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The Garden Gifts Scheme

The garden Gift Scheme was established in April 1946 to collect seeds, plants and shrubs for the owners of blitzed gardens and those who had been rehoused in prefabs.[1]

As with many WVS post-war activities the scheme was very popular and encouraged those who had been rehomed to plant gardens with gifts collected by WVS from established gardeners and abroad. The scheme asked for flowers; vegetable seedlings; shrubs; trees and hedging plants. If you got in touch with your local WVS they would collect your plants; distribute them to prefab owners in London and other blitzed cities and pay for postage or transit.[2] This was a real moral boosting exercise which resulted in Queen Mary awarding a challenge cup in 1947 for the best prefab garden. The scheme continued into the 1950s although the need for WVS to help gardeners changed.

Due to flooding in 1953 around 30,000 private gardens on the east coast were destroyed. WVS was involved from start to finish, cleansing and fertilising the soil ready for planting. Volunteers then distributed ten tons of Italian grass seed given to England by the Government of Northern Ireland and seeds given by America.[3] They also provided advice including “Don’t apply farmyard manure until all the salt has gone” and “don’t give up hope”.[4] 

It would take a while for the gardens to be ready to take plants, shrubs and seeds but WVS were always ready. They kept the plants at “Transit Nurseries” until gardeners were ready for them.[5] The scheme continued until the late 1950s but WRVS and Royal Voluntary Service maintained their links with gardening and community work in to the twenty first century. This includes befrienders helping with gardens of the people they visit and running men in sheds groups.


[1] RVS Archive & Heritage Collection, WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/PUB/PUB/G-63-002, Report on 25 Years Work 1938-1963, 1963, p.77 [2] RVS Archive & Heritage Collection, WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/PUB/PUB/GG-47-001, 1947 [3] RVS Archive & Heritage Collection, WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/PUB/PUB/G-63-002, Report on 25 Years Work 1938-1963, 1963, p.77 [4] RVS Archive & Heritage Collection, WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/PUB/PUB/GG-53-004, ADVICE TO GARDEN OWNERS IN FLOODED AREAS, 1953 [5] RVS Archive & Heritage Collection, WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/PUB/PUB/G-63-002, Report on 25 Years Work 1938-1963, 1963, p.77

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 19 February 2018.

Labels: Garden Gifts, WVS, Flowers, Queen Mary, Blitz, East Coast Floods