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The National Garden Scheme at Ellerker House in Everingham

PUBLISHED: 00:00 28 March 2017

The water reflects the colours of the season. ‘When the daffodils emerge,’ says Roz, ‘it shines like gold’

The water reflects the colours of the season. 'When the daffodils emerge,' says Roz, 'it shines like gold'


Celebrating the 90th anniversary of a national charity in a glorious East Yorkshire garden.

Roz Los in her garden at  Ellerker House Photo GAP Photos/Lee BeelRoz Los in her garden at Ellerker House Photo GAP Photos/Lee Beel

Some people throw themselves out of planes, hike along Hadrian’s Wall or row the Atlantic to raise money for charity, but all you have to do is stroll round a beautiful garden and eat cake.

Doesn’t sound too taxing, does it? In fact, it sounds like an idyllic way to pass a Sunday afternoon in spring.

The National Garden Scheme is the leading ‘open garden’ charity in England and Wales, donating around £2.7m a year to nine major charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Hospice UK and Carers Trust. And this year, it’s celebrating something of a milestone.

The NGS has been inviting visitors to hop over the hedge into a selection of quality, hand-picked gardens to raise funds for nursing and caring charities for 90 years.

Roz has created an astonishing stumpery in her garden that feels more like an art installation than a horticultural displayRoz has created an astonishing stumpery in her garden that feels more like an art installation than a horticultural display

Ellerker House in Everingham, East Yorkshire, is one of these hand-picked havens, owned by Roz Los, who has thrown open her garden gate to the public for the last seven years. She provides refreshments (yes, there are cakes – and plenty of them) as well as hosting a rare plant fair, where several nurseries sell unusual flowers, shrubs, grasses and herbs.

‘I get a lot of support from my neighbours in the village,’ she said. ‘It’s their tremendous efforts that help to make the open day such a success. Last year, we raised £7,500, which I was really thrilled with.’

Most of the proceeds from the NGS scheme go to Marie Curie and Macmillan Cancer Support, which are particularly important to Roz and her family as they both cared for her partner Michael’s father as he battled a long illness.

‘Without the back-up and assistance of these charities, we would not have been able to cope,’ she said. ‘It’s often not until your own hour of need that you realise just how important it is to have their support, which is funded solely by donations.’

Roz is not a fan of straight lines, so all the paths and beds in her garden are curvy and undulatingRoz is not a fan of straight lines, so all the paths and beds in her garden are curvy and undulating

Dozens of gardens are part of the NGS fundraising family. Many are small, private gardens, like Ellerker House, but there are plenty of big boys to choose from too, like Parcevall Hall in Skipton, Newby Hall in Ripon, Scampston Hall near Malton and Burton Agnes Hall near Driffield.

Since its foundation in 1927, the scheme has donated more than £45m to its nominated beneficiaries; £23 of which has been donated in the last ten years. It specialises in giving to nursing and caring causes and is one of the most significant charitable funders in this sector in the UK. Even considering the size of its largest and best known beneficiaries, Macmillan and Marie Curie, the continuity of the NGS’s annual donations means that it is currently the largest individual funder in the history of both charities.

And it’s all thanks to people like Roz. When she moved in to Ellerker House 26 years ago, the garden was a dark, dingy, overgrown mass of trees. Now it stretches to five beautiful acres, comprising a lake surrounded by a stumpery; a woodland pathway planted with a plethora of spring bulbs, alpines and hellebores; colour-themed herbaceous borders; several formal lawns; a series of old and unusual trees; and lots of secluded seating for those who want to grab five minutes’ peace to relax and enjoy the stunning views.

If the weather’s good, Roz and her family have been known to serve tea and cake to upwards of 300 visitors during their NGS open days. They also cater for up to 30 private group visits a year on top of the endless hours needed every week to keep the garden in tip-top shape. But it’s worth all the effort.

‘It’s such a pleasure to share the garden with like-minded people,’ said Roz. ‘I love to visit other gardens and, whenever I get the chance, I always come back inspired by something I’ve seen, whether it’s a planting combination, colour theme or design.

‘No matter how full the garden feels, I can always find a corner for something new.’

Ellerker House garden is open on Sunday April 9th from 10am to 5pm. Admission is £5 (children free). Coaches are welcome and there’s plenty of parking. For details, visit ellerkerhouse.weebly.com

Digging deeper

:: The National Gardens Scheme was founded by the Queen’s Nursing Institute in 1927. People were asked to open their gardens for ‘a shilling a head’, with 609 gardens raising more than £8,000 in the launch year.

:: By 1931, a network of volunteer charity organisers had been set up and more than 1,000 private gardens were open.

:: It became an independent charity in 1980 and, in 2005, was made a charitable company. It is governed by a council of trustees and managed by a chief executive leading a small team of employed staff.

:: The NGS has a rare and simple fundraising and grant-making model. Funds are raised annually by visitors paying to attend open gardens and to enjoy home-made teas or buying plants. The totals raised dictate the amounts that are donated annually.

:: The scheme aims to donate 80p of every £1 raised to the annual beneficiaries. In the great majority of cases, however, the garden owners donate 100 per cent of the total raised.

:: The NGS has a number of famous supporters. Prince Charles is the patron, Mary Berry the president, and Emma Bridgewater is an official ambassador.

April open days

Sunday April 2nd, noon-4pm, Goldsborough Hall, near Knaresborough

Sunday April 9th, 10am-5pm, Ellerker House, Everingham, near Pocklington

Thursday April 13th + 20th, 11am-3pm, Hotham Hall, Hotham

Saturday April 22nd, 10.30am-1.30pm, Low Westwood Garden, Golcar, Huddersfield

Sunday April 23rd, 1.30-5pm, The Circles Garden, Midgley, near Wakefield

Sunday April 30th, 11am-3pm, Highfield Cottage, Driffield

:: For full details of the National Garden Scheme, visit ngs.org.uk

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