Entry costs at Kew, RHS Garden Wisley and the Eden Project are too high and that is benefitting the National Gardens Scheme (NGS), marketing manager Chris Morley has said.
The 3,700 NGS gardens that open to the public annually charge £3.90 on average for entry, while entry at Kew is £14.50, Wisley is £11 and Eden is £23.50.
Both Kew, which raises funds through its foundation charity, and Eden, which is a charity, are making redundancies because of reductions in income.
Kew is set to make 125 of its 750 staff redundant because of a £5m funding shortfall (HW, 4 April), while Eden made 68 redundant last year after revealing a deficit of £6.3m for the year ending March 2013. The Cornwall attraction employs around 400 staff. Wisley attracted 964,078 people in 2013, down one per cent.
Kew increased its visitor numbers from one million to 1,342,499 in 2014 but has seen its Government funding reduced. The Eden Project's visitor numbers fell by 10 per cent in 2013 to 858,897.
Morley said: "We're holding our heads above water on the basis that if you look at these organisations like Kew or the Eden Project they seem to have continued to struggle. Eden, Kew and Wisley, if you're not a member, are quite a lot of money, especially if you're a family. But we have a positive story compared to last year. We are good value for money."
Having gardens nearby saves visitors' petrol costs and is another advantage, Morley pointed out.
The National Gardens Scheme donated £2.1m in 2013, which marketing manager Chris Morley said was "primarily a consequence of us not competing with the weather, the Olympics or jubilee. We're back to where we were two or three years ago. Everyone in the gardens world suffered in 2012 and 2013."