Eleanor Owens – why the National Garden Scheme is so important

Coming across Eleanor’s enthusiastic youtube video about how great the National Garden Scheme is reminded us that we don’t blow our own trumpet enough. Luckily, Eleanor has done it for us and we wanted to find out why…

Growing up surrounded by countryside and the life that comes with it, I come from a long-line of gardeners. My granny introduced me to horticulture and I continue to work alongside her, forever learning and working hard. In 2015, when I was 19, I attended Brinsbury campus to study, achieving a Distinction star diploma in level 3 horticulture. Now 24, I run a thriving garden maintenance and design business in West Sussex.

Throughout my life I have visited numerous gardens that have opened for the National Garden Scheme but at the time I didn’t realise the health benefits and enjoyment gained from visiting gardens for charity. What the National Garden Scheme does, and has done since the 1920s is incredible, not just raising significant amounts of money for nursing and health charities but raising awareness about the health and mental wellbeing benefits of gardens and gardening too. I think it’s really important to share the message that being outside, in the sunshine, getting vitamin D and mood boosters from the garden are all so beneficial for your health.

Eleanor visiting Ashdown Park Hotel with her Mum and Grandma

The National Garden Scheme is so important, opening your garden is so important and for so many different reasons. Principally, it’s such good value, I recently paid £5 for two hours in two hundred acres which is exceptional value and what’s great is that you know that all that money goes to charity. It’s also really exciting, you go to the gardens and get loads of information from chatting with the garden owners about their plants and planting choices, you learn so much and the gardens can really inspire you. It’s great going to gardens close to home, not just because they are easy to get to, some are even walkable, but because you can find out more about the soil quality and know that most of what they are planting will probably do well in your own garden. The accessibility to gardening knowledge and ideas is really unique.

The gardens are so bespoke, you can even go back to the same garden the next year and it will be different because people have changed planting schemes, swapped plants in and out, brought in a professional gardener perhaps, so they are constantly changing and so worth going back to.

There are also lots of volunteering opportunities which are great, especially if you volunteer to help at a garden opening, it’s such a good way to spend time in a garden, especially if you don’t have your own.

But above all you feel so enriched – you can take a moment out of your everyday life and discover these amazing hidden pockets of green and share time with lovely, like-minded people who may be neighbours you’ve never spoken to. You soon discover how much you have in common, the gardens really have the power to inspire and bring people together.

So, if you have a chance I would definitely recommend visiting a National Garden Scheme garden. There is nothing to lose, many have plant sales and serve tea and cake, some even have music, there’s such a variety. And, because you don’t have to book for most of them you can be spontaneous.

Click here for Eleanor’s Top Tips for getting started in gardening

You can find Eleanor on Instagram and Twitter at @eogardening or on her website.

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