There are some guide books which in our family are always kept in the car, so that whenever we go out for a drive we can find a great pub, hotel or, in the case of The Yellow Book, a garden to visit. This indispensible guide lists over 3,800 gardens in England and Wales, opened to the public on behalf of the National Gardens Scheme to raise money for charity – £2.6 million last year.
This wonderfully British institution seems to sum up all that is best in the country, sharing our collective passion for gardening and our benevolent concern for others. I have used editions of the Yellow Book since my student days, dropping in on hidden horticultural gems scattered about in every corner of the country; I’ve met some great gardeners, genuine enthusiasts and people with amazing amounts of knowledge and talent.
Every so often I have dabbled with the idea of opening our garden under the scheme, but never had the courage to do so. I have built gardens for clients which would be more than suitable, but I’m not sure I have ever owned a garden good enough and I am not sure I could cope with the criticism. This year a series of lectures will tell us how it’s done and encourage timid souls like me to have a go: it’s all in a good cause!
Another great innovation is launched this year – an iPhone application which will locate gardens near to you and provide all the details – all very clever. The Yellow Book itself is set out beautifully; after a county map of the country each of the counties has a section to itself. Bedfordshire for instance starts with a map with each of the gardens given a number. A calendar on the opposite page shows which gardens are open on which day each month. Then the gardens are listed alphabetically with a full description, opening times and contact details. Each of the other counties of England and Wales are treated in the same way: it couldn’t be more clear or easy to use. Scotland has its own quite separate scheme which has been going since 1931.
This inspirational guide is an essential part of own picnic set and a copy should be in every garden enthusiast’s home. You can buy a copy at the Garden Design Academy’s book store priced at £7.49