‘What happened is that it has changed everything…’ How visiting a National Garden Scheme garden can change your life

meadow planting

We all know that stepping into a stunning garden can often be inspirational and that from a health point of view your own – and other’s – gardens can have a transformative effect. Sometimes, visiting a garden can even be life-changing as one National Garden Scheme visitor confessed when she stepped into Professor Nigel Dunnett’s garden at Bramblewood Cottage in Sheffield in June.

To give some context, Bramblewood Cottage isn’t a traditional lawn and double borders garden, it’s an experimental working environment on a steep hillside with extensive areas of naturalistic perennial planting. Its owner, the son of National Garden Scheme garden owners, is also a professor at the Landscape Architecture Department at the University of Sheffield and author of the recently published ‘Naturalistic Planting Design, The Essential Guide: How to Design High-Impact, Low-Input Gardens’. It seems that his garden certainly provides the high-impact he advocates.

Bramblewood in Yorkshire

The garden in June

In an email sent to Nigel, the visitor wrote: “My husband and I visited your garden yesterday and I really wanted to let you know what a profound effect it had on me … it felt like an epiphany. I am the gardener in our family – a very ad hoc, very amateur gardener – and my husband is very much not – but both of us felt something so strong yesterday, we were bowled over.

“Something about the beauty of your garden touched us in a way that less naturalistic gardens have not, and what happened is that it has changed everything.

“This morning, I embarked on my new life… where I create the garden of my dreams and throw caution and all my sense of endless limitations out the window. Now my outlook has become, overnight, ‘what greater gift could I give my children and grandchildren than the magic of a garden’. How else, but through my garden, could I communicate more powerfully that life is for living, that being alive is fabulous!

“And so it feels, without exaggeration, that you may have changed my life and maybe the lives of my children and grandchildren. So thank you. I expect we will be back to bathe in the loveliness and drink in the views … and eat cake.”


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