About us

The National Garden Scheme gives visitors unique access to over 3,500 exceptional private gardens in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands, and raises impressive amounts of money for nursing and health charities through admissions, teas and cake.

Thanks to the generosity of garden owners, volunteers and visitors we have donated over £70 million to nursing and health charities and in 2023 made an annual donation of over £3.4 million. Our core beneficiaries include Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Hospice UK and The Queen’s Nursing Institute.

The National Garden Scheme doesn’t just open beautiful gardens for charity – we are passionate about the physical and mental health benefits of gardens too. We also support charities doing amazing work in gardens and health and grant bursaries to help community gardening projects.

Click here to see our funding and donations statement

Click here to see our annual reports

Our history Image

Our history

The National Garden Scheme has a rich and interesting history - with humble beginnings in the early 1900s when we first started supporting district nurses, to donating millions of pounds to nursing and health charities over 90 years later.

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William Rathbone, a Liverpool merchant, philanthropist and a later an MP, employed Mary Robinson to nurse his wife at home during her final illness. After his wife’s death, Rathbone retained Mary's services so that people in Liverpool who could not afford to pay for nursing would benefit from care in their homes. Seeing the good that nursing in the home could do, William Rathbone and Florence Nightingale worked together to try to develop the service – and so organised ‘district nursing’ began.

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The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) was founded as the next step in coordinating national standards for district nurses - and had the objectives of providing the ‘training, support, maintenance and supply’ of nurses for the sick poor, as well as establishing training homes, supervising centres, co-operating with other bodies and establishing branches as necessary.

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At a QNI council meeting in 1926, council member Miss Elsie Wagg came up with the idea of raising money for district nursing through the nation’s obsession with gardening. A year later the National Garden Scheme was founded and garden owners were asked to open their gardens for 'a shilling a head'. 609 gardens opened and raised a total of £8,191.

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By now, 900 gardens opened for the National Garden Scheme, and Sir Winston Churchill and Vita Sackville-West were among our famous garden owners.

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The first National Garden Scheme guide was published - detailing 1,079 gardens open for charity. The guide cost 1 shilling, had a green cover and included an introduction by its editor, Christopher Hussey.

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After the Second World War the National Health Service and local authorities took on the home nursing service, but money was still needed to care for retired nurses and invest in training - and the National Garden Scheme continued to raise money for The Queen's Nursing Institute.

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The National Garden Scheme guide turned yellow - symbolising a mood of national regeneration. The colour yellow has continued to be synonymous with the National Garden Scheme right up to the present day.

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The National Garden Scheme became independent of The Queen's Nursing Institute to fund a range of nursing and health charities.

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Macmillan Cancer Support joined the National Garden Scheme's list of beneficiary charities. We are their longest standing partner and have donated over £18 million to date.

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Marie Curie (formerly Marie Curie Cancer Care), Hospice UK (formerly Help the Hospices) and Carers Trust (formerly Crossroads became beneficiary charities.

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HRH The Prince of Wales became the National Garden Scheme's Patron.

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Parkinson's UK joined the National Garden Scheme as a guest charity and went on to become a permanent beneficiary.

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Mary Berry became President of the National Garden Scheme.
We began an annual funding programme to support gardens and health-related projects run by charities. The first gardens and health beneficiary was Horatio's Garden who received a donation of £130,000.

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In the National Garden Scheme's 90th anniversary year we donated £3 million to charity for the first time in our history and continued to champion Gardens and Health.

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In 2019 we celebrated a 35 year partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support during which time we have donated over £17 million from our garden openings.

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In 2020 the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic led to the closure of many National Garden Scheme gardens during the lockdown periods. Despite this, we were still able to donate £2.88 million to our beneficiaries. We also launched our annual Great British Garden Party fundraising event.

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2022 saw a return to near normality for garden opening and visiting for the first time in three years and despite the prolonged drought during the summer that led many gardens to close, the National Garden Scheme announced donations totalling £3.11 million to its beneficiary charities.

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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