The National Garden Scheme set a new record in 2023 with over £3,400,000 being donated to the charity’s beneficiaries which include Marie Curie, Macmillan Cancer Support, Hospice UK, Carers Trust, The Queen’s Nursing Institute and Parkinson’s UK. In Essex we were delighted to have played no small part by raising just under £170,000, also a record amount. It never ceases to amaze me that all this money comes from the tireless energy of garden owners who prepare their gardens and from the very many visitors who travel to see them. Tickets at the garden gates, cake, tea and plant sales add up to significant totals which make a huge difference to the nursing and health charities - the ultimate recipients

We have 86 marvellous gardens opening this year, some of them just once while others on a number of different dates. Others only open for private groups of visitors on a by arrangement basis. Twenty of the 86 gardens are new to the Scheme this year and their owners will already be busy making sure that they are at their best for their open days.

Great British Life: Connaught House, Clacton-on-Sea Connaught House, Clacton-on-Sea (Image: NGS)

The North East corner of the county has an impressive number of new gardens. A combined opening in Clacton-on-Sea sees Connaught House CO15 5TU opening with 9 Gainsford Avenue CO15 5AT on Sunday 12 May, 11am until 4pm. The first has a seafront location and it is always interesting to see what thrives in these conditions and the second is a lawn-free garden packed with herbaceous perennials in pink, purple and green-grey to attract bees and butterflies. Combined entry for the two gardens is £5, children free.

Great British Life: St Osyth Priory St Osyth Priory (Image: The Bearded Photographers)

On a grander scale, the gardens at St Osyth Priory, CO16 8GW will be opening to the public on Wednesday 22 May, 12 to 4pm. This is an exciting opportunity to explore the historic estate of woodland, lawns, lakes and ancient reed beds which are currently undergoing complete restoration. In May visitors can expect to see the magnificent wisteria in bloom and discover the Walled and Rose Gardens as they explore the grounds.

Just outside Colchester, the gardens at Cannock Mill Cohousing eco-village CO2 8AA, will make a fascinating day out. The community here has created a wonderful informal garden. Some private spaces but mostly the communal areas will be open to visitors. Expect to see grasses, wild flowers fruit and vegetables as well as a large mill pond and an embryonic bog garden. It opens on Sunday 12 May, 11am until 4pm, admission for adults £5, children free.

In the centre of Colchester, the beautiful south-facing garden of garden designer Andrea Parsons will be opening over the weekend of 15 and 16 June, 10.30am until 5pm both days. The Garden Studio CO2 7HS has evolved from a family garden and is now designed with sun loving plants and makes clever use of borrowed views. Lots of creative ideas here for town gardens.

Great British Life: Moynes FarmMoynes Farm (Image: NGS)

The large country garden at Moynes Farm in Great Bentley CO7 8RA opens the following week on Tuesday and Wednesday 18 and 19 June, 12 until 4pm. As well as the mature planting of herbaceous borders and some more formal planting there are two acres of woodland. And for transport enthusiasts a Routemaster London bus and four military tanks will be on display. Admission for adults £6, children free.

For a modern take on a cottage style garden head to 17 Elm Road in Little Clacton CO16, 9LP on Saturday 22 June, 11am until 4pm. Set in a beautiful village location and surrounded by fields, this country garden has deep borders with many unusual plants including grasses and ferns. Admission for adults £4, children free.

A combined opening of two gardens in Little Oakley, Harwich CO12 5JA is happening on Sunday 23 June, 10.30am until 4pm. 83 Harwich Road is a charming family cottage garden with a good mix of fruit trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables. Stowford House, 99 Harwich Road is a delight to discover, travelling through woodland to a tropical area, a hot border and orchard. Combined admission for both gardens is £6, children free.

Also, in Little Oakley but opening the following month on Sunday 21 July, 11am until 4pm, is The Old Rectory. This is the mature one-and-a-half-acre garden of a Grade II listed Georgian Rectory that has been rescued from dilapidation over the last ten years. The wooded area and herbaceous borders along with a partly walled area are now planted up and already looking well established. Admission for adults £4, children free.

Heading to the centre of the county, the garden at 160 Chignal Road in Chelmsford CM1 2JD is an interesting visit to see how much can be achieved in just five years. This garden has been created from a rough piece of grass and has been beautifully designed to gradually reveal itself as you journey through the different areas. It is opening on Tuesday 18 June and Tuesday 16 July, 12 until 4pm, in a combined opening with 8 Dene Court CM1 2JQ, admission for the two gardens will be £6 for adults, children free

Great British Life: Old Timbers Maldon Old Timbers Maldon (Image: Caroline Cassell)

Old Timbers in Church Street, Maldon CM9 5HW is an exquisite town garden cleverly designed to offer a new and unexpected view at each turn. It is large and walled and manages to include raised vegetable beds, lawn, roses and colour themed beds styled with garden accessories. A well thought through working area includes a greenhouse where some plants will be for sale. Opening on Friday 14 June, Friday 16 August 11am until 4.30pm, admission for adults £5, children free.

Now, to the Essex south coast. Two houses in Paglesham near Rochford have chosen Tuesday 25 June as their day to open. From 11am to 4.30pm, 4 Boarded Row and 4 New Row will be open and for many this will be a longed-for opportunity to see what goes on behind the cottages in this remote spot. An amazing amount will be the answer and in the most tranquil of settings. A perfect opportunity for a day out with lunch at the Plough and Sail (parking for visiting the gardens is opposite the pub, SS4 2EQ). Combined admission for adults £5, children free and teas will be available in the Mission Hall just a couple of minutes’ walk from the car park.

Great British Life: 30 Queens Road in Rayleigh 30 Queens Road in Rayleigh (Image: Caroline Cassell)

30 Queens Road in Rayleigh SS6 8JX is a must-visit for those looking to create a garden that keeps both children and keen gardeners happy. The front of the garden has been zoned to allow children space to play while the back is a colourful mix of exotic perennials, roses, shrubs and lots of homegrown annuals. It is opening on Saturday and Sunday 15 and 16 June, Saturday 31 August and Sunday 1 September, 11am until 5pm. Admission for adults £5, children free.

On the coast at Shoeburyness SS3 9BE, Mikri Ellada, 39 Wakering Avenue is opening on Saturday 29 June, 11am until 5pm. This is a well-established garden which has been divided to create several garden rooms. Lush green foliage contrasts with Mediterranean plants which make the most of the sun. Admission for adults £5, children free.

The garden at The Mount in Roydon CM19 5HT offers visitors eight acres to explore. An amazing three acres of formal garden and eight of woodland are home to many different areas of planting curated with statues and sculptures. There are lots of options for visiting: on Sunday 5 May, Sunday 23 June, Sunday 4 August 11am until 4pm and an evening opening on Friday 13 December, 5 until 7pm for a Christmas lights event. Admission for adults £7, children free.

The Folly in Felstead, CM6 3DN, is a small garden in which you can find a classic country border as well as a more formal Italian area. On Saturday 13 July there will be an evening opening, 6 until 10pm, with wine and Pimm’s on offer while on Sunday 14 July the garden will be open from 11.30am until 4pm. Admission for adults £6, children free.

Great British Life: Elmbridge Mill, Little EastonElmbridge Mill, Little Easton (Image: Nicki Iszard)

The beautiful garden at Elmbridge Mill in Little Easton CM6 2HZ is opening on Sunday 11 August, 12 until 4pm. Many unusual plants and some magnificent specimen trees can be discovered on a leisurely stroll down the garden through the orchard and vegetable plot to the mill pond. Admission for adults £5, children free.

Visitors who have enjoyed the Sheepcote Green gardens in Clavering will be pleased to know that a new garden, Spa Cottage CB11 4SJ, is opening alongside Sheepcote Green House on Sunday 16 June, 1 until 5pm. Set in idyllic rural Essex countryside this is a charming cottage garden split into three areas. Each well stocked. Combined admission £7 for adults, children free.

Great British Life: Audley End House and Garden Audley End House and Garden (Image: Audley End House)

And finally, an exciting new partnership between the National Garden Scheme and English Heritage means that the gardens at Audley End House in Saffron Waldon CB11 4JF will be the setting for a special evening opening on Wednesday 18 September 5.50 to 7.30pm. This is a ticketed event (£15 per person), with pre-booking essential where visitors can tour the grounds with the Head Gardener after the gardens have closed to the general public. The tour will include the impressive kitchen garden where fruit trees and vegetables will be in their full autumn glory.

Most gardens mentioned above offer homemade teas and some also sell plants. There are also gardens which are happy to arrange a private group visit at a mutually convenient time. Check the National Garden Scheme website for more details and any last-minute changes.