The UK is a lush, green pleasant land of trees, flowers, lakes and rivers at their best in some of the world’s best looked after gardens. Luckily some of the best of these are open to the public too. It might rain a lot here in Blighty, but we have an array of flowers and foliage that always look their best to show for it.
Crathes Castle Garden and Estate, Aberdeenshire
The famous gardens of this fairy tale castle feature great yew hedges and colourful double herbaceous borders. The Crathes Castle Estate is vast: it has nearly four acres of walled gardens and a grass croquet court in a higher terrace level. There are eight separate themed gardens, all of which are separated by topiary hedges. If you want to venture further afield, the 595-acre estate offers six separate trails to enjoy.
Toddington Manor Garden, Bedfordshire
This ten acre garden at Toddingham Manor contains a herb garden, rose garden, swimming pool garden and herbaceous borders. The gardens have mostly been replanted since 1979 but do contain some original trees. Don’t miss the 100 acres of woodland (it’s quite difficult to miss 100 acres) streams and two lakes.
Botanic Gardens, Belfast
First established in 1828, the Botanic Gardens have been enjoyed as a public park by the people of Belfast since 1895. Two of the most notable greenhouses in the whole of Europe are to be found at the Botanic Gardens, the Tropical Ravine and the Palm House. If these greenhouses look a bit familiar, they were built by the same designer who later built the Great Palm House at Kew Gardens, London. In one of the greenhouse you can find birds of paradise and colourful bromeliads, to name a few exciting species.
Waddesdon Manor Garden, Buckinghamshire
Funded by the Rothschild family this garden contains Italian terraces, a lavish aviary, a rock garden made from artificial Pulham stone, Italian, French and Dutch statues, a large collection of specimen trees and shrubs. The Victorian gardens feature a parterre, seasonal displays, shady walks and views, fountains and statuary. There is also an aviary, with species that were once part of Baron Ferdinand’s collection.
Cambridge University Garden, Cambridgeshire
The Cambridge University Botanic Garden is an inspiration for gardeners and a delight for visitors. This listed heritage Garden was created by John Henslow, teacher and guide of Charles Darwin, and is the showcase for over 8,000 plant species from around the world, all immaculately displayed amongst a wonderful framework of mature trees. Also featured in the garden is a lake, stream and rock garden.
Tatton Park, Cheshire
This park has evolved with the changing fashions ad is an example of Mixed Style. The Beech Avenue survives from an early eighteenth century design and the flower garden was designed by Lewis Wyatt in 1814. The Southern Terrace Garden was designed by Joseph Paxton and it became quite the family affair when the fernery was built in 1859 by Paxton’s son-in-law. The attractive and striking stone Balustrade was added in 1883. Expect to see the Venetian statue of Neptune, a Japanese garden, Shinto Shrine, small lake and the 120 foot pinery which was restored and reopened in 2007.
Marsh Villa Gardens, Cornwall
This three acre water and woodland garden is situated in a former tidal creek. There is a hornbeam avenue, a large natural pond, waterways through the marsh, a low-lying jungle and bog garden, which make it one of the more unusual gardens in the UK. Originally a small-holding, planting has been continuous since 1988 and as such these gardens have grown into an established horticultural paradise.
Crook Hall and Gardens, Durham
Crook Hall features a series of garden rooms, including a Shakespeare garden, a walled garden, a rose garden, a cathedral garden, a silver garden, an orchard and a moat pool. The garden has received great praise from those in the gardening world. Alan Titchmarsh, the great British celebrity gardener, described it as a ‘tapestry of colourful blooms’ and the magazine Country Life described the Hall as having ‘history, romance and beauty’. Just a short walk from Durham market place this garden is a quaint retreat in the heart of a city.
Holker Hall Garden, Cumbria
Holker Hall is a Victorian home set in parkland, terraces, lawns and a rose garden designed by Thomas Mawson. The 25 acres of landscaped gardens are part woodland and part formal garden; these are complimented by the 200-acre 'natural' parkland. The newest project in the gardens is the Pagan Grove which has been designed by the renowned landscape architect, Kim Wilkie, and comprises the remodelling of part of this historic garden to form an oval amphitheatre bowl descending into the ground.
Levens Hall Garden, Cumbria
An avenue of oak trees leads into the parkland of Levens Hall, which is renowned for its topiary. The historic garden contains a ha-ha which dates from 1694 and is one of the earliest in Britain. The evolution of the garden is believed to be as follows; when the original style of the parterre became unfashionable, and was criticised as 'formal' the yews were allowed to grow into large specimens. It is on record that the topiary was re-cut around 1815 and the shapes have gradually evolved into the dramatic Victorian shapes which have now made Levens Hall famous.
Chatsworth Garden, Derbyshire
This famous house has an equally beauteous garden. ‘Capability’ Brown altered the course of the River Derwent and carried out extensive tree planting and swept away the old formal gardens in his creation of the parkland which remains much as it was in days gone by. In the nineteenth century a close partnership developed between the Sixth Duke of Devonshire and his gardener Sir Joseph Paxton. Together they created a classic Mixed Style garden which adjoins the house and they also added the new parterre gardens. Highlights of the garden include the Cascade, the Sea Horse Fountain and Flora’s Temple.
Marwood Hill Garden, Devon
This woodland garden with three small lakes and a bog garden were created by Dr James Smart who moved to Marwood in 1949. Marwood is the proud owner of three national collections, of Astilbes, Japanese Iris, and Tulbaghia.
Monk’s House Garden, East Sussex
This cottage and garden was once owned by author Virginia Woolf and her husband for 1919-1969. It contains ponds, an orchard, flint walls, yew hedges and a vegetable garden which Leonard Woolf was deeply interested in.
Burton Agnes Hall Garden, East Yorkshire
This Elizabethan Hall is set within a twentieth century garden. The house is surrounded by lawns and clipped yews. In 1990 the walled kitchen garden was laid out with a maze, colour themed gardens, herbaceous borders and a ‘jungle garden’ of bamboos and exotics. This is a more modern garden in comparison to the ‘Capability’ Brown dominated gardens across the country.
Kiftsgate Court Gardens, Gloucestershire
Kiftsgate is a nineteenth century house with a twentieth century Arts and Crafts garden. A woodland garden steps down the hillside to a half-moon swimming pool. The are many features of the typical Arts and Crafts period: herbaceous borders, a four square garden, a white garden, a yellow border, a rockery, lawns and a bluebell wood. The Kiftsgate Water Garden, called the New Garden, has a delightful bronze leaf sculpture, and is designed in the abstract modern style.
Hyde Park, Greater London
Hyde Park is dominated by the serpentine river at its heart. The River Westbourne which flowed through the park, was dammed to form a lake in the 19th century. The two halves of the lake, the Serpentine and the Long Water, are divided by a bridge designed by Goerge Rennie in 1826. Within the park activities such as horse riding, cycling, jogging and watersports are popular. Hyde Park is a mecca to Londoners seeking sunshine, (when it makes an appearance) and as such is often busy and bustling in the summer time.
St. James’s Park, Greater London
This Royal Park is one of the most romantic urban landscapes in Europe, with geese, pelicans and waterfowl. The park was first created in 1660 in a rigidly formal design. Charles II had a long canal built out of the watery landscape here and introduced the water birds which are still present today. In 1828 the park was re-designed by John Nash in the English landscape style. Don’t miss soaking in the famous view from the bridge across the lake to the Horse Guard and Whitehall.
Hampton Court, Herefordshire
The gardens at Hampton Court are comprised of a thousand acres in total. Visitors can see water canals, island pavilions, avenues and borders which fit perfectly with the established planting that has been there for years. The maze, Gothic Tower, and a secret tunnel to a waterfall make sure you can never become bored of these gardens, always with new areas to explore. You can even sample some of the Kitchen Garden’s produce in the Orangery Restaurant.
Sheringham Park, Norfolk
The grounds at Sheringham transform before your very eyes from garden, to park, to wild landscape, with views of the North Sea. The park is famous for its vast collection of rhododendrons and azaleas. Walking around the gardens you’ll realise why it became the personal favourite of its designer, Humphry Repton. You can still see Repton's 'Red Book' showing his designs for the Park.
Exotic Garden, Norfolk
You’ll feel like you’re in the tropics in this Norfolk garden. The garden is about 1 acre in size but is a huge mix of planting all having an exotic appearance. In the heat of the summer, the garden comes alive, full of hidden corners and colour, and the air is filled with the heady scent of Jasmine. Towering bananas form massive canopies to walk under. In recent years a Xerophytic garden (arid planting with cacti and succulents) has been added as well as one of the largest tree houses in east Anglia. The garden has, unsurprisingly, been featured many times on TV programs in recent years.
Castle Howard Garden, North Yorkshire
This eighteenth century palace with park and garden is one of the most important examples of the Augustan phase of the Serpentine style. The garden is heavily inspired by Roman gardens and classical landscapes. Under the direction of Charles Howard, Third Earl of Carlisle, was a huge fan of classical poetry and wanted to create a utopia in his garden. A track was used to link the nobleman’s palace to his Temple of the Four Winds which was inspired by Palladio’s Villa Rotunda. More Roman influences can be seen in the three-arched Roman Bridge, a Pyramid and the Mausoleum. This garden provides an unusual classical experience for visitors.
Buscot Park, Oxfordshire
Buscot Park is an eighteenth century house with a twentieth century garden. The garden is a prime example of the Italian mode of the Arts and Crafts style, designed by Harold Peto in 1912. It has a canal which steps down the slope through the woods, edged by hedges, urns and statues. The kitchen garden is now planted with flowers with hornbeam tunnels. There is a new water feature called the Faux Fall designed in 2007 which consists of a series of highly polished steel vertical panels in graduated form and height over which water is pumped and which when viewed from across the opposite descending stairway to the Four Seasons Walled garden appears like a cascade.
Trentham Gardens, Staffordshire
Trentham Gardens contains both a serpentine park, designed by Lancelot Brown, and a nineteenth century terrace garden. This is a public park which has shops, restaurants and cafes designed to give outstanding views of the park and compliment the nature around it. The Italian garden beside the lake is a beauty and this is a great place to spend a sunny afternoon or go for a picnic.
Savill Garden and Valley Garden, Surrey
Savill Garden is a large woodland garden that is treated as a public park. With a central lake and a wide range of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants this is a great place to relax and unwind. The nearby Valley Gardens are an extension of the Savill Garden and were also made by Eric Savill. In 2010 the garden was brought up to date with a contemporary rose garden.
York Gate Garden, West Yorkshire
York Gate is widely recognized as an amazing example of a 20th century garden. The garden is small, in comparison to some of the stately home gardens, being only one acre, but boy have the designers packed a lot into a small space. There are smaller gardens within the big one, each with different themes and contrasting styles. For example the Dell has half-hidden pathways and a stream, the herb garden features topiary and a summerhouse and the contemporary garden boasts grasses.
Bowood Gardens, Wiltshire
Bowood house boasts parkland and an nineteenth century Italian garden. The plans of Lancelot Brown have survived and it is one of the best examples of his distinctive style, featuring the ubiquitous serpentine lake and an encircling tree belt. In 1851 the Italian garden was designed by George Kennedy to sit between the house and the parkland. The Italian garden features terraces, balustrades, urns and steps.
Cotswold Lavender, Worcestershire
Set in the heart of the Cotswold Hills these 53 acres of lavender fields have been planted here since 2000. They have over 35 different varieties of lavender and 250,000 plants in total. The lavender is harvested and essential oils are extracted and sold in the farm shop, which are available for you to purchase. The best time to visit is in July.
After reading that extensive list of UK gardens you might be tempted to grab a book, pack a picnic, go find a garden for yourself and settle down underneath an oak tree. With the careful and considerate planting from the head gardeners at these parks and gardens there’s always beautiful flowers and trees for visitors to look at whatever the weather.