27 Essex gardens to visit in 2022

 Spring at Beth Chatto’s Plants and Gardens

Spring at Beth Chatto’s Plants and Gardens - Credit: NGS

Susan Copeland explores the range of gardens opening across Essex this year for the National Garden Scheme.

2021 was a remarkable year for the National Garden Scheme (NGS). Not only did the money donated to health and nursing charities, including Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Hospice UK and Parkinson’s UK, return to figures just short of pre-pandemic levels but also garden visiting was as popular as ever. Gardens opening in Essex raised nearly £150,000 of the total £3 million nationally, an indication that garden owners are still keen to share their hard work in support of the charity. 

The impressive list of gardens opening in the county this year includes ten that are completely new, four groups, some allotments and community gardens as well as four that won prestigious awards last year. In addition, there are more than 40 gardens that will take bookings for a private group visit. 

Award winners 

Peacocks in Margaretting

Peacocks in Margaretting - Credit: Lisa Titmarsh

We were delighted that four of our gardens received prestigious awards in 2021 and that each one is opening this year. Peacocks in Margaretting won the 2021 Daily Mail National Garden Competition. This was well-earned recognition for Phil Torr who has created the garden over the last 20 years, taking inspiration from many of his favourite gardens around the world. It is a ten-acre garden and is opening for the NGS on 17 April, 15 May, 12 and 19 June and 3 July. It is also open for groups by arrangement from April to September. 

The garden at Ulting Wick, created by Philippa Burrough, was regional winner in The English Garden magazine’s The Nation’s Favourite Gardens 2021 for its amazing spring displays of tulips and exotic late-summer annuals and perennials. It opens this year on 24 and 29 April, 8 July, 29 August and 9 September. It is also open for groups of 15+ by arrangement from February to October. 

Sandy Lodge in Halstead

Sandy Lodge in Halstead - Credit: Lisa Scott

Sandy Lodge in Halstead won Best Garden in Ideal Homes magazine’s Reader Home Awards. Garden owners Emma and Rick Rengasamy have developed their three-quarter acre plot over the last seven years. It showcases their creativity as well as making the most of the stunning views over Halstead. This garden is opening on 11 September and is also open by arrangement for groups of 10 to 30 people from June to September. 

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Mike and Liz Thomas open their immaculate one-acre garden at 262 Hatch Road, Pilgrims Hatch every year for the NGS and last year were Highly Commended as Community Champions in the Pride of Essex Awards. There is so much inspiration in this series of garden rooms and they can be visited on 3 and 17 July. 

New for 2022 

Topiary at Bucklers Farmhouse, Coggeshall - Credit: Caroline Cassell

There is an exciting list of new gardens to visit in the county this year. The first, opening on 1 May (also on the 10 and 12 June) is Bucklers Farmhouse in Coggeshall. This is a traditional two-acre country garden full of interest, not least its spectacular topiary. 

The Old Rectory in Great Leighs is another mature garden, opening on 15 May and 21 August. Here there are four acres with stunning rural views to explore. Nearby in Danbury, Appledore makes its debut to the scheme with four open days planned: 18 and 22 May, 19 and 23 October. This is a tranquil village garden with a growing collection of Japanese acers, ferns and hosta. 

Roses at Jankes House, Wakes Colne

Roses at Jankes House, Wakes Colne - Credit: NGS

Heading towards the coast, just outside Frinton in Kirby-Le-Soken is May Cottage. This is a charming garden, full of interest and intrigue. It is opening on 21 May and 25 June. Laurel Cottage, Manuden, is a romantic garden that has been created over the last four years around this text book Essex cottage. It is opening on 22 May and 24 July. Opening on 5 June when the roses are at their best is Jankes House, Wakes Colne. This is a half-acre country garden with far-reaching rural views and an impressive vegetable plot. 

Walnut Tree Cottage in Felsted is opening on 12 June and is in a charming country setting, with a path taking you around immaculate borders to a large natural pond. In contrast, the garden at Chine House in Hornchurch shows what can be achieved in a quarter-acre suburban plot. This garden has been lovingly developed over many years and can be visited on Sunday 19 June (rather than the date shown in our Essex NGS Booklet). 

Groups of gardens 

Groups of gardens, where up to four gardens open on the same day in a village or town, remain as popular as ever. Sheepcote Green Gardens in Clavering are opening together on 5 June, Writtle Gardens on 26 June, Harwich Gardens on 17 July and Witham Town Gardens on 17 July. 

Allotments and community gardens 

Gardeners at Grange Farm Community Garden

Gardeners at Grange Farm Community Garden - Credit: NGS

The National Garden Scheme is always keen to extend the range of gardens open to members of the public, and our list this year includes three community gardens and one group of allotments. Grange Farm Community Garden in Chigwell is new for us this year, and we are excited to see these gardens and allotments, which are beautifully created by a dedicated group of adults with learning difficulties. It is opening on 21 July and by arrangement for groups. 

Also new this year are the Coggeshall Hamlet Allotments. Here, 35 allotments will showcase the range of possibilities offered from this way of gardening. Expect to see vegetables, fruit and flowers when they open on 7 August. Cressing Temple Community Gardens are offering private groups the opportunity to visit when there will be tours of the dig and no-dig areas under cultivation as well as fruit trees, willow beds and glasshouses. 

The Gates in Brentwood opened for the first time last year when the scope of work undertaken by their students with learning disabilities was revealed. Flowers and vegetables will be available to buy when it opens again this year on 29 May.  

By arrangement 

A less well-known way of seeing a garden is to visit by arrangement with a private group. More than 40 gardens in Essex open in this way, and it is an amazing opportunity for a group of friends or a club to have a personalised visit, usually guided by the garden owner. Each garden specifies the times of year that these visits can be made and the minimum group size. More details can be found at ngs.org.uk/openings-by-arrangement or in the 2022 Essex booklet. 

Late-summer flowers at Kamala - Credit: Caroline Cassell

Some that you might consider visiting by arrangement are Kamala in Hockley, which recently featured on BBC Gardeners’ World, the six-acre garden at Kelvedon Hall with a homemade tea at the end of the tour, or the smaller town garden, Isabella’s garden, in Leigh-on-Sea. Mayfield Farm in Ardleigh is a large country garden, which usually has an ambitious project on the go!  

Shrubs Farm is a large garden with beautiful views over the Stour valley. Homemade teas can be included in the visit or, for a special event, wine and canapes can be served in the barn. Snares Hill Cottage in Stebbing is a romantic country garden featuring an inspirational natural swimming pool, while the four acres Strandlands in Wrabness can be visited during May and June, when the wildflower meadow is at its best. 

 Spring at Beth Chatto’s Plants and Gardens

Spring at Beth Chatto’s Plants and Gardens - Credit: NGS

Readers will be familiar with Beth Chatto’s Plants and Gardens in Elmstead Market, but they may not know that this year the gardens celebrate 50 years of opening for the National Garden Scheme, with the next date being 24 September. Beth Chatto was a great supporter of the NGS and raised more than £80,000 for the charity in her lifetime.  

Visit ngs.org.uk for opening times, group booking information and admission charges – children are often free. Pre-booking is possible at some gardens and tea and homemade cakes are usually served. Please check the website for changes before setting out. 

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