Whether you’re a keen, green-fingered gardener or just looking for some peace and tranquility amongst glorious living surrounds, there’s no denying that Britain is home to some truly spectacular open gardens.
To celebrate National Gardening Week, we’re bringing you our pick of Britain’s greatest and greenest gardens. Enjoy rare and exotic flora, colourful country houses, space age surroundings and plenty of tranquil oases in some of the UK’s most gorgeous locations.
Chatsworth House Gardens (Chatsworth, Derbyshire)
This magnificent estate is home to the Duke of Derbyshire and is open year round to visitors and is set in the heart of the Peak District within easy reach of Bakewell, Tideswell and the historic Eyam. The style and elegance of the house is mirrored in the 105 acres of gardens that offer a variety of interesting sculptures, fountains and of course the ubiquitous English garden maze. Perhaps the most striking feature of this impressive stately garden is the cascading trough waterfall situated to the western edge of the house.
Kew Gardens (London, England)
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, are located in the Richmond, London, providing over 121 hectares of space which features open spaces and greenhouses and is home to the largest collections in the world. The gardens originally opened in 1759 and are also home to a number of historic buildings. Some of Kew Gardens’ main attractions include Alpine House, featuring a striking apex roof, Chokushi-Mon which was designed to look like a traditional Japanese Garden and located near to the Pagoda, as well as Kew Palace and others. Kew Gardens offers the perfect opportunity to get out of the busy city and enjoy some spectacular greenery.
Inverewe Gardens (Inverewe, Scotland)
Whether it be Tasmanian eucalyptus, blue poppies from the Himalayas or Chinese rhododendrons, Inverewe gardens are home to a delightful collection of flora and fauna from throughout the world. Owned by the Scottish National Trust and overlooking Loch Ewe this stunning botanical garden is one of the most popular attractions in the Scottish Highlands. The distinctive scenery of Wester Ross is some of Scotland’s most stunning countryside with the essence of a wilderness barely touched by the 21st century. Perhaps surprisingly this coastline is home to some of the most beautiful and pristine beaches in the country, with stunning white sand and crystal blue waters.
The Dingle Garden (Welshpool, Wales)
The small and secluded Royal Horticultural Society’s Dingle Garden is a serene idyll in the middle of Wales. Four and half acres of lawns and lakeside gardens are dominated by unusual trees and shrubs. And, despite being only two miles from the busy town of Welshpool, in this sheltered dingle (a deep wooded valley or dell) you feel more like a million miles away. There are shady glades and a beautiful arboretum, and Dingle is particularly acclaimed for its colour-themed planting which comes into its own in the autumn. Leaves explode into a rich riot of burnt reds, yellows, oranges and gold and the woods which steeply slope towards a tranquil lake are reflected majestically in the water below.
The Eden Project (Cornwall, England)
An ideal option for rainy British days, the Eden Project gives you the chance to stay dry whilst exploring the exhibitions as well as get a taste of both tropical and Mediterranean environments. The Eden Project opened in 2001 and is one of the most popular visitor attractions in the UK. Some of the must-see attractions include the Biomes, The Core and The Seed. Visitors can also take the opportunity to find out about the charitable and environmental projects undertaken by the Eden Project, whilst there are also plenty of fun activities for children.
Abbey Garden (Tresco Island, Isles of Scilly)
In 1834 Augustus Smith began creating a garden amongst the 12th century ruins of St Nicholas Priory on the temperate island of Tresco. Abbey Garden is now home to thousands of exotic plants from more than 80 countries. It’s a sub-tropical paradise which survives despite its far-westerly position, 30 miles off the tip of the Cornish coastline. Stroll through monastic arches dwarfed by huge palm trees, and marvel at the array of superb succulents and the sea of bright blues, pinks and flame reds. Walled shelters and a warm, south facing slope provide the perfect conditions for plants usually found in the southern hemisphere to thrive. It’s a richly colourful place to visit, even in the dead of winter, when, incredibly, more than 300 plants are in full bloom.
Hampton Court Palace Gardens (Greater London)
Just outside London, on the banks of the river Thames lies the Royal Palace of Hampton Court. Exquisite and extensive gardens and grounds delight visitors, and every year in early summer, it plays host to the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. The palace’s Privy Garden is a fantastic example of formal gardening, created for William III in 1702, and restored to its former geometric glory. For centuries this garden had been the exclusive retreat of monarchs, including Henry VIII, who undoubtedly took many a wife for a secluded stroll here. The yew tree maze is an exciting place to lose an hour and The Great Vine – the longest grapevine in the world – is a testament to Capability Brown, who planted it in 1769. It still bears fruit and the sweet black grapes are sold in palace shops in early September.
Bodnant Garden (Conwy, Wales)
Bodnant Garden is known worldwide for its botanical collection, and has stunning and spectacular views of Snowdonia at any time of the year. Five generations of the same family have created more than 80 acres of fabulous gardens and the amazing collection of plants has been grown from either cuttings or seeds gathered on Victorian plant-hunting exhibitions. One of the most impressive sights is the wonderful yellow scented laburnum arch, at its best in late spring and early summer. Italian-style terraces hold formal gardens, roses and invite visitors to enjoy the dramatic vista of the Carneddau mountains. You can even tie the knot here and a more romantic setting is hard to imagine.
Mottisfont Abbey (Hampshire)
Mottisfont, near Romsey in Hampshire is a must-see in early to mid June. Here, the absolute highlight is an internationally-renowned walled rose garden boasting more than 500 varieties of old-fashioned roses. When they are all in full bloom, it’s a feast for the senses – waves of colour accompanied by sensational, sweet scents. Many of the roses growing here are on sale so you can attempt to recreate the magic in your own garden. It is believed that the ancient Mottisfont plane tree is the largest in the country, its branches spreading over more than 1,500 sq metres. The gardens also stretch right down to the River Test, a fantastic chalk stream which due to careful National Trust management and regeneration is now home to otters, water voles, the striking blue flash of the kingfisher and the rare southern damselfly.
Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden (St Ives, Cornwall)
The sculptor Barbara Hepworth is one of Britain’s most important and celebrated 20th century artists. Sitting beside the Barbara Hepworth Museum on a hillside above St Ives harbour is a beautiful and unusual garden filled with her sensational sculptures. Barbara relished the opportunity to work on her pieces in the great outdoors here from 1949 until her death in 1975. Her huge, bold works can today be viewed, in the most part, exactly where she placed them in a garden she laid out herself. Her sculptures are enclosed by the lush foliage and trees surrounding them and the trademark circular holes in smooth, curving bronze act like windows onto nature.
Trebah Gardens (Helford, Cornwall)
Open all year and extending across 26 acres with 4 miles of footpaths traversing themed gardens, Trebah has a special quality that fascinates throughout the seasons. Leafy palms, camellias and magnolias await inquisitive guests and with delightful ponds Trebah have echoes of Giverny within a tranquil landscape that offers a haven of peace. With vibrant Falmouth just a short distance to the north, and the Lizard peninsula within easy striking distance to the south, Trebah sits proudly in a treasured corner of Cornwall.
The Royal Botanic Garden (Edinburgh)
Situated just a mile from the bustling, cosmopolitan centre of Scotland’s capital is the 70 acre oasis of The Royal Botanic Garden. A centre of internationally important research and conservation, the garden is home to thousands of alpine flowers and a huge collection of Chinese plants. It also boasts massive American redwoods and the Scottish Heath Garden, which celebrates native species and has created a haven for wildlife within the city. If the infamous Scottish weather is against you there are many magnificent temperate and tropical glasshouses to take refuge in. They house palms, ferns, incredible orchids and exotic rainforest foliage and visitors to The Windows on the World experience can explore ten different climatic zones, (probably all preferable to British drizzle.)
The National Botanic Garden of Wales (Carmarthen, Wales)
Located near Llanarthney, the National Botanic Garden of Wales is one of the most popular attractions in the area, and within easy distance of popular holiday destinations such as Tenby and Saundersfoot. Whilst the gardens only opened in 2000, their history dates back to the 17th century and the Middleton family of Oswestry who resided there. Explore the gardens or enjoy attractions such as the meerkats, the Gallery, the Ghost Forest and many others, providing a fantastic day out for all of the family.
Drummond Gardens (Perthshire, Scotland)
Situated 2 miles to the south of Crieff in Perthshire, these large and beautifully manicured gardens are open to the public from the beginning of May until the end of October. With a history dating back to 1490, the gardens at Drummond Castle really began to flourish during the 17th century evolving throughout the centuries to produce a striking and enchanting landscape that has been immaculately tended by some of Scotland’s finest gardeners. The careful attention to detail creates a symmetry which is simply breath-taking and with the backdrop of the castle, there is a truly timeless quality which entices visitors into a world gone by.
Sissinghurst Castle Garden (Kent)
Nestled in the Weald of Kent, the world-famous garden at Sissinghurst is endlessly popular and, for many, is the epitome of an English garden. It was created in the 1930s by poet and writer Vita Sackville-West and her author husband Harold Nicholson and their original vision is now being carefully recreated. A prison for French sailors in the 18th century and a home to the Women’s Land Army during the Second World War the castle has seen many guises. Today wild flowers are being reintroduced, there’s a fragrant herb garden, rose garden, orchard and a nuttery, dedicated to Kentish cobnuts (a variety of hazelnut). A climb to the top of the Elizabethan tower affords a panoramic view of the large estate and the rolling Kent countryside beyond.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan (Cornwall, England)
One of the most popular botanical gardens in the UK, Cornwall’s Lost Gardens of Heligan have plenty to offer for those who enjoy these types of attractions, as well as providing a great family day out. Built in the 18th century through to the 20th century by the Tremayne family, they are a larger part of the family’s estate. Whilst the gardens were neglected following the First World War, they underwent restoration in the 1990s and now feature a number of plants from all over the world, including aged plants. Some of the most popular attractions within the gardens include The Jungle, a working pineapple pit (the only one in Europe!), the mysterious ‘Mud Maid’ and the ‘Giant’s Head’.
Powis Castle (Welshpool, Wales)
Created in the Baroque style of classical Italian gardens with more than a touch of French spirit, the grand terraces at Powis castle (originally built in the 1680s) are an evocative throwback to continental gardens of the 16th Century. With a wide selection of carefully selected colourful plants to complement the Mediterranean theme, the terraces are probably the best example of 17th century gardens left in the country. The surrounding woodland offers a number of different walks whilst the castle itself offers a fascinating trail designed for children who will be left captivated by the sense of adventure exploring the medieval fortress surroundings.