Usk Open Gardens weekend, a feature on many a gardener’s calendar, started 25 years ago this June. So how did it all start and what have the years brought?

“Two or three of us, including Margaret Evans, had been visiting an open garden somewhere and it suddenly occurred to us that we could open our own,” committee member Cathy Davies explained. “We asked people with gardens if they would like to join us. Now it’s grown to over 20 gardens and has been extended to two days. There is something for everyone, no matter what their gardening interest.”

One location to quickly become a highlight of the weekend was the wonderful historic gardens at Usk Castle, which had been attracting crowds of visitors since 1983 for National Gardens Society events.

And for the inaugural Usk Open Gardens in 1994, castle custodian Rosie Humphreys remembers an overwhelming success.

“I found a queue waiting at 9am on the first day, for opening at 10,” she said. “I hadn’t finished setting up, or had breakfast, but visitors loved the idea and came in droves. Many other groups in Usk supported the weekend so in due course it ran smoothly, but I expect the first day, astonishing everyone with its numbers, had plenty of panic moments.”

One garden in particular draws visitors from far and wide. Marian Powell started taking part in the weekend over 15 years ago. Renowned for her artistic ability and enthusiasm, Marian finds gardening very therapeutic.

“Every year I try to add that wow factor,” she said.

Her garden has been praised by Alan Titchmarsh and visited by the Duchess of Cornwall on a trip to Usk in 2014. The visit was featured on Good Morning Britain and several of the weather reports that morning came from Marian’s garden.

From the start, the wider Usk community has been heavily involved, and profits from the events are donated to local and national good causes.

Jan Mundy, current chair of Usk Open Gardens, said: “Many local groups now assist in the logistics of welcoming visitors to the town. Volunteers help with ticket sales, car parking, directing visitors to the free bus service around the town, signposting walking routes between gardens and providing homemade teas. The Brownies will be among those cooking Welsh cakes at the castle.”

This year the gardens are open as usual on the last full weekend of June (29-30), 10am-5pm. Entry is £7.50 for one day and £10 for the weekend. All gardens are within walking distance of the town centre, with a regular free minibus service for those who can’t or don’t want to walk. For more information, visit, phone 01291 672713 or email uskopen