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Time tends to move slowly in the garden. What’s 85 years in the life of an oak tree? So, normally, there’d be little cause to celebrate what happened in 1927, but with spring finally rousing itself, the National Gardens Scheme has decided that 85 years really is something special – particularly for four Yorkshire gardens which were in at the very start at what has become a valuable British institution.

The NGS was founded in 1927 to benefit many charities but especially Help the Hospices, Marie Curie and Macmillan, raising tens of millions of pounds over the intervening years.

In Yorkshire, the private garden at St Nicholas, in Richmond, Ripley Castle, near Harrogate, the revolutionary Walled Garden at Scampston, and the stunningly beautiful Burton Agnes, near Driffield, were all there when the scheme started – and they’re still here today, still opening their gates to the paying public and still raising money for those deserving causes.

“An anniversary year is when we can acknowledge and appreciate all the hard work put in by garden owners who go that extra mile, work tirelessly in their gardens, whether large or small, and then welcome visitors on a particular day who in turn are the providers of the charitable funds,” says volunteer County Organiser Biddy Marshall .

“Many return regularly to their favourite gardens but also love to discover new ones too.

“It is a chance to meet the owners of a wide range of gardens in the county, enjoy a delicious tea and perhaps buy an unusual plant.

“Last year, our Yorkshire owners were proud to raise £131,000.”

The guide, Yorkshire Gardens 2012, is a treasure trove of gardens waiting to be discovered.

Twenty-one gardens are new this year and include The Bamboo Garden of St Paulinus, a large botanical collection of about 100 species of bamboo – plus, of course, those founding four gardens which have a very good reason to be celebrating 2012.

Pick up a copy of the Yorkshire county booklet for full descriptions of all 122 gardens and opening times, available free from libraries, Tourist Information Centres, garden centres and nurseries across the county.

For a free copy by post, send a sae (A5) to Felicity Bowring, Lawkland Hall, Austwick, Lancaster, LA2 8AT.