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Open Gardens: Top places to see bulbs and blossom

Brighter forecasts, in terms of both weather and Covid restrictions, means the National Garden Scheme can return this month. Some of Cambridgeshire’s prettiest plots are opening to visitors, as Alice Ryan reports

From parkland adrift with golden daffodils to cottage gardens clouded with cherry blossom, the National Garden Scheme in Cambridgeshire is showcasing spring at its most glorious this year. Across the county, plots are opening their garden gates this month via the scheme, which famously raises millions for nursing and caring causes.

On April 4, Soham’s Netherhall Manor will open, 2pm to 5pm. Described as ‘touched with antiquity’ in the Good Gardens Guide, it’s home to a number of one-of-a-kind collections, with the daffodils, old primroses and rare hyacinths - including Netherhall Blush, named for the manor - all at their best at this time of year. The garden will open on May 7, to showcase the resident tulip collection, and on August 1 and 8, for pelargoniums, heliotropes and dahlias. Admission is £3.

On April 18, 2pm to 5pm, one of the National Garden Scheme’s longest standing participants, Docwra’s Manor, Shepreth, will open. Docwra’s first took part in the scheme almost 60 years ago and features a series of enclosed garden ‘rooms’ spanning two and a half acres and filled with choice plants, including tulips and Judas trees, many of which shine in mid-spring. Entry costs £5.

In the west of the county, blossom takes centre stage at Staploe Gardens near St. Neots, open on April 25, 1pm to 5pm, the date chosen to coincide with a selection of cherries and other trees reaching their floriferous peak. Two gardens will open their gates: Old Farm Cottage and Falling Water House. Staploe Gardens will also open on June 5 and 6 and October 17, with tickets to each opening priced £5.

The month is rounded off with the start of a six-week run of open days at 28 Houghton Road, St Ives, known as ‘acer heaven’. With more than 60 acers to be seen, their foliage all shapes and shades, the plot is designed with an atmosphere of leafy tranquillity uppermost in mind. This garden’s initial openings will be on April 29 and 30, with many more dates scheduled between then and mid-June - the full list can be found on the NGS website. Entry costs £3.50.

“These are wonderful opportunities to exercise and enjoy the outdoors for an hour or so in some beautiful places,” says Jenny Marks, NGS County Organiser for Cambridgeshire. “However, it is extremely important that anyone considering visiting adheres to the coronavirus regulations. These visits are really for people living close to the gardens, but those people are in for a real treat if they have a chance to visit.”

Proceeds go to the National Garden Scheme’s chosen charities, with more than £60 million raised since it was founded in 1927. To manage numbers and ensure safe distancing, all visits must be pre-booked at ngs.org.uk. Visitors are reminded of the importance of following Government regulations when visiting, including the need to stay local.

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