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Home > Gardening News >

Flourishing for 40 Years: A Very Special Partnership


Since its foundation in 1927 the National Garden Scheme has donated over £70 million to support some of the best-loved nursing and health charities in the UK. In that time, one of the most significant beneficiaries has been Macmillan Cancer Support, with 2024 marking 40 consecutive years of donations from the National Garden Scheme.

In Gardens and Health week we’re celebrating the generosity of National Garden Scheme garden owners, volunteers and visitors which has contributed over £19 million to support people living with cancer across the UK. This has funded over 150 Macmillan nurses as well as making a major contribution to the construction of three brand new cancer centres: the NGS Macmillan Wellbeing Centre in Bristol, the NGS Macmillan Unit in Chesterfield and the Y Bwthyn NGS Macmillan Specialist Palliative Care Unit in South Wales.

Maggie Porteous, 59 from Chinley in Derbyshire is one of the many people who have benefitted from the National Garden Scheme’s partnership with Macmillan. Maggie was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2022 and treated at the NGS Macmillan Unit in Chesterfield. She describes how gardening helped her cope with cancer treatment.

She said: “My garden became even more important to me after my diagnosis of breast cancer. As a cancer patient you feel that you are on a rollercoaster, with very little control as you move through the process of surgery and then treatment. It’s very easy to become hyper focused on cancer, and to spend too much time thinking “what if…” in a very negative way. Spending time in the garden definitely helps me. And when I am feeling low or worried, being out in the fresh air in the garden immediately lifts my mood.”

The experience inspired her to open her own garden with husband Adrian in 2023.

She said: “I’ve known the National Garden Scheme for years, have visited numerous gardens, and always thought that I would open my garden “when I grow up”. I hadn’t really registered that the building I was being treated in had been part funded by the National Garden Scheme until I was sitting there, waiting for my results. I took this as a sign that now was the time to open my garden to raise much needed funds for charity, including for Macmillan.”

Commenting on the landmark anniversary, George Plumptre, Chief Executive of the National Garden Scheme said: “There are few charity partnerships in the UK that can boast such longevity or impact in the nursing sector. We are immensely proud of all that we have helped Macmillan Cancer Support achieve over the last 40 years both in terms of capital build projects and vital nursing services and look forward to continuing our remarkable partnership and helping them to support those living with cancer.”

Our impact

Together the charities are inspiring more people to visit gardens to enjoy the sense of wellbeing a beautiful outdoor space can bring. Visiting these exceptional gardens has also helped Macmillan Cancer Support open the doors of the Y Bwthyn NGS Macmillan specialist palliative care unit in Wales, the latest joint project and a direct result of a shared commitment to supporting people when they need help most.

The National Garden Scheme contributed £2.5 million to the unit, which opened in 2019, making a real difference to the end-of-life experience of cancer patients in the region.

Commenting on the partnership, Gemma Peters, Chief Executive Officer at Macmillan said: “The National Garden Scheme is our longest standing partner and has had an incredible impact over the last 40 years. It’s thanks to the generosity of the 3,500 garden openers, county organisers, staff and trustees that Macmillan is able to continue doing whatever it takes for people living with cancer. Our partnership together champions the physical and mental health benefits of gardening, which we know can be valuable and comforting for people living with cancer.”

40 Years of Partnership timeline

1984 – National Garden Scheme and Macmillan begin their partnership raising £35,000 in the first year

1990s – The total of National Garden Scheme donations to Macmillan Cancer Support pass £5 million

1993 – 1,000th Macmillan nurse is appointed

1997 – Macmillan’s Information Line opens. Helping over 11,000 people in its first year

2003 – National Garden Scheme donations to Macmillan pass £10 million

2004 – National Garden Scheme wins the Macmillan Champion Award for Groups and Associations – celebrating 20 years of helping Macmillan support people affected by cancer

2006 – Macmillan changes their name to Macmillan Cancer Support

2012 – National Garden Scheme celebrates their 85th anniversary. Many gardens which opened in 1927 open their gates again to mark the occasion

2012 – Macmillan’s service reach 5.7 million people, more than ever before

2014 – The National Garden Scheme donates £50,000 to help fund the NGS Macmillan Wellbeing Centre at Southmead Hospital in Bristol

2015 – Macmillan and the National Garden Scheme celebrate over £15 million raised since the beginning of their partnership

2017 – The National Garden Scheme raises a record-breaking £3.1 million and begins an annual funding programme to support gardens and health-related projects

2017 – The NGS Macmillan Unit at Chesterfield Royal Hospital opens its doors to people living with cancer in North Derbyshire

2018 – The National Garden Scheme and Macmillan both pledge £2.5 million to build the Y Bwthyn NGS Macmillan Specialist Palliative Care Unit

2018 – Together we promote the Get Active campaign, championing gardens and gardening as a way to keep fit

2019 – National Garden Scheme funding supports 150 Macmillan nurses and other professionals to-date – proving care for people affected by cancer

2019 – The National Garden Scheme collaborates with their beneficiaries, Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Hospice UK, Parkinson’s UK and MS Society to produce ‘Investing in Quality’, a report written by the Kings Fund

2019 – With a donation of £500,000 this year, it takes the total raised for Macmillan to £17.2 million since the partnership begun

2020 – Both Macmillan and National Garden Scheme work to deal with the impact of COVID-19. Macmillan launched an Emergency Appeal and allocated £12.3 million to their Coronavirus Response Fund which prioritised supporting health and social care services across the UK. The National Garden Scheme kept fundraising through virtual visits to their gardens.

2021 – More than 1,200 people cared for at the Y Bwthyn NGS Macmillan Specialist Palliative Care Unit two years after it opened its door. His Royal Highness Prince Charles visited the unit to meet patients and staff as part of his summer tour of Wales.

2023 – With a donation of £450,000 this year, with £400,000 going towards funding vital Macmillan Nurses, it takes the total raised for Macmillan to over £19 million by the National Garden Scheme.

2023 – Macmillan welcomes their new CEO Gemma Peters to their organisation and starts work on developing their new open strategy.

2024 – This year marks the 40th anniversary of Macmillan’s partnership with the National Garden Scheme, making us Macmillan’s longest standing partner.

Latest News from garden.help

This story was published on: 10/05/2024

Image attribution: Felicity Crawshaw / NGS

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