Wellbeing Benefits of visiting National Garden Scheme gardens in winter: List of Open Gardens

New research published by leading garden charity the National Garden Scheme, confirms the important health benefits that visiting a garden in the darkest days of winter can provide.

Visits to our snowdrop and spring flower gardens are always a popular start to the garden visiting season and this latest research gives us more of an insight into why that is,” says National Garden Scheme chief executive, George Plumptre. “Existing research generally links the health benefits of garden visiting to the summer months when most gardens are at their abundant best. But our new research highlights the benefits of visiting in winter and, as well as comparing those to visiting in summer, shows how a winter visit helps combat the particular seasonal challenges that we all face at that time of year”.

The report also examines the effect of nature on wellbeing for visitors during the winter.

Key findings include:

  • Wellbeing significantly improved after visiting the gardens in winter. Visitors felt more relaxed, happy and excited in the gardens, and less stressed, sad and bored.
  • The more time visitors spent in the winter gardens, the higher their wellbeing.
  • The level of wellbeing was similarly high for visitors in winter and summer, suggesting that visiting gardens during either season is likely to carry benefits. But the average level of wellbeing before entering the gardens in winter was lower than in summer, meaning that those visiting in winter showed the greatest increase in wellbeing.
  • The more nature visitors observed in the gardens, such as birds, insects, and water, the higher their wellbeing.

Visitors described, in their own words, a number of positive feelings while visiting the winter gardens. They felt relaxed and calm, happy and uplifted, interested and inspired, appreciative of the gardens, immersed and at one with nature – and hopeful for spring.

Visitors particularly liked the plants and flowers that could be found in the gardens during winter: almost half of all visitors mentioned liking the snowdrops, 29.2% appreciated the emergence of spring growth, and 28.2% the scent of flowers like Daphne. A third of respondents also appreciated being able to see the structure, design and views of and from the garden, given the lower amount of foliage at that time of year.

Our research suggests that visiting a garden in winter can be just as beneficial as visiting in summer, as long as you wrap up warm,” says report author, Dr Emma White. “This is an important finding, as we may notice ourselves getting out in to gardens less during a time which many consider to be dormant. But winter gardens can be full of life and interest. Our survey respondents felt that winter is the perfect time to observe the emergence of new growth and experience the unique joy of spring flowering bulbs. It is a great time to appreciate the structure of a well-designed garden, and respondents noticed lots of wildlife and beneficial natural features. So, whatever the season, we should all try to get out into gardens more, observe the plants and nature around us, and feel the benefits.”

The National Garden Scheme has been championing the health benefits of garden visits since it first opened 609 garden gates in 1927. Now opening over 3,500 gardens a year we continue to advocate the improvement to wellbeing that a visit to a garden can generate. In 2016, we commissioned the King’s Fund to produce a report on the topic and began an annual funding programme to support gardens and health-related projects run by charities. A year later we launched our annual Gardens & Health programme to continue raising awareness of the impact gardens and gardening can have on everyone’s physical and mental health. This latest report builds on that work and illustrates what many gardeners and garden visitors know, that being in a garden really is good for you”, adds George Plumptre.

The report “The wellbeing benefits of visiting National Garden Scheme gardens in winter” by Environmental Psychologist, Dr Emma White – can be found online here:

West Sussex National Garden Scheme Gardens

You can visit a wealth of beautiful National Garden Scheme West Sussex gardens over the next few months, including Sandhill Farm House, one of the gardens that took part in the study.

Sunday 11th February, Sunday 28th April – Sandhill Farm House Rogate GU31 5HU

Thursday 15th February – Highdown Gardens Worthing BN12 6FB

Every Thursday from 8th February, Monday 1st April – The Old Vicarage Washington RH20 4AS

Sunday 18th February, Sunday 17th March, Sunday 21st April – Manor of Dean Petworth GU28 9AP

Sunday 17th March – Denmans Garden Fontwell BN18 0SU

Saturday 23rd March and Sunday 24th March – Downs Place South Harting GU31 5P

Friday 29th March – Judy’s Cottage Garden Worthing BN13 2AE

Thursday 29th February and Tuesday 5th March – Tour of Crossland Flower Nursery Walberton BN18 0AX

Tuesday 9th April – Bignor Park Pulborough RH20 1HG

Saturday 13th April – Rymans Appledram Lane South Apuldram Chichester PO20 7EG

Saturday 20th April, Tuesday 23rd April – Peelers Retreat 70 Ford Road Arundel BN18 9EX

Sunday 21st April – Newtimber Place Newtimber BN6 9BU

Wednesday 24th April, Wednesday 1st May – Fittleworth House Bedham Lane Fittleworth Pulborough RH20 1JH

Saturday 27th April – Warnham Park Robin Hood Lane Warnham Horsham RH12 3RP

Details of all these gardens can be found on the National Garden Scheme Website https://ngs.org.uk: via FIND A GARDEN –> Find a garden.

About the National Garden Scheme
The National Garden Scheme gives visitors unique access to over 3,500 exceptional private gardens in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands, and raises impressive amounts of money for some of the UK’s best-loved nursing and health charities through admissions, teas and cake.

Thanks to the generosity of garden owners, volunteers and visitors we have donated more than £70 million to our beneficiary charities, and in 2023 made donations of over £3.4 million. Founded in 1927 to support district nurses, we are now the most significant charitable funder of nursing in the UK and our beneficiaries include Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Hospice UK and The Queen’s Nursing Institute.

The National Garden Scheme doesn’t just open beautiful gardens for charity – we are passionate about the physical and mental health benefits of gardens too. We fund projects which promote gardens and gardening as therapy, and in 2017, we launched our annual Gardens and Health Week to raise awareness of the topic. Our funding also supports the training of gardeners and offers respite to horticultural workers who have fallen on difficult times.

To learn more about the work of the National Garden Scheme, discover your perfect garden or find out how to open your own garden for the scheme, visit ngs.org.uk, download the National Garden Scheme app or purchase the National Garden Scheme’s Garden Visitor’s Handbook, which is published annually and available via ngs.org.uk/shop and at all good book retailers.
For more see www.ngs.org.uk

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