Eagle-eyed garden visitors in search of snowdrops or hellebores may have noticed that the National Garden Scheme has had a face lift. Offically, however, the new brand wasn’t launched until earlier this week at the Royal Festival Hall in London, alongside the announcement of this year’s record donations of £3 million.

National garden scheme launch 2017

Investec sponsor the scheme, hence the zebras awaiting the audience

To top it all, 2017 is the 90th anniversary of the scheme – it must have been quite an occasion. Since its foundation in 1927 the organisation has donated over £50 million to charity and is the most signifanct funder of nursing charities in the UK. If you’d like to see how this year’s donations were distributed you can read about it here.

The new year book

The rebranding was announced to some 3800 garden owners who volunteer to open their gates on behalf of the scheme in the run up to Christmas. The news came in the form of an interesting video presention by our Chief Executive, George Plumptre, and brand consultants from Big Fish. Quite a few changes have been made to freshen up our image and so, we hope, will encourage a wider range of people to visit our gardens. My first glimpse of the 2017 Garden Visitor’s Handbook came earlier this month just as Narcissus pseudonarcissus burst into bloom.

The old and new road signs

Mia, our ever curious cat is always keen to see what’s new in the garden

Last week, our South Gloucestershire County Organisers made their annual rounds to drop off the large pack of publicity material which includes the year book, county pamphlets, posters and signs. Garden owners like me spend time checking that details are correct, but, this year, I was also curious to see how the new look compared with the old. Superimposed upon the new gate logo, in uniquely stylised lettering, is the name ‘National Garden Scheme’ and the word ‘Open’. Significantly, the name has been simplified and the ‘s’ has been dropped in what was ‘Gardens’. The background colour is still yellow but of a richer, warmer hue. Then there’s a raft of playful icons designed to inject personality into the brand, everything from teacups to plant sales ….

New sign for teas 'Fancy a cuppa?'

Ganesha, the god of change and new beginnings presiding over the new sign for teas

Perhaps I shouldn’t mention that albeit ‘trendy’ colloquial contractions like ‘Fancy a Cuppa’ just make me cringe, but, hey ho, they do!

New face of the national garden scheme

The new look of the National Garden Scheme website

Of course, the website has been given the same professional treatment too, and looks to me like a real improvement on what we had before. Let’s face it, in this day and age, website information is probably becoming the main portal for visitors in search of an open garden. In addition, the National Garden Scheme Find a Garden app can be downloaded which saves scrabbling around for a book in the glove compartment of your car.

In celebration of the scheme’s big birthday, there will be a special open garden Anniversary Weekend on 27th – 29th May. Of the 400 gardens that will be opening, 12 originally opened in 1927. Keen photographers might like to check out the competition that will be launched from May 27th, details of which are available here.

Mary Berry in her beautiful garden

© Andrew Crowley, The Telegraph, 13th June, 2015. Mary Berry, the queen of cakes, in her beautiful garden, Penn, which she opened for more than twenty years.

There are some great prizes to be won and, as President of the scheme, the wonderful Mary Berry says “I am looking forward to welcoming the winner to my garden”.

Posters old and new

Posters old (2016 left) and new (2017, right)

Greenfields and Barn House are proud to be opening their gates again this year on Sunday 25th June, as well as by appointment from June to September. The question of how to raise the profile of this marvellous organisation is a good one. Perhaps we shall quiz a few of our garden visitors about this over a cup of tea and slice of lemon drizzle cake?