburygardens.co.uk

Abbotsbury Gardens, near Weymouth,


Forde Abbey Gardens

This wonderful 30 acre garden, which straddles the Dorset/ Somerset border, has many fine shrubs and magnificent specimen trees as well as ponds, borders, a rockery, and a bog garden containing a superb collection Asiatic primulas. There is also an Ionic temple, the Centenary Fountain (England’s highest powered fountain) and a working kitchen garden which supplies the restaurant.

Open: Daily 10am-6pm. Ask at reception for the best wheelchair route. More details fordeabbey.co.uk Forde Abbey Gardens, Nr. Chard TA20 4LU

Upton Country Park

Over 100 acres of award-winning parkland, in a splendid setting close to the sea, with woodland and shoreline and a Grade II* listed Georgian mansion at its heart. The walled garden has been extensively restored, and the maritime microclimate supports a wonderful collection of vintage camellias and roses. Plant centre, gallery and tea rooms.

Open: Daily 9.30am to dusk.

More details uptoncountrypark.com

Upton Country Park, Upton, Poole,

BH17 7BJ

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