We simply couldn’t do it without our volunteers

Volunteers are the life-blood of the National Garden Scheme and in Volunteer’s Week we take a look at what inspires them and celebrate the brilliant work they help us do.

We have over 550 wonderful people doing everything from garden selection, publicity, booklets and cake baking to organising open days and plant sales and over 3,500 who open their own gardens. You’ll rarely meet a more wonderful group of dedicated, garden lovers who know the value of their hard work. Each year they help us raise millions for some of the UK’s best-loved nursing and health charities including Macmillan, Marie Curie, Hospice UK, Parkinson’s UK, the Queen’s Nursing Institute and Carers Trust.

“The National Garden Scheme has always been a volunteer-led organisation and this has crucially steered its ethos. As we expand our activities and channels of communication we constantly rely on them and, in every corner of the organisation, we simply couldn’t do it without them,” says Chief Executive, George Plumptre.

From our volunteers – why we do it


Everyone has a different motivation for becoming a volunteer. Jenny and Roger Lloyd, who open their fabulous garden at Highfield Farm were inspired by the care that Jenny’s mother received, as Roger explains:

“In 2004 Jenny’s mum became terminally ill with bowel cancer. She was living on the family farm at Highfield. During her final months she received dedicated, compassionate, gentle care and support from the wonderful Macmillan nurses. They even attended her funeral. We decided that we would develop and open our garden in Cheshire to raise money for these amazing selfless nurses through the National Garden Scheme. This continued when we returned to live at Highfield Farm, where we both joined the Gwent National Garden Scheme team and are opening a new garden in memory of Jenny’s mum. £27,000 raised so far!”

For Maureen Kesteven what started out volunteering because of her love of gardening soon become much more:

“I volunteered originally because of my love of gardening, but soon realised how effective a charity the National Garden Scheme is. A simple concept –individual gardens opening to raise millions of pounds each year for vital charities (and just how vital they are has been shown in the last year); a small core staff supported by hundreds of volunteers throughout the country making it extremely economically efficient. A brilliant idea well executed, achieving so much!”

Maureen is now County Organiser for Northumberland and Tyne and Wear, Regional Chairman, North of England and a Trustee. Oh and she opens her beautiful garden at Ferndene House too!

For Sharon Maher, who volunteers as a booklet co-ordinator for Leicestershire and Rutland  the combination of being a nurse and a keen gardener led to her involvement. “As a keen gardener and a nurse volunteering with the National Garden Scheme is a no brainer!” she says. “I’ve met some wonderful people and I know that my efforts make a real difference to peoples’ lives. I also get to see some absolutely beautiful gardens.

For Claire Woodbine, who opens her garden at Pinsla in Bodmin, Cornwall, it was the combination of gardening and the charity’s belief in the healing power of nature that attracted her: “I love volunteering for the National Garden Scheme because it is a safe and friendly place for me to share my enthusiasm for gardening and nature and I love seeing garden visitors overwhelmed by the beauty of gardens. I also feel privileged to be part of a charity that believes in the healing power of nature, and supports beneficiaries to put this believe into practice.” 

Publicity volunteer for Bedfordshire Lucy Debenham adds: “I wanted to be a volunteer not just because I have a passion for plants, but also because I wanted to help open up the wonderful and diverse world of growing to as many people as possible, to help inspire and excite garden visitors to create their own little slice of horticultural heaven. It’s never about how much space you have, it’s what you can do with that space.

“It also means a lot to me to be helping to raise funds for the National Garden Scheme’s nursing beneficiaries. My own family has benefitted from the amazing services these charities offer, and to be able to give back to them in some way is hugely rewarding.”


More stories…

Our volunteers have thousands of stories to tell – we wish we could share them all. Geoff and Jude chose to make short films about why they volunteer:


A thank you from two chief executives …


We hope you’ve been inspired by this small selection of stories and, if you think you’d like to be part of the best team on the planet (not that we are biased), you can find out more here: Volunteer – National Garden Scheme (ngs.org.uk)


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Our donations in 2023

Donor 1
Donor 2 £450,000
Donor 3 £450,000
Donor 4 £450,000
Donor 5 £425,000
Donor 6 £350,000
Donor 7 £350,000
Donor 8
Donor 9 £100,000
Donor 10 £90,000
Donor 11 £80,000
Donor 12 £281,000
Donor 13 £260,000