Three of the city's 'garden rooms' to open to the public this weekend

Three gardens in the Golden Triangle of Norwich will open to the public this weekend as part of the National Garden Scheme

Three gardens in the Golden Triangle of Norwich will open to the public this weekend as part of the National Garden Scheme - Credit: Getty Images/Simon Smith

This Sunday, June 12, three gardens on Unthank Road will open up to the public as part of the National Garden Scheme.

Jackie Floyd opened her garden at Coach House Court as a ‘pop-up’ last year and says she’s really looking forward to this year’s event. From 11am-5pm, visitors will be able to visit her garden as well as two others within walking distance – 383 and 414 Unthank Road – for just £8. “It’s not every day that I can turn an activity I love into a fundraiser for good causes,” she says. 

Jackie describes her space as a small city garden framed by deciduous trees, but when she first moved in, she says it was a jungle. 

“It was one of the first tasks for improvement. I love being outdoors and see the garden as another, and my favourite, ‘room’”. 

Jackie’s love of gardening began with her parents, she says. “They had a large garden and were both keen on gardening. My father grew the vegetables and fruit, and my mother loved flowers.” Nowadays, Jackie’s own husband grows fruit and vegetables at a nearby allotment, and they’ve just enjoyed a bounty of fresh asparagus and strawberries. 

Close up of homegrown strawberries ripening in the sun

Jackie Floyd, who will open up her garden as part of the NGS this Sunday, says she and her husband have just enjoyed a fresh bounty of strawberries from a nearby allotment - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

To gain ideas, Jackie says she watches television programmes like Gardeners’ World and enjoys days out to National Trust properties, as well as other NGS gardens. She is, she says, constantly learning – and the garden constantly evolving. “That’s what makes gardening so interesting!” she says. “No two seasons are the same.” 

Creating and maintaining an attractive outdoor space – which is also environmentally friendly – can be challenging, particularly with late frosts and a lack of rainfall. “The soil here is very free-draining and quickly dries out,” she says, “so it’s important to regularly enrich the soil. As the garden is framed by tall trees, there is a significant area of dry shade – the worst! I’m constantly seeking plants that would be happy in those places.” 

Due to its size, her garden has very few annual plants, although Jackie says she tries to maintain interest year-round. She has a mix of evergreen perennials and shrubs for winter and, in the warmer months, she chooses perennials which flower at different times. “Spring bulbs, then early-flowering clematis, capanulas, then summer roses and hydrangeas – the list is too long!” 

A close up view of Hydrangea (Hortensia) with wonderful purple, blue and pink flowers

To add colour to her garden Jackie says she plants perennials which flower at different times of year - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

This year, the garden has also become home to a newly-dug nature pond – although she says it’s very much a learning curve. “The new water irises and water forget-me-nots are in flower, and I can’t wait for the lily to bloom. Most exciting of all, a young frog has already taken residence, causing much amusement for our teenage grandchildren!” 

Sarah Scott also has a pond in her “long but narrow” garden, a 1930s infill on Unthank Road. She says the shape of the garden falls, naturally, to create “rooms”, with a lawn and seating area near the house, a sunken pond in the middle – complete with small waterfalls, created during lockdown – and a veg patch at the far end. 

Growing produce is important to Sarah and her husband, Peter. “We enjoy growing our own fruit and veg primarily because it tastes so much better than anything shop-bought. It is so convenient to just pop into the garden and pick salad or beans for dinner. I don’t use pesticides so we know what we’re eating – and there are no air miles involved!” 

Fruit trees and greenhouse in the garden of 414 Unthank Road which will open to the public as part of NGS on June 12 2022

A sneak peek inside the garden at 414 Unthank Road which will open to the public this Sunday - Credit: Simon Smith

Sarah, who left her job in admin and retrained in horticulture some years ago, says she was inspired by Charles Dowding to adopt the ‘No Dig’ method. “No Dig is a method for growing vegetables whereby the soil is disturbed as little as possible,” she explains. “Instead of double or triple digging in the traditional way, I just cover the beds in a layer of compost each autumn and plant into the compost the following spring.” 

Because the soil’s natural structure isn’t damaged, the vegetable yields are much better, she says – and it needs far less weeding.

Sarah’s experience with the No Dig method has inspired fellow gardener and neighbour Carrie Phoenix, who says it involves no back-breaking digging, very little weeding and produces a better yield. 

She has lived in her Edwardian house on Unthank Road since the late 1980s and has a long and narrow garden, like Sarah, which is divided into three: there is a formal lawn, herbaceous beds and small trees, and a grassy area with a summer house. 

A table top covered in potted seedlings growing in reusable plastic pots and coir, placed in recycle

Carrie says she grows most of her vegetables from seed and particularly likes pottering about in the greenhouse - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Carrie says she grows most of her vegetables from seed, mainly in her greenhouse. “I love the greenhouse,” she says. “Being able to hide away, whatever the weather, pottering about sowing seeds. Like Sarah, I have always loved watching seeds germinate and appear, particularly when you’ve given up hope!”

This year, Carrie says she will be eating their homegrown fruit for the first time, too.  

While Jackie’s smaller garden has meant struggles with its shade and size, Sarah and Carrie say that one of their challenges, across each of their gardens, has been battling pests and disease, including honey fungus and ground elder, which are both common in the neighbourhood. 

All three gardeners say they are looking forward to the weekend’s event and a chance to share their garden – and advice – with others. 

“I was a bit apprehensive when it was first suggested because I have visited lots of NGS gardens and wasn’t confident that ours would measure up,” says Sarah. “However, opening as part of a group eases the anxiety, and I am really looking forward to welcoming visitors on Sunday. I’m sure lots of keen gardeners will come, so there will be a chance to exchange information and advice with them.” 

Unthank Road Gardens will be open from 11am-5pm on Sunday, June 12. Entry to all three is £8 per adult (children go free) and homemade teas will be served at No 383. For more information, visit ngs.org.uk