Garden greetings

The garden of Greenstone Mews, WansteadThe garden of Greenstone Mews, Wanstead

Wanstead resident Teresa Farnham is the local area organiser for the National Garden Scheme, which encourages people across the country to open their gardens and welcome in the public for charity.

Now is the time of year when the owners of gardens opening for the National Garden Scheme realise they will never have enough time for planting, pruning, feeding and propagating – all the jobs that gardeners enjoy but usually do at their leisure – before their open day.

The gardens range from the small (such as mine on Greenstone Mews in Wanstead) to the large (such as Latimer Road in Forest Gate, where the owner has created a beautiful oasis in what was a derelict builders' yard area at the end of her garden). We all agree there is never enough time before our open days. I am always very grateful that the owners allow the public to visit their personal patch. New openers for the NGS usually ask me, with trepidation, "Will anybody come?" Yes, is the answer! Some visitors make a habit of visiting 'new' gardens every season and travel up and down the country.

There is always something that owners are not happy with – this year my strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) is showing signs of losing a big branch. I love this evergreen tree. A relict of the Ice Age, this species was left behind in the retreat of glaciers in the south-west of France and Ireland. I would encourage anyone to plant it in a small garden; the peeling bark is attractive and the bell-shaped flowers attract bees. Plant a small shrub and watch it grow, but give it room if you want it to be a feature.

And my palm tree is about to flower, but I think visitors will have to look at a photo as unfortunately, it grows above the pond and the pollen drops down – the fish think it is food – so I have to cut the blooms off as soon as they show. That is the price of growing a tropical plant in a small place.

Open gardens can encourage timid gardeners to grow something new or to try adding an unusual feature, such as a miniature railway (Ashurst Drive, Barkingside), a eucalyptus pruned to resemble a mature oak (Goldhaze Close, Woodford Green), unusual fruit trees (Harold Road, Leytonstone), a typical suburban garden with flowers and vegetables with delectable teas and plants for sale (Cheyne Avenue, South Woodford) or beautiful koi carp (Maida Way, Chingford).

Through the generosity of visitors, over £3 million pounds was raised for the NGS in total last year, with £190,000 from London gardens. I am aware that most London gardens are small, but my final plea is to open your garden, maybe together with a neighbour who is willing to provide tea and cake. You could boost NGS funds for charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Hospice UK, Carers Trust, Queen's Nursing Institute and Parkinson's UK.

For more information on the gardens open locally this year, pick up the NGS London guide book from a local library, or visit To contact Teresa, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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