The NGS was hit by Covid-19 last summer, but the signs suggest that the 2021 National Garden Scheme openings should go ahead as usual. Annunciata Elwes takes a look at some of the highlights.
The return of National Garden Scheme (NGS) openings is definitely a factor in our hopes for a summer far better than 2020’s, which brought about a hiatus for the scheme for the first time in nearly 90 years. This year’s 3,500-strong leafy throng includes 358 newcomers, of which five are returning favourites.
In Shropshire, Elizabethan Pitchford Hall was one of the original openers in 1927 and has not been seen for 29 years. ‘When Pitchford Hall was reunited with the Pitchford estate in 2016, we moved back into a house that had essentially been abandoned for a quarter of a century,’ explains owner James Nason.
‘Like the house, the garden and grounds were in a poor state, but, after five years of hard work, we now feel able to display the garden as a work in progress… [and] we look forward, almost 100 years later, to following in the footsteps of Lady Sybil Grant (wife of the owner of Pitchford Hall in 1927) in opening Pitchford’s garden and grounds, allowing guests to once again climb up into the Pitchford lime.’
The Pitchford Treehouse, in an ancient lime, dates from the 17th century and is where Princess Victoria sat to watch visiting foxhound packs in 1832 (open August 22).
Across the border in North Wales, the red-brick walls of Vaynor Park’s terraced garden are barely visible beneath climbing roses, vines and clematis; roses are also prevalent in the parterre and woodland garden, where they scale 100-year-old Douglas firs. Blue hydrangeas will explode in late summer, as plumbago romps up the orangery’s terracotta walls (open September 5).
Meanwhile, the dramatic Purbeck coast can be glimpsed at intervals from the wildflower meadows, woodland walks and kitchen garden at Encombe in Dorset, which last opened in 1985, since when it has been redesigned by Tom Stuart-Smith. Visitors are welcome on June 15 to wander past the temple, clocktower and orchard with millstone fountain.
Despite the fact that the planting at Stonor Park in Oxfordshire — which last opened for the NGS 88 years ago — dates from medieval times, ‘our archived index cards… had very few notes,’ explains NGS chief executive George Plumptre, ‘simply “Deer park. Interesting house”. The reality is slightly more expansive.’
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In grounds that are still nurtured by the same family who laid them 550 years ago, visitors will have seen a 17th-century pleasure garden and a kitchen garden that was redesigned in the 1970s by Lady Camoys using a 1686 painting.
Lastly, Bressingham Gardens’s 17 Norfolk acres include the late Alan Bloom’s Dell Garden, a woodland of giant redwoods and the famous Foggy Bottom garden. It has not been seen by NGS visitors since 1985 and opens on June 24. Visit www.ngs.org.uk for more details.
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