The Yellow Book


I met a French woman at a party earlier in the year. She was married to an English chap and said that she’d heard that in Dorset (where her husband comes from) people open their gardens to the public – an idea she found amazing. I explained that it doesn’t just happen in Dorset but throughout the whole country (and Scotland too).

We Brits are pretty reserved on the whole, so opening our gardens to complete strangers is a pretty un-British thing to do. And yet thousands of people do just that for the National Gardens Scheme every year, and are listed in the Yellow Book. Many garden owners provide tea and cake and seating, so you can basically have an afternoon out in someone else’s garden. All of the money raised goes to charity.

I went to my first Yellow Book garden of the year, in Highbury, north London, last night. I haven’t done it justice in this pic, but the layout was clever and did what all good designs should: it didn’t reveal the whole garden at once.

What was essentially a big square at the back of the house had been cleverly transformed into something altogether more intriguing thanks to a sweeping semi circle of planting surrounding the seating area and a path around the garden behind it. It had the mark of a professional and sure enough, it was designed by the owner’s sister when she was training to be a landscape architect.

The lamps in the trees were due to be lit as night fell. Needless to say, instead of a balmy, romantic midsummer evening, it was chilly and damp. But there was a good turnout anyway and wine on offer too.

I’d love to know if any other countries have an equivalent of the National Gardens Scheme and Yellow Book. Does anyone happen to know?

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