Gardens Galore

PUBLISHED: 20:03 23 March 2015 | UPDATED: 20:03 23 March 2015




A record number of 80 Essex gardens will be opening across the county this year as part of the National Gardens Scheme. Here Susan Copeland, NGS County Organiser, reveals some of the highlights, from private gardens not usually open to the lavish landscapes of stately homes, plus 23 exciting new gardens opening for the first time in 2015

Group Open Days

There are many new things to enjoy in 2015 and for the first time we will have five exciting groups of gardens opening in towns and villages across the county. There is the welcome return of Clavering Gardens with two delightful country gardens to explore. April Cottage, one of the two, is a charming thatched cottage with a well established garden packed with unusual plants. The five-acre garden at Deers completes the group which opens on Sunday, June 14.

Langley Village Gardens, tucked away in the far northwest of the county, includes five beautiful gardens in this very rural village. These country gardens will be open on Sunday, May 24. Why not make a day of it? There will be light lunches and afternoon teas being served on the village green.

Raleigh Gardens, all of which are new to the NGS, will be opening three times over the summer. Do look out for this pretty group of diverse and inspiring town gardens opening on Friday, June 12; Sunday, July 12 and Sunday, August 16. They are well worth a visit.

The Waltham Abbey Group has become a firm favourite with visitors and last year they had record numbers. It is easy to see why. They are both welcoming and knowledgeable garden owners and all of their gardens are full of interest. The teas are very good too! The gardens open on Sunday, June 7 and Sunday, September 6.

Wendens Ambo Gardens is another new group for Essex NGS. This is in a very beautiful and historic village just around the corner from Audley End House. It comprises exquisite cottage gardens, such as those in Church Path, together with a large, informal family garden, a modern topiary garden and woodland to wander through. They open on Sunday, June 7, the NGS’s Festival Weekend.

Special Events

After the fantastic success of last year’s concert, the 2015 Musical Evening is being held at Barnards Farm in West Horndon on Saturday, June 27 from 6pm to 9pm. The event will feature the well known choir Funky Voices and the jazz trio All That Jazz. On arrival visitors can enjoy complimentary strawberries and cream and a glass of wine, while there are 40 acres of gardens and grounds to explore. Tickets are now on sale at £15 and can be purchased by phoning 01702 713221 or email

On Tuesday, July 14 from 6.30pm, come and enjoy Strawberries and Bubbles at RHS Hyde Hall with Joe Swift. Joe is the NGS president and a very well known TV presenter. NGS chief executive, George Plumptre, who has just published his acclaimed book on country house gardens, will be there too. Ian Le Gros, curator of RHS Hyde Hall will lead a Q&A session followed by conducted garden tours. Strawberries and a glass of bubbly are included in the ticket price of £18. Please call 020 3176 5830 to book your tickets.

At bluebell time there is nowhere garden enthusiasts would rather be than in a bluebell wood. The Bluebell Bazaar is being held on Saturday, May 16 and Sunday, May 17 at Green Island in Ardleigh. It is a chance to see the 19-acre garden in its spring glory. Bluebell carpeted woods abound with azaleas and acers, and there will be lots of interesting stalls set around the garden selling local crafts and products. Advance tickets are £5 from or by calling 01206 230455. At the gate, tickets are £6.

New Gardens for 2015

There are too many new gardens open as part of NGS that I just can’t cover them all here, so let me suggest a few to whet your appetite.

Strandlands in Wrabness is a cottage surrounded by four acres of gardens and meadows, bordering the beautiful, unspoilt Stour Estuary. It is in a truly magical position and is packed with superb plants and features include a courtyard garden, a secret moon garden and a vividly planted Madison garden. 
I can thoroughly recommend a visit. Strandlands opens for the late May Bank Holiday weekend on Saturday, May 23; Sunday, May 24 and Monday, May 25 as well as by arrangement.

Kelvedon Hall is opening once on Wednesday, May 13 and by arrangement. It is an impressive six-acre garden with a blend of formal and informal spaces interspersed with modern sculpture. Pleached hornbeam and topiary provide structure.

Raynes Hatch Farm in Stisted is a relaxing garden surrounding an Elizabethan farmhouse. It has been lovingly created over the last 14 years by a plantaholic owner and it definitely shows. There are four ponds, a woodland walk, herbaceous borders and a pretty walled garden. The garden opens on Sunday, June 14 and Sunday, July 26.

Paternoster House in Tolleshunt Knights is a large, peaceful garden with meadows, orchards, lawns, impressive flower and shrub borders and two beautiful ponds. The garden opens on Sunday, May 31 and also by arrangement.

262 Hatch Road in Pilgrims Hatch is a garden full of surprises. Just when you think you have seen it all, another lovely part of the garden unfolds. This eclectic garden of around one acre is divided into ‘rooms’ with themed borders, ponds and an Oriental garden. It is open Saturday, July 18 and Sunday, July 19 as well as by arrangement.

One of the amazing things about the new gardens this year is just how many are attached to picture postcard thatched cottages. Spring Cottage at Elmstead Market is one of these gardens. It is a true delight. The garden opens on Sunday, May 24; Monday, May 25; Saturday, June 6 and Sunday, June 7.

The NGS Festival Weekend

The National Gardens Scheme Festival Weekend will be celebrated on June 6 and 7 throughout England and Wales with many NGS gardens being open for visitors.

Here in Essex there will be seven open garden events over this special weekend, including the Waltham Abbey Group. Details of all NGS gardens open for the festival weekend can be seen found at

Why Not Get Involved?

I am always looking out for new gardens to open for the NGS in Essex. If you have a lovely garden yourself, or know someone who has, I would be delighted to hear from you. Why not contact me and share in the fun of opening your garden while raising money for worthwhile causes?

All NGS Gardens are open for charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Hospices UK, The Carers Trust, Queens Nursing Institute and Parkinson’s UK.

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