Scotland's Gardens, a registered charity, was created in 1931 in order to facilitate the opening of private gardens to the public as a means of raising money to support the training and pensions of the Queen's Nurses, generally known as District Nurses. Four years earlier The National Gardens Scheme had been founded in England for the same purpose.
The organisation was an instant success owing to the energy and commitment of the first Trustee Committee chaired by the Countess of Minto and supported keenly by HRH The Duchess of York and Violet, Countess of Mar and Kellie. The Guidebook in 1932 listed over 500 gardens, mostly large country house gardens, that were opening in return for a "voluntary contribution". £5,400, equivalent to £242,800 today, was raised and as a result the district nurses' pension of £20.00 was doubled.
During the war years the gardens continued to open although the number dropped down to 300 or so. Proceeds however actually increased and in true British spirit garden owners tried to ignore the weeds and dug for victory by growing vegetables for sale in the flower beds. Teas continued to be served on the lawns...without sugar. Such was the esteem in which garden openings were held that extra petrol was allowed for special buses to bring visitors from the mines and factories and owners were issued with application forms for sufficient petrol to mow the lawns once a month.
Despite the neglect that most gardens suffered during the war years many continued to open for Scotland's Gardens and the numbers gradually increased.
With the creation of the National Health Scheme in 1948 the needs of the Queen's Nurses for funding was reduced and in 1952 it was decided that The Gardens Fund of The National Trust for Scotland, founded in the same year as Scotland's Gardens, should be adopted as a second beneficiary.
In 1961 an important decision was taken to allow the garden owners, if they chose, to allocate 40% of the gross takings from an opening to a registered charity of their choice. At the same time it was agreed to make small annual donations to The Royal Gardeners' Benevolent Fund and The Royal Gardeners' Orphan Fund, now Perennial.
In 1982 Scotland's Gardens won the British Tourist Authority's award for "Outstanding Contribution to Tourism".
Scotland's Gardens continues to facilitate the opening of gardens throughout Scotland with private gardens, not usually open to the public, still of paramount importance.
Although many glorious country house gardens continue to participate in the programme, these are now joined by town and village gardens which have proved very popular amongst our visitors. Small gardens are encouraged to open as groups and often villages open with up to twenty five gardens.
What remains of fundamental importance is that each garden must have some horticultural interest and be of a certain standard.
In addition to the traditional, indeed renowned, home made teas that are available at the garden openings, plant and produce stalls, musical entertainment, quizzes/games for children and many other activities are frequently on hand.
Some 200 charities, both large and small, benefit annually from the 40% gross of the takings that are donated to the charities chosen by the garden owners whilst 60% net continues to be given to Scotland's Gardens' beneficiaries.
In 2008 Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres was appointed as a third major beneficiary. The Queen's Nursing Institute Scotland continues to support community and primary care nursing whilst The Gardens Fund of the National Trust for Scotland undertakes vital projects in order to maintain their collection of important gardens. The smaller beneficiary, Perennial plays a major role in helping horticultural workers and their families who have fallen on bad times.
In 2011 a major re-branding exercise took place to help ensure that the organisation would remain relevant to audiences of the 21st century. This involved the change of name from Scotland's Gardens Scheme to Scotland's Gardens and a revitalisation of all marketing materials.
Mr David Mitchell (Chairman)
After thirty years at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, mostly as a curator, David recently retired to become an Honorary Research Associate at the RBGE.
He is currently Director of the Muddy Feet Consultancy, an environmental education company which he set to focus on project development, landscape assessment, interpretation and exhibitions. During the past thirty years he has worked closely with many organisations and charities including: the Glasgow Garden Festival, the World Orchid Congress, the National Archives of Scotland, The National Galleries of Scotland, the Royal Collections Trust, the National Trust for Scotland and the Royal Zoological Society for Scotland.
A Fellow of the Charted Institute of Horticulture and the Royal Geographical Society, he is respected lecturer and tour leader leading groups for travel companies and Ivy League Universities around the globe. This is in addition to his long career as broadcaster with the BBC, STV, Channel Four and Radio Scotland.
Currently David is also a Trustee of Pitlochry Festival Theatre, the Hidden Garden-Glasgow and Gardening Scotland; he is also a former Vice President of the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society and Member of the Council for the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.
Peter was born in Edinburgh and was educated at the Royal High School and Heriot Watt University, after which he qualified as a CA in 1974. Apart from a 2 year spell in Australia, his entire professional life has been spent in Edinburgh, being a partner in an independent firm of CA’s advising a wide range of individuals, businesses and charities in accounting, tax and audit matters. He had a particular interest in charities and since he retired in 2010, has become a trustee with various charities. Having visited many of the amazing gardens opened on behalf of the charity over the past 40 years, he was delighted to become Honorary Treasurer of Scotland’s Gardens in 2011. He is married with two grown up children and lives in Edinburgh.
Mr Richard Burns
Richard Burns (68) is a retired investment manager. He was a partner in Baillie Gifford & Co for nearly 30 years before retiring in 2006 and U.S. chairman of three investment trust companies, as well as being a trustee of a number of charities.
Mrs Charlotte Hunt
Charlotte was born in Scotland but concluded her education in England. She and her brothers were brought up visiting gardens in the North of Scotland as their Mother was a district organiser for Scotland’s Gardens for many years. Charlotte followed in her footsteps becoming an area organiser in Stirlingshire following her marriage. She went on to become Chairman of SG for five years from 2002.
She has been involved in the family farm for most of her life and has served/serves on a wide variety of charitable committees. Gardening is her favourite pastime and best form of relaxation.
Mrs Minette Struthers
Born in Oxford, grew up in rural South Devon, worked in London and abroad for United Nations, married a serving Naval officer, and eventually came ’home’ to live in Argyll on the family estate at Ardmaddy. Inheriting a very large walled garden, ‘emptied’ by the outgoing tenant in the late ‘70s who grew and hybridised rhododendrons, Minette began gardening… This became a fairly full time job and passion, though it had to be fitted in around starting a holiday cottage letting business, raising 3 boys, sheep farming and all the other numerous commitments of a west coast estate.
After opening the garden 2 days a week under SG from 1986, she became the District Organiser and Treasurer for Argyll later to become a Trustee and join the Management Committee. She is a member of the RHS, IDS, Scottish Rhododendron Society, a committee member of the Garden Society of Scotland and a member of various other horticultural organisations. Ardmaddy Castle garden continues to be open all year with a range of shrubs, herbaceous plants, vegetables and fruit for sale. A substantial donation is given to Scotland’s Gardens each year.
Mr Max Ward
Formerly a partner of Baillie Gifford & Co. Now Managing Director of The Independent Investment Trust plc. Married with four children. Lives at Stobshiel House, which has opened under Scotland’s Gardens.