Tag Archives: Armathwaite Open Gardens

National Gardens Scheme: a potted history

Next Saturday 27 May we are opening our garden, in support of the National Garden Scheme.

Beneficiary charities are: The Queen’s Nursing Institute, Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Carers Trust, Hospice UK, Perennial, Parkinson’s UK and other guest charities.
Around 3,700 gardens open each year for the National Garden Scheme, all of the gardens can be found on NGS website or in their Garden Visitor’s Handbook, published annually.
The National Garden Scheme has a rich and interesting history that is closely connected with nursing in the UK, which has  been my occupation for the last 31 years.

In 1859, William Rathbone, a Liverpool merchant, employed a nurse to care for his wife at home. After his wife’s death, Rathbone kept the nurse on to help poor people in the neighbourhood. Later, Rathbone raised funds for the recruitment, training and employment of nurses to go into the deprived areas of the city.

In 1926 the organisation decided to raise a special fund in memory of their patron, Queen Alexandra, who had recently died. The fund would pay for training and would also support nurses who were retiring. A council member, Miss Elsie Wagg, came up with the idea of raising money for charity through the nation’s obsession with gardening, by asking people to open their gardens to visitors and charging a modest entry fee that would be donated.

In 1927 The National Garden Scheme was founded. Individuals were asked to open up their gardens for ‘a shilling a head’. In the first year 609 gardens raised over £8,000. A year later, the district nursing organisation became officially named the Queen’s Nursing Institute.

By 1931 a network of volunteer County Organisers had been set up and over 1,000 private gardens were open.

In 1932, Country Life magazine published an illustrated guide – costing one shilling – to 1,079 gardens open for charity, with a green cover and an introduction by its editor, Christopher Hussey.

In 1948, after the Second World War, the National Health Service took on the District Nursing Service, but money was still needed to care for retired nurses and invest in training. The National Garden Scheme offered to donate funding to the National Trust to restore and preserve important gardens. In return, the National Trust opened many of its most prestigious gardens for the National Garden Scheme.

In  1970 1,234 gardens opened raising almost £52,000.

In 1984 Macmillan Cancer Support joined the list of beneficiary charities.

In 1996 Marie Curie (formerly Marie Curie Cancer Care), Help the Hospices and Crossroads (now Carers Trust) also became beneficiary charities.

In  2013 Parkinson’s UK joined as a ‘guest charity’ of the National Garden Scheme, they went on to become a permanent beneficiary.

In 2016 in honour of Frogmore gardens opening for 70 years for the National Garden Scheme, 70 Queen’s Nurses attended the open day in June.

NGS donations for 2017:  MacMillan £500,000. Marie Curie £500,000. Hospice UK £500,000. Carers Trust £400,000. Qni  £375,000.

It would be lovely to see you next weekend. We have plants for sale and Phil is even parting with some trees!!!

2 The Faulds CA49PB. Featured in Cumbria Life, a compact garden accessed via sandstone steps is divided into 3 distinct areas. Rare and unusual trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials, a collection of trees in pots grown from seed, raised beds, wild- life pond and Bantam run. Art work and stained glass are on display. Nearby church with stained glass by Burne-Jones/William Morris and recent window by the garden owner.
For refreshments there are 2 PHs and a village shop all within a short walking distance.


It’s Armathwaite Open Gardens!..’you know it is, it really is.’

The weather was a bit unpredictable this year but despite the rain, we had 267 visitors to our garden over the two days… an increase on last year! It was good to see some familiar faces and they appreciated how much the garden has developed since last year.


‘2113’……thanks Cindy.

The finishing touch to Phil’s fantastic Frank Sidebottom scarecrow arrived just in time on Saturday morning …. a shocking pink silk tie all the way from China! Frank was a hit with our visitors and we were very surprised how many people had heard of Timperley and of Frank Sidebottom. He now stands proudly guarding our Timperley Early Rhubarb.




Is that Timperley Rhubarb?…. ‘You know it is…it really is’


We sold some plants too and all the proceeds from ticket sales will be split between the village church and village hall funds. Many went up to the church to look at Phil’s window and came back with glowing reviews.




Fasty returns!

The garden is looking really good now; just 4 weeks to the Open Garden event. We have been really lucky with lots of sunshine and not much rain so every thing has put on rapid growth. Phil has been out watering regularly and even had to top up the pond.



The dahlias are in and should be a riot of reds and burgundys right through ’til October.


Yesterday we saw the return of a rare friend …. Fasty the Slow worm was spotted in the border disappearing under the vegetation. Luckily Phil caught him before the dogs noticed. He’s dropped  his tail recently so looks a bit short!


Fasty the Slow Worm

The Anguis fragilis, or slow worm, is a limbless lizard native to Eurasia. It is sometimes called a blindworm.

Slow worms are semifossorial (burrowing) lizards, spending much of the time hiding underneath objects. The skin of slow worms is smooth with scales that do not overlap one another. Like many other lizards, slow worms autotomize, meaning that they have the ability to shed their tails to escape predators, by breaking one of their tail vertebrae in half. While the tail regrows, it does not reach its original length. They are not that common in gardens but can be encouraged to enter and help remove pest insects and snails by placing black plastic or a piece of tin on the ground. On warm days, one or more slow worms will often be found underneath these heat collectors. One of the biggest causes of mortality in slow worms in suburban areas is the domestic cat, against which it has no defence.

The females give birth to live young (ovoviviparous birth). In the days leading up to birth, the female can often be seen basking in the sun on a warm road.

Although these lizards are often mistaken for snakes, a number of features differentiate them. The most important one is that they have small eyes with eyelids that, like other lizards, blink. Unlike snakes, they may also have visible ears. They shed their skin in patches, whereas most snakes shed their whole skin. Also, the pattern of their ventral scales is totally different from that of snakes.

He’s a very welcome visitor!


Late Bloomer

We received a letter yesterday informing us that the Open Garden event raised £1500 which will be split equally between our village hall and church. It’s a pity  that our flowers were a little late. Here are some that were not out or at their best on the day.


Eryngium x Zabelli 'Jos Eijking'

Eryngium x Zabelli ‘Jos Eijking’

Hydrangea 'Blue Wave'

Hydrangea ‘Blue Wave’

Salvia 'Superba'

Salvia ‘Superba’

Scabious 'Pink Mist'

Scabious ‘Pink Mist’

Phygelius 'Devil's Tears'

Phygelius ‘Devil’s Tears’

Cotoneaster variety unknown

Cotoneaster variety unknown

Purple Speedwell

Purple Speedwell

Scabious 'Butterfly Blue Beauty'

Scabious ‘Butterfly Blue Beauty’

Garden view

Garden view

Hoster,Hydrangea and foxglove in the courtyard.

Hoster,Hydrangea and foxglove in the courtyard.




Armathwaite Open Gardens 2015

We had been weather watching all last week. Armathwaite has its own microclimate and conditions can be very different from what’s predicted on BBC weather. The run up was an anxious time; over the week the forecast changed from rain, to heavy cloud and rain, to sunshine with rain and heavy cloud, to rain with light cloud. What we got on opening Saturday was brilliant sunshine and 99 visitors ! The bees behaved impeccably.



Geranium growing through Sambucca

Geranium growing through Sambucca

Some we had seen last year and they greeted us like old friends. They’d noticed such a difference and really appreciated the work we’d done. They came from far and wide, one lady from Dumfries was a return visitor and we met others from Blackpool, Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester. Phil’s Dad kept count and Joseph was in charge of the photographs. Last year we had 230 through on the Saturday so numbers were well down. However, hopefully we will gain some new followers of thebuzzshelter as we had business cards made and handed them out to those that seemed interested in our activities.

Grasses by the pond

Grasses by the pond

Another welcome visitor

Another welcome visitor

It rained on Saturday night and was drizzly and humid Sunday morning but  from 12 onwards when we opened summer returned, bringing 134 visitors through our gate. The next event is the Spirit of the Eden Art and Craft exhibition which will be held in the village hall on August Bank Holiday weekend. We hope to see you there !

Dalemain plant fair

Last Sunday we went to Dalemain House where there was a plant fair and a farmers market. Penrith Beekepers also had a stall so we were able to have a quick catch up with them about our recent bee issues.


Dalemain dates from the reign of Henry II, when it was the site of a fortified tower. It has been home to the Hassel family since 1679, but its gardening history predates even then. During the early 17th and late 16th centuries, the grounds were used to produce healing and culinary herbs for the house. Connections to the garden’s horticultural past are everywhere: for instance a Greek fir (Abies cephalonica), planted in the 1840s by ancestor Dorothea Hasell; a gift from Joseph Banks, the plant collector who sailed on the Endeavour with Captain Cook. It is now the oldest and largest specimen in the UK, measuring 85ft high and 19ft wide.

Each year it holds the prestigious Dalemain Marmalade Awards. Last year there were 2 winners and their marmalades are now sold as a limited edition by Fortnum and Mason. We tasted samples and came away with 4 jars. I think we will definitely go to the 2015 marmalade fair.


Our friend Mr Vikki (famous world wide for award winning chilli products) www.mrvikkis.co.uk  had a stall and we bought his Kashmiri chilli pickle which is his latest creation. He will be back for chilli-fest. We also caught up with Eric and Diane Horne of Birdoswald cheeses fame. www.slackhousefarm.co.uk Phil has known them for many years and they produce hand made, cloth bound mould- ripened cheese from unpasteurised organic milk, fresh from their herd of  Ayrshire cows.

Iris photos by Joseph Dutton

Iris photos by Joseph Dutton


We also bought some delicate iris which Phil planted by the pond. The Open Garden is tomorrow !

Bonkers about conkers

Only 2 weeks to go until Armathwaite Open Gardens. It’s beginning to fill out and colour up.

Aesculus Pavia 'Koehnei' (dwarf Horse Chestnut)

Aesculus Pavia ‘Koehnei’ (dwarf Horse Chestnut)

Phil can’t walk past a conker on the ground and last autumn’s collection provided fun and nostalgia when six of our friends came to stay and we had a conker knockout tournament. These were drilled and strung in the usual way but Phil has a secret; drying them on the top of the kiln ensures they are unbeatable ! They also produce some impressive bruises. This little tree was a must-buy, how could he possibly resist ?

Aesculus Pavia 'Koehnei' detail

Aesculus Pavia ‘Koehnei’ detail

Sinocalycalycanthus 'Hartlage Wine'

Sinocalycalycanthus ‘Hartlage Wine’

Sinocalycalycanthus is a rare deciduous shrub, which was very popular with our visitors last year. This year it’s come out of its pot and into the ground, where it seems much happier. This year it has flowered later but there are lots of buds so should make a fabulous display.

Sinocalycalycanthus 'Hartlage Wine' detail

Sinocalycalycanthus ‘Hartlage Wine’ detail

Allium 'Mount Everest'

Allium ‘Mount Everest’

Alliums look great when grown in a group, however this is a solo performer and was a £1 bulb from a supermarket. Two came up last year but this year just one. It’s very tall, hence the name. We left the seed heads on after flowering as they make for good autumn interest.

Allium 'Mount Everest' seed head

Allium ‘Mount Everest’ seed head

Verbascum  Phoeniceum 'Flush of White'

Verbascum Phoeniceum ‘Flush of White’

The flowers are carried on stems about 12-15″ tall with evergreen leaves. It grows best in full sun and likes well drained soil.

Sisyrinchium 'Hemswell Sky' (Blue Eyed Grass)

Sisyrinchium ‘Hemswell Sky’ (Blue Eyed Grass)

These are not true grasses, but many species have the general appearance of grasses, as they are low-growing plants with long, thin leaves. They are a member of the Iris family. Ours provide a lovely blue accent by the pond.

Peony (variety unknown) Photo by Joseph Dutton.

Peony (variety unknown) Photo by Joseph Dutton.

Another rescued plant when we moved in. These pop up all over the borders so we lift them, plant them and give them away. They may just about last another week or so.