With British summertime approaching, what better way to enjoy the warmer weather than with a walk through these stunning English gardens. From woodlands to wildflower meadows, we've chosen five of the best to visit this year...
High Beeches Woodland & Water Garden, Sussex
Nestled in the High Weald of West Sussex is the hidden treasure of High Beeches – 27 acres of woodland and water gardens that play host to a rich and fascinating collection of rare and award-winning plants. Varieties have been acquired from all around the world by famous plant collectors to form the stunning landscape as it is today. High Beeches is also home to the National Collection of Stewartia Trees, helping to ensure the development and preservation of the species in trust for the future.
The highlight of High Beeches is The Wildflower Meadow, a Site of Nature Conservation Importance which contains 46 species of wildflowers and 13 species of grasses, sedges, rushes and ferns. Declared ‘outstanding’ by English Heritage, the meadow has not been officially cultivated for at least 80 years, allowing its natural splendour to shine through whilst providing a much needed habitat for butterflies and bees.
The gardens can be enjoyed from March through to October, however the warmer months are the best to catch the flowers in bloom. During spring, brightly coloured Camellias and stunning Magnolias alongside Daffodils and Narcissi can be seen, while the summer months bring carpets of Bluebells as well as Azaleas, Rhododendrons and a spectacular display in the wildflower meadow.
Various events take place in the gardens throughout the year, including falconry and hawk displays, as well as plant and craft sales, and art exhibitions.
Plan your visit: www.highbeeches.com
Bluebell Cottage Gardens and Nursery, Cheshire
Along a quiet country lane in Cheshire are the delightful Bluebell Cottage Gardens and Nursery, owned and managed by former BBC Gardener of the Year, Sue Beesley.
The charming two acre gardens, which centre around Bluebell Cottage (Sue’s home), include a small yet productive orchard, wildflower meadow, vegetable plot and wild grasses garden, all interspersed with neat box hedging and an array of pretty borders, which in summer are bursting with flowers and shrubs. The various sections are joined by winding paths which give the gardens an intimate feel, and leave you wondering what’s around each corner.
The much-celebrated nursery houses over 700 varieties of flowering perennials, most of which are grown in the surrounding gardens, ensuring they are acclimatised to the British weather and allowing you to see many of them in full size before you buy.
Be sure to stop off at the Bluebell Cottage tea room before you leave, for a slice of locally made cake or ice cream.
Plan your visit: www.bluebellcottage.co.uk
Hidcote Manor Gardens, Gloucestershire
Hidcote Manor Gardens are situated in the scenic village of Hidcote Bartrim in Gloucestershire. Considered traditional Arts & Crafts gardens, their appeal is such that they not only inspire modern gardeners but have also had a profound impact on the designs of other well-known spaces including Sissinghurst Garden in Kent.
Like their interior counterparts, Arts & Crafts gardens are highly decorative, often featuring fountains, clipped topiaries and strutting peacocks. Another common theme is that the garden be viewed as an inextricable from the house, and vice versa. Hidcote Gardens are a prime example of this. Set out in individually designed ‘rooms’ created in 1907 by the American horticulturist Major Lawrence Johnston, the gardens are connected via a network of stone walls, hedged corridors and well worn pathways lined with herbaceous borders.
Many of the plants found growing in the garden were collected from Johnston’s trips to far flung places such as the South Africa, Australia and Japan, which has resulted in a beautiful selection of colours, shapes and scents. A number of pools and ponds are also scattered throughout the garden, some of which contain protected species including great crested newts as well as the more common toads and frogs.
At the edge of the meticulously kept gardens lies the Wilderness - a secluded stretch of tall trees. Stop here for an afternoon picnic or journey into the rolling countryside beyond, via one of the many public footpaths.
Plan your visit: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hidcote
Forde Abbey Gardens, Somerset
The beautiful gardens that surround Forde Abbey historic house in Chard, Somerset are some of the most carefully maintained in England. They have been in use since medieval times, when monks would grow vegetables and use the larger pond to power a mill for grain. Over the years, the gardens have been lovingly designed and kept by generations of families - in particular the Roper family - so that the house and grounds remain unspoilt historic gems.
In fact, so beautiful and picturesque are the house and surrounding gardens that they have been used in many period films, including Restoration and Far From the Madding Crowd.
Spanning 30 acres, the gardens are made up of many sections each with their own character, and incorporate four ponds, an arboretum and even a small temple. To the west of the house lies Blacksmith’s Hill, the Mount and Bog Garden along with the mermaid pond, which is home to the highest powered fountain in England, installed in 2005 to celebrate one hundred years of the Roper family at Forde Abbey.
To the east you will find the Rock Garden, which boasts an abundance of alpine and rock plants, and, in spring, a display of flowering Cyclamen and Widow Iris. To the rear of the house is the The Kitchen Garden, in which most of the fruits, vegetables and flowers used in the house and tea room are grown. Each section demonstrates a different gardening style, from manicured lawn to wildflower patch, meaning that a stroll through the grounds is a diverse and fascinating experience.
Plan your visit: www.fordeabbey.co.uk
East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens, Norfolk
Possibly one of the most unique and varied gardens in England, East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens in Norfolk are a celebration of variety and character.
The old vicarage itself was bought in 1973 by Alan Gray and Graham Robeson, but at that time the garden was little more than a two acre patch of tufted grass. Every weekend, the pair of dedicated gardeners would make the journey from London to East Ruston to begin the project of turning the space into a proper garden. They built from the ground up, creating much needed shelter that had been lost through years of intense farming in order to provide a thriving habitat for plants and wildlife. Today, the gardens amount to 32 glorious acres of flowers and greenery, interspersed with fountains, sculptures, ponds, orchards and vegetables plots.
The gardens are divided into 18 sections, which include the regal King’s Walk lined with sentinel yew trees, the secluded Tree Fern Garden and the one-of-a-kind Desert Wash, inspired by the harsh conditions of the Arizona desert and filled with a variety of cacti, succulents and vibrant desert flowers.
Alan and Graham draw their inspiration from all over the world, including California and the Mediterranean, and continually push the boundaries of gardening by blending styles, all the while ensuring the plants can survive the unpredictable British weather. Being situated just 1½ miles from the coast, they make excellent use of the subsequent microclimate, encouraging varieties of Pine, Eucalyptus and even Banana plants to flourish.
The gardens are brimming with character and detail, with personal touches found around every corner. Look out for the various art installations scattered amongst the beds as well as the experimental orchard of Peaches, Nectarines, Apricots and Plums, and the porthole cut into the outer hedge, which allows the perfect view of Happisburgh Lighthouse. Everything about the space is sure to amuse and inspire, and have you returning time and time again.
Plan your visit: www.e-ruston-oldvicaragegardens.co.uk
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