A new friend walked round ‘Charnwood’ with me in March and kindly commented on how she appreciated the naturalistic style of planting; ‘a woodland garden’ was her description. Those of you who read this column regularly will know that this is a big compliment – I am not in the ‘neat’ or ‘formal’ garden fan club. That’s not to say that, if you like it neat, I am right and you are wrong; one of the fun things about gardening is that we all do it in different ways. Not all of us are verging on being obsessive about plants like me; most of you are much better balanced human beings. The trick is to combine your favourite plants in an overall scheme that works for you, your family and your pets. Dogs and cats in my experience aren’t fab gardeners. We have a large brown dog who, however many times I tell him, has no regard for the fact that ‘Charnwood’ has been in the NGS for 4 years in the past and even on East Midlands Today! Early last month we had a lovely long weekend on the east coast when we managed to fit in a visit to Beth Chatto’s garden near to Colchester. If you share my love of woodland gardens, go and see it, it is absolutely wonderful. She also has a dry, gravel garden where bright, acid green euphorbias were looking lovely next to the brightly coloured spring bulbs. But it is the woodland that draws me in. In early April it is quite understated, but still very beautiful. Big, mature trees are underplanted with smaller trees and shrubs including dogwoods, Corylopsis, flowering currant in pink and white, holly and Amalanchier. Generous drifts of bulbs and herbaceous perennials are lower still – wood anenomes, a delightful dwarf daffodil N.Minor, pulmonaria, primroses and dog tooth violets (pictured). I could go on, but you get the idea. I could have stayed there all day; it was so peaceful and gorgeous. There is an on line nursery, I can recommend www.bethchatto.co.uk and the plants often unusual and of excellent quality. One I had not come across before ‘Mathiasella bupleuroides ‘Green Dream’ has now taken up residence in my garden. Described as ‘looking a bit like a tall green hellebore, flowers April to June that gradually turn pink, Elegant’. Who could resist?! Garden visiting is surely one of the best ways to spend a couple of hours. The National Gardens Scheme is a charity set up to enable garden owners to open their gardens. There is a robust selection process so you can be pretty sure of a good experience. You can see what is open in your area via the website www.ngs.org.uk or you can pick up the local NGS brochures in garden centres, or buy the whole book covering the whole country in bookshops. A new one opening locally this year is Rose Cottage at 81 Nottingham Road Keyworth. The description begins: ‘Small cottage garden with informal planting and a private enclosed feel. A pebble mosaic, water feature with a Victorian pump, and original brick well all add unique interest…’ Open on the afternoon of 31 May with another garden close by, it sounds well worth a visit. Enjoy!