Who we are and what we do

Who we are and what we do

The National Garden Scheme is the most significant charitable funder of nursing charities in the country, donating £55 million so far. We help our garden owners open their beautiful gardens to the public, sharing their passion and raising impressive amounts of money through entry fees, teas and slices of cake.

Our beneficiary charities are: The Queen’s Nursing Institute, Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Carers Trust, Hospice UK, Perennial, Parkinson’s UK and other guest charities.

Who we are and what we do

What we do

Around  3,700 gardens open each year for the National Garden Scheme, all of our gardens can be found on our website or in our Garden Visitor’s Handbook, published annually. Click here to search our gardens.

Our history

The National Garden Scheme has a rich and interesting history that is closely connected with nursing in the UK.


William Rathbone, a Liverpool merchant, employed a nurse to care for his wife at home. After his wife’s death, Rathbone kept the nurse on to help poor people in the neighbourhood. Later, Rathbone raised funds for the recruitment, training and employment of nurses to go into the deprived areas of the city.


The organisation decided to raise a special fund in memory of their patron, Queen Alexandra, who had recently died. The fund would pay for training and would also support nurses who were retiring. A council member, Miss Elsie Wagg, came up with the idea of raising money for charity through the nation’s obsession with gardening, by asking people to open their gardens to visitors and charging a modest entry fee that would be donated.

Who we are and what we do


The National Garden Scheme was founded. Individuals were asked to open up their gardens for 'a shilling a head'. In the first year 609 gardens raised over £8,000. A year later, the district nursing organisation became officially named the Queen’s Nursing Institute.

Who we are and what we do


By now a network of volunteer County Organisers had been set up and over 1,000 private gardens were open.

Who we are and what we do


Country Life magazine publishes an illustrated guide - costing one shilling - to 1,079 gardens open for charity, with a green cover and an introduction by its editor, Christopher Hussey.


After the Second World War, the National Health Service took on the District Nursing Service, but money was still needed to care for retired nurses and invest in training. The National Garden Scheme offered to donate funding to the National Trust to restore and preserve important gardens. In return, the National Trust opened many of its most prestigious gardens for the National Garden Scheme.

Who we are and what we do


1,234 gardens open, raising almost £52,000.

Who we are and what we do


Macmillan Cancer Support joined the list of beneficiary charities.

Who we are and what we do


Marie Curie (formerly Marie Curie Cancer Care), Help the Hospices and Crossroads (now Carers Trust) also became beneficiary charities.

Who we are and what we do


Parkinson's UK joins as a 'guest charity' of the National Garden Scheme, they go on to become a permanent beneficiary.

Who we are and what we do


In honour of Frogmore gardens opening for 70 years for the National Garden Scheme, 70 Queen's Nurses attend the open day in June.

Who we are and what we do


Our 90th Anniversary. We celebrated with our biggest ever donation amount of £3 million to our beneficiary charities. Including to a new Gardens and Health beneficiary, which for 2017 was The National Autistic Society.

Your perfect garden awaits...

We have around 3,700 breathtaking private gardens opening for charity – take a look below to find yourself a fantastic day out.