Open gardens champion: Harriet Boileau

PUBLISHED: 12:07 27 April 2016 | UPDATED: 12:07 27 April 2016


As Cicero said: ‘If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.’

No one knows that truism better than Harriet Boileau: she is as passionate about her own garden as she is about yours.

The 70-year-old was, until January, the Dorset organiser for the National Gardens Scheme (NGS): an open-garden powerhouse that has raised more than £45million for a raft of charities, including Marie Curie and Macmillan. The NGS is their single largest donor.

In her 12-year tenure, Harriet helped drum up more than £1million in Dorset alone from the 80-or-so affiliated gardens that are open to the public. And it’s such a simple but powerful idea: show off your garden, raise money.

She says: “The NGS is a huge team effort and a real force for good. Gardeners love opening up their gardens and visitors love coming. And it’s a cheap day out - our most expensive property is just £5. But 80p in every pound goes straight to a good cause.”

Harriet’s vast 70-year-old family farm - for years, a stalwart of the scheme - is now run by her son. She and her 78-year-old husband Raymond downsized to a farmhouse on the Rampisham estate five years ago.

And while she no longer opens up her own garden, the retired interior designer remains utterly committed to her beloved hellebores.

“My mind completely clears when I’m out there: the joy of watching something grow, or the crushing disappointment when a plant doesn’t like you.”

So what are her tips this April?

“Get on top of the weeds,” she says firmly. “Be utterly ruthless. Stake your herbaceous beds. And enjoy every second of it.”


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