From little acorns …

Since 1931, Scotland’s Garden Scheme has been raising money for charities – big and small – through opening gardens of horticultural interest across Scotland.   Many of the gardens are privately owned and would otherwise be inaccessible to the garden-loving public – so the project is a real winner for those gree-fingered enthusiasts as well as those who just love to walk and gaze at the work of gardeners across the country.

We were delighted to attend their recent Annual Conference and learn more about how this amazing scheme helps to support so many charities across Scotland …

When a Garden is open for charity in the scheme, 60% of the funds raised goes to the charities of the garden owner’s choice: very often, these are either local charities to the given garden or to a charity that might be close to the owner’s heart. The balance – 40% of entry fees – is shared between Scotland’s Gardens Scheme’s four nominated charities …

  • Maggies Centres
  • The Queens Nursing Institute Scotland
  • The Gardens Fund of the National Trust of Scotland
  • Perennial

At the Conference, we heard that in 2017, there had been a general increase in gate takings by over £60,000 and a total of £142,000 had been raised for the garden owners’ chosen charities.  Each of the nominated charities then received an incredible £42,000. Here is how it is being used:

Queens Nursing Institute Scotland

This charity is the very reason that the scheme exists as – back in 1931 – it was set up to help support the Queen’s Nurses, before the creation of the National Health Service. The Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland exists to promote excellence in community nursing to improve the health and well-being of the people of Scotland.  And thanks to money raised by SGS in 2017, they have been able to reintroduce Queen’s Nurses to Scotland.  A Queen’s Nurse is somebody who is a community-based registered nurse, midwife or health visitor who has a proven expertise and leadership skills.

The 20 candidates selected in 2017 for the first cohort work in communities across Scotland represent a wonderfully diverse range of clinical specialities.  They received their Queen’s Nurse title at an awards dinner in December  having completed the nine month development programme.

Clare Cable, CEO spoke of some of the projects that the Queen’s Nurses are leading in Scotland. These include:

  • District Nurse, Ally Lister, who is the driving force behind the Speyside Leg Club – a community run initiative bringing specialist nursing care to people living with debilitating leg problems.
  • In Dundee, Rachel McReady is a Parish Nurse based at Steeple Church and providing a service for people experiencing homelessness, poverty and a wide range of problems.
  • Ian Hall is the lone healthcare professional resident on the island of Shapinsay in Orkney and is responsible for overseeing the healt of the island’s 300 people from young to old.  He’s developed a network of island nurses across Orkney to share best practice and support one another.

For more information on other Queen’s Nurses, visit the website and see how the money is being spent in your own local area.

The Gardens Fund for the National Trust of Scotland

Ann Steele, Head of Heritage Gardening Policy at NTS, told us how that they use the donation from the SGS to improve the Gardens that participate in the Open Garden scheme when otherwise the NTS would not have the budget.

Last year, money went to Hill House and they were able to create a new bird pond.  The Hill of Tarvit were able to buy a new brush & hedge cutter which is hand-held but battery run – which is better for the environment, is safer and more effecient for the operator and because it is quieter, it creates a better visitor experience.   The new leaf collector that Castle Fraser bought has reduced this autumn task by 200 hours liberating up more time to be spent on other aspects of the Garden.  These initiatives demonstrate how some of the money was spent.  Ann also spoke of how the National Trust of Scotland has identified a clear priority to develop a training programme/scheme for maintaining and developing Heritage Gardens.


This is the charity for Horticulturalists.   They are the UK’s only charity dedicated to helping people who work in horticulture when times get tough –  although Gardening/Horticulture is often a highly skilled job, it is often low paid.   Horticulturalists can be only one illness/injury away from disaster.  Perennial provides free and confidential advice, support and financial assistance to people of all ages working in, or retired from horticulture.   The money that has been raised by the SGS scheme in 2017 will fund 50% of running the charity which is fantastic.

Maggie’s Centres

From the start, Maggie’s Centres have been based in hospital grounds – and the Gardens are often seen as an oasis.  The Gardens help inspire and can actually help somebody to come through the doors of the Centre.  There’s a deep understanding that the Gardens also can be a therapeutic space – just as much as the inside of the centre. Since 2008, a fantastic £250,000 has been awarded to Maggies from SGS and this has funded 1,2000 visits to Maggie’s.  The donation made from 2017 will pay for another 1,800 people to benefit from Maggie’s care and services.

For more information, please follow any of the links shared in the Blog – or visit the Scotland’s Garden Scheme website where you will find more on their gardens, new initiatives for 2018, their impact and opportunities to get involved.

Thanks for reading – and if you’ve ever visited one of the Scotland’s garden Scheme gardens –
an extra special thank you for your contribution to such great work.