Mention the ‘little yellow book’ to anyone and you’re either greeted with a smile of acknowledgement, or a completely blank stare.
It’s a book that I’ve longed to be in, flicked through from cover to cover and circled bits that are important to me. Go as far as mention the National Garden Scheme (NGS), and you’re either at the start of an in-depth conversation or feeling like you’re talking in another language! But explain it and the mystery is soon revealed. You find people want to know what it is and are grateful to now belong to that club.
The prestigious booklet is the gateway into seeing some of the most gorgeous gardens in the country, organised by the NGS, run by hundreds of volunteers amongst others, it raises an incredible amount of money for various charities and allows you to go out, explore and share in the delights of gardens and gardening. Kent has its own list of treasures and each county has a free yellow booklet for you to pick up and find out where these gardens are, when they are open…and quite importantly, do they serve tea!
For a small entrance fee, which is how the money is raised, gardeners open their gates, having taken a lot of trouble to make everything perfect for your visit. It’s charming, inspiring, delightful. …and jolly hard work!
Four gardens on Ramsgate’s Westcliff have been accepted…oh, yes, you can’t just want to open! You have to ask, be vetted by the local county NGS representatives to see if your garden is suitable and then await the decision.
All nerve-racking stuff, but rightly done with the public in mind. After all, if you’re asking people to help raise money for good causes, let’s make sure they are seeing something worth visiting. It’s what makes the little yellow book what it is, something to be trusted, a measure of quality, as it were.
Three years ago, having gently sold the idea to my neighbours that we ought to get Ramsgate on the map, and since our gardens have their own charm and problems being by the coast, I phoned up the Kent organiser to see how to get the ball rolling. There started a journey of positive encouragement by the NGS. They really are grateful and hugely supportive of the public giving up their time and putting in the effort to help charities across the country. We were assessed, accepted, to do lists were drawn up and the hard work to get ourselves ‘NGS open gardens ready’ had begun in earnest!
We’re number 102 in the book on page 38. You can view the listing online at https://ngs.org.uk/view-garden/37015
And what’s better, there’s another NGS garden to visit in August in Montefiore Avenue, Ramsgate! What a truly fabulous town to live in.