The Owl House Estate, Lamberhurst, Kent. In 1952, the late Maureen, Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, fell in love with this 16th-century cottage with a crooked chimney and bought it forthwith. During the succeeding years, she created the romantic woodland garden we see today: swathes of spring flowers, water gardens and bluebell woods, peppered with statues of owls.

A noted society figure, Lady Dufferin loved to entertain, escorted by her beloved Pekinese; her house parties became legendary. She first opened the gardens in 1960; they are still opened now.

Following her death in 1998, her granddaughter Evgenia and her husband, the actor Julian Sands, have refreshed the gardens, to the delight of Country Life?s Gardens Editor, Kathryn Bradley-Hole, who wrote about them on April 11, 2002.

The Owl House, Oast and Pool House, Butterfly Cottage, Little Owl House, Daffodil Cottage, Primrose Cottage. 52.95 acres. £2.275m. Knight Frank (01892 515035)

The Yellow Book is the Bible for garden visitors. The National Gardens Scheme?s indispensable guide lists 3,300 mostly private gardens opened to the public, usually for only one or two days a year, to raise money for charity.

Last year, £1.8 million was raised by the NGS, now in its 78th year. Originally published by Country Life as The Gardens of England and Wales, the rechristened Yellow Book costs £7.99. For garden owners, inclusion is a hallmark of horticultural excellence.

?A garden opened for the National Gardens Scheme can add good value to a house,? says Andrew Ferrier, director of the Midhurst office of Jackson-Stops & Staff, sponsors of the National Gardens Scheme. ?Many of our clients participate in the National Gardens Scheme.?

This article was originally published in Country Life magazine, May 19, 2005. To subscribe click here.