There are so many wonderful places I would love to visit in the United Kingdom and I could easily visit Britain for its gardens alone! For anyone interested in British gardens, an excellent starting point is to visit: https://www.greatbritishgardens.co.uk/.
This site features over 500 properties, which have been grouped into special interest categories: Arboretums and Woodland Plantings; Coastal and Wildlife Gardens; Family Gardens and Royal Gardens; Japanese or Prairie Gardens; Organic Gardens; Topiary, Walled and Water Gardens; and Seasonal Interest Gardens: Autumn Colour and Winter Gardens; and Specialty Gardens focusing on Snowdrops and Daffodils; Bluebells and Rhododendrons in the Spring and glorious Roses in Summer.
Given that we live so far away and holiday time is always limited, I had to be so strict with myself and only include my utmost favourites!
While I would adore to visit some of the rightfully popular gardens like Sissinghurst Castle (https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sissinghurst-castle-garden and https://cadyluckleedy.com/2015/09/26/the-national-trust-sissinghurst-gardens-cranbrook-kent-uk/) and Hidcote Manor (https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hidcote), my aversion to crowds would outweigh my appreciation, though I realize it is probably impossible to avoid them these days! The 4 ha (9 acre) garden of Sissinghurst Castle has 200, 000 visitors each year, while the 10 acre Hidcote Manor Garden has 175 000 visitors each year, but fortunately, the latter’s website has a wonderful 3D virtual tour as well!
Nevertheless, it’s all a matter of degrees, so I have not included them, nor have I listed gardens with very limited opening times like Charles Jencks’ Garden of Cosmic Speculation (http://www.scotlandsgardens.org/gardens/garden/6f8a52d7-f7b0-45c2-91fc-999e00d2ac95) or Prince Charles’ organic garden at Highgrove (https://www.highgrovegardens.com/), described beautifully in his book: The Garden at Highgrove, which I reviewed in my post: https://candeloblooms.com/2017/05/16/inspirational-and-dreamy-garden-books-part-two-books-about-specific-gardens/; or gardens, which we have already visited on previous trips like: Muckross House, Killarney, in Ireland and Inverwewe in Scotland; Overbecks, Devon and Trebah and the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall; and the Chelsea Physic Garden, Hampton Court Palace and Kew Gardens, though I never did see the Marianne North Gallery at the latter, so feel I would love another visit there!
I will be doing a separate post for my favourite rose gardens! Please note all the photos are from my own garden, not the bucket list gardens, which I am describing, and are included to add interest and colour to the post. Here is my bucket list in the United Kingdom!!!
West Dean Gardens
West Dean, Nr Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0RX
West Dean Gardens has long been on my radar, not just for its beautifully restored historic gardens, but also for its wealth of courses in conservation (Books, Ceramics, Clocks, Furniture, Metalwork, or Collections Care) and creative arts offered by West Dean College, both at the degrees and diploma level (https://www.westdean.org.uk/study/school-of-creative-arts/degrees-and-diplomas) and a huge variety of short courses, including embroidery and flower arranging. See : http://westdean.assets.d3r.com/pdfs/original/17984-short-course-brochure-2017.pdf; and http://westdean.assets.d3r.com/pdfs/original/21070-short-courses-winter-2017-2018.pdf.
How wonderful it would be to stay at West Dean and participate in one of their courses, as well as be able to wander around their gardens in your relaxation time! Here is a link to a map of the gardens: http://westdean.assets.d3r.com/pdfs/original/19218-gardens-leaflet-12pp-2017-low-res-2.pdf.
The highlights include:
A 100 metre (300 foot) long Edwardian pergola, designed by Harold Peto in 1911 and made of stone pillars, linked by wooden overthrows, and covered with rambling roses (Veilchenblau; Sanders White Rambler); clematis; wisteria; honeysuckle and magnolia. The interior herbaceous borders include hostas; pelargoniums; ferns; iris; Dicentra and Spring bulbs. On one end is a gazebo with a mosaic floor of knapped flints and horses’ molars, while on the other end is a sunken garden with low growing plants, bulbs and a small pond.
Walled Kitchen Garden: Originally built in 1804, its current layout was developed in the 1990s and includes 2 cross paths and a perimeter path following the walls, creating 4 central beds and a series of borders against the walls.
The central beds follow a four-crop rotation of annual crops: potatoes; brassicas; legumes; and salad and root crops. Perennial crops are grown against the walls: soft fruit on the western wall; asparagus; rhubarb; sea kale and globe artichokes on the eastern wall and auriculas; lily of the valley; cordonned currants and gooseberries on the southern wall, the latter border also growing early Spring crops, Summer herbs and late Autumn vegetables.
There is also a hot central flower border (Crocosmia; orange dahlias and yellow Kniphofia); a pear tunnel and espaliered pears and apples at the back. West Dean is famous for its apple collection with over 100 types of apples and 45 types of pears, many of them heritage varieties.
Victorian Glasshouses: There are 13 working Foster and Pearson glasshouses, built between 1890 and 1900, and growing a wide range of fruit and vegetables (figs; grapes; peaches and nectarines; strawberries; 58 different varieties of tomatoes; 75 different chillies; aubergines; cucumbers; melons; ornamental gourds ) and exotics and tropical plants (fuchsias; begonias; bromeliads; ferns; and orchids).
St. Roche’s Arboretum: established in 1830, this 49 acre woodland has a 2.5 mile circuit walk and contains many beautiful old specimen trees (beeches; limes; planes; and cedars), the National Collections of Liriodendrons (Tulip trees) and Aesculus (Horse Chestnuts) and shrubs, including rhododendrons and azaleas, which are a picture in Spring, along with the wildflower meadows and naturalised bulbs (over 500 000).Wisley
RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey, GU23 6QB
An important centre for horticultural research and education and the flagship garden and historic home of the Royal Horticultural Society (https://www.rhs.org.uk), since 1903, when it was donated to the RHS by Sir Thomas Hanbury, who established La Mortola on the Italian Riviera.
It is one of four RHS properties, the other three being Harlow Carr, North Yorkshire; Hyde Hall, Essex; and Rosemoor, Devon, though another new RHS property at Bridgewater, Greater Manchester, is opening in 2020.
Wisley is enough for me! Apparently, it is the second-most visited garden after Kew Gardens in the UK – over one million visitors each year! So much for crowds then, though I’m hoping the sheer scale of the gardens will dilute them all! This place is HUGE , as is the website, and full of interesting ideas and inspiration!
Covering over 240 acres, 135 acres of which is open to the public, it has one of the largest plant collections in the world. There are so many different areas and it is worth visiting every area, at least on the website!
Here are the main areas which I would like to see :
The Glasshouse, which covers an area of 10 tennis courts, is 12 metres high, and has 3 different climatic zones (tropical; moist temperate and dry temperate) with 5000 different tender plants. It is surrounded by free-flowing beds of herbaceous plants and 150 metre (500 foot) long borders made up of Piet Oudolf-inspired diagonal ‘rivers’ of flowering perennials (mainly North American prairie species) and ornamental grasses with spectacular seedheads, planted in 2001. Usually including 3 plants to each river, the borders exhibit different combinations of repetitive plantings of: Echinacea; Echinops ritro; Perovskia; Gaura; Helenium; and Eryngium giganteum.
The Vegetable, Fruit and Herb Gardens, including demonstration gardens; an ornamental potager and raised beds of 50 different types of vegetables (350 cultivars); as well as the National Rhubarb Collection; and a Tea Garden containing Camellia sinesis, as well as chamomile; cornflower; parsley; mint; strawberry; licorice; lemon balm; jasmine; bergamot and rose petals.
The Orchard, which contains 1300 different fruit cultivars, including 100 different types of plums and damsons; 175 different pears and 700 different apples, as well as strawberries; the National Collections of Red and White Currants and Gooseberries; rhubarb; figs and even a vineyard of white wine grapes. Many of the apples and pears are on dwarf root stock and trees are also trained to espaliers and fans.
The Cottage Garden, designed by Penelope Hobhouse in 1990, with lilacs, roses, bulbs and herbaceous perennials in a formal layout; and the 128 metres (420 foot) long Mixed Borders, which bloom from late Spring to Autumn, with their peak being in July and August. They contain clematis; phlox; helenium; salvias; nepetas; dahlias; sedums; asters; monkshood; helichrysum; monarda; culvers’ root; geranium; globe artichoke; and ornamental grasses.
The Walled Garden displaying Alternatives to Box and Foliage Plants (yew topiary, canes and grasses and over 50 cultivars of hostas).
The Bowes-Lyon Rose Garden, planted in 2007 and containing disease- and pest-resistant, repeat-flowering David Austin and Harkness Shrub Roses, climbers and scramblers, under-planted with camassias; alliums; agapanthus; and ornamental grasses.The Rock Garden, home to alpines; small weeping trees; dwarf conifers; and ferns; with a Japanese- style landscape; grotto and ponds; the Alpine Meadow, full of Spring crocus (National Collection); hoop petticoat daffodils; erythronium; snowdrops; and fritillaries, as well as primulas and hellebores; and Howard’s Field with the National Heather Collection.
The Exotic Garden, full of tropical looking plants with large leaves and vibrant flowers), which can be grown outdoors in the UK Summer, including dahlias; gingers; cannas; bananas and palms; and the Mediterranean Terraces, showcasing the plants of Chile; Australia; New Zealand and South Africa, including eucalypts; acacias; callistemons; pittosporum; abutilons; loquats; lavender, rosemary; cacti and succulents. I imagine I would feel right at home here!
Bowles Corner, dedicated to EA Bowles, a past president of the RHS and lover of ‘demented’ plants, those of unusual habit or appearance like Corkscrew hazel, Corylus contorta, or plants with variegated leaves, as well as his beloved Galanthus; Crocus; Colchicum and hellebores; and the Bonsai Walk showcasing hardy, outdoor, miniature, 40 to 80 year old evergreen, deciduous and flowering bonsai trees.
There are a number of areas, showcasing trees including:
Seven Acres with its Winter Walk with trees chosen for their Winter colour, scent, shape and structure, including Snakebark Maples; Tibetan Cherry; Dogwoods and Willows, underplanted with witch hazel; daphnes; iris; and hellebores.
Oakwood, a wild area with moist soil and light shade and the first garden of the original property, containing hostas; primulas; foxgloves; Trillium; Gunnera; Giant Himalayan Lilies; kalmias; camellias; rhododendrons and magnolias.
Pinetum, the oldest tree collection at Wisley and the Jubilee Arboretum, where trees are grouped for easy comparison eg shade trees; narrow upright trees; weeping trees; blossom trees; fruit trees; and Autumn foliage trees, and the woodland garden of Battleston Hill, complete with stumpery!
Wisley also has an excellent garden library open to the public, as well as a research library; and holds a large number of garden-related courses from Garden Design; Botany for Gardeners: Photosynthesis; Social Media for Gardeners; Plant Identification; Seed Harvesting and Preparation ; Propagation; Tool Care; and Winter Pruning; to Plant Photography; Screen Printing and Painting; Bees in Watercolour; and Christmas Wreaths. They also hold a number of craft and design shows and a major flower show throughout the year.Ryton Organic Garden
Wolston Lane, Coventry, Warwickshire, CV8 3LG
Given our interest in organic horticulture, this garden, the HQ of Garden Organic, a charity organization promoting organic farming and gardening, is also a must-visit for us! Garden Organic began in 1954 as the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA).
The 10 acre garden is divided into 30 individually-themed display gardens, including : the Vegetable Way, a Herb Garden, Pest and Disease Control, World’s Biggest Flowerpot, Soft Fruit Gardens, Biodynamic Garden, an Allotment Garden, a Bee Garden, All Muck and Magic TV Garden ; a Children’s Garden and the famous Vegetable Kingdom, a visitor centre, packed full of interactive displays describing the history of vegetables in the United Kingdom.
All gardens are managed organically and show all aspects of horticulture from composting, companion planting and pest and disease control to fruit and vegetable production; herbs; herbaceous plantings; roses; shrubberies; and lawns, as well as large conservation areas: native trees; a wildflower meadow and cornfield; a lake; and peek-in RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) urban wildlife garden. It sounds like a haven for birds and bees!They hold regular courses in growing orchard trees and organic or cutting-edge vegetables; seed saving; organic and biodynamic gardening; moon planting; composting; and conservation and sustainability, as well as a new Certificate in Organic Horticulture. At Ryton, they have a large organic research centre and a heritage seed library and are also involved in sustainable farming projects in Africa and India.
Their website is an excellent resource for organic growers, especially their section on frequently asked questions, grouped under the following subject areas: Composting, Containers, Diseases, Disorders, Fruit, Ornamentals (Flowers), Pests, Propagation, Soil Management, Vegetables, Water use, Weeds, Wildlife and General.Great Dixter
High Park Close, Northiam, Rye, East Sussex, TN 31 6 PH
The family home of garden writer Christopher Lloyd (1921-2006), Great Dixter was bought by his father Nathaniel in 1912. The fifteenth-century medieval hall house was remodelled by Edwin Lutyens from 1912 to 1920. Originally, there was no garden, but Nathaniel and his wife, Daisy, developed an Arts and Crafts garden, designed by Lutyens, around the old buildings. Some of Lutyens’ hallmarks in the garden were: curving yew hedges; decorative tiling and the incorporation of farm buildings into his garden design.
Christopher, who was renowned for his originality and verve; his adventurous trials and experiments with new growing methods and plants; his dramatic plant combinations; and his successional planting, died in 2006 and his work has been continued under the stewardship of Fergus Garrett, his gardener since the early 1990s and the Great Dixter Charitable Trust.
Fergus and his team have continued to experiment with colour, texture and scale, producing high-impact visual displays and creating an increasingly naturalistic look to the garden using blowsy self-sowers like cow parsley. The garden is in constant flux , the planting schemes different every year. Great Dixter is famous for its colour combinations like lime-green euphorbias and red tulips;and its use of link plants like Thalictrum; forget-me-knots; Verbena bonariensis and bronze fennel.
It is a high maintenance garden, but has an informal feel. Most of the plants are propagated at Great Dixter and are watered with their own bore water and fed with organic compost, with minimal use of chemicals.
While still relatively popular, it gets nowhere near the numbers of neighbouring Sissinghurst, at just over 50, 000 visitors per year, thanks in part to Fergus’s insistence on no signage in the garden; keeping the shop size small; and the paths narrow.The website has an excellent interactive map, which describes each part of the 24 hectare garden. I would particularly like to see:
The Wildflower Meadow at the entrance to the house, cut twice a year in August and late Autumn and containing many different British orchids, wild daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) ; snakeshead fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris) and North American bulb, Camassia quamash; and the Upper Moat, Daisy Lloyd’s ‘Botticelli Garden’, studded with primulas and Snake’s head fritillaries; meadowsweet and Autumn flowering crocuses, Crocus nudiflorus and Crocus speciosus.
Nathaniel’s Yew Topiary Lawn, clipped once a year and the Peacock Garden with its parliament of 18 topiary peacocks and two-foot tall hedges of white and purple Aster lateriflorus ‘Horizontalis’ and a row of indigo blue ‘English’ iris, I. latifolia.
The Exotic Garden, a tropical-looking late summer to autumn garden with large leaves and brightly coloured dahlias and cannas; a haze of purple from self-sown Verbena bonariensis, a Great Dixter signature plant; a white flowering Escallonia bifida, full of butterflies; and four hardy Japanese banana plants, Musa basjoo.
The Orchard, a huge meadow stretching almost the whole south side of the garden, containing apples, pears, plums, hawthorns and crabs and long grass with communities of crocuses, daffodils, erythroniums, wood anemones, four types of terrestrial orchid, and Adder’s Tongue ferns; and The Long Border, a very famous feature of Great Dixter, reached by Lutyens’ circular steps, and separated from the informality of the orchard meadow, by a broad flagstone path and a strip of mown grass.
This closely woven exuberant tapestry of mixed shrubs, climbers, perennials, annuals and grasses blooms from from April to October, with its peak in High Summer (Mid June to mid-August).
The Prairie, a meadow of long grass; Common Spotted and Twayblade orchids ; and North American prairie plants, Veronicastrum virginicum, Eryngium yuccifolium, and Helianthus grossaserratus.
The High Garden, an Edwardian kitchen design ,with paths flanked by fairly narrow flower borders of oriental poppies and lupins, backed by espalier fruit trees, hiding the Vegetable Garden. See Aaron Bertelsen’s blog : https://dixtervegetablegarden.wordpress.com/.
Great Dixter holds Spring and Autumn Plant Fairs; a series of lectures and symposiums and is a centre for horticultural education and work experience.While in the same area, it would be worth visiting Perch Farm, if it coincided with either one of their open days or even better a course in flower arranging or cutting gardens! See: https://www.sarahraven.com and
Interestingly, Christopher Lloyd is one of Sarah’s heroes! I have already discussed her wonderful garden in my post on Sarah Raven’s books in: https://candeloblooms.com/2017/03/21/books-on-specific-types-of-gardens-part-one-cutting-gardens-cottage-gardens-and-herb-gardens/.
Newby Hall and Gardens
Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 5AE
A forty acre (16 hectares) garden designed and created by the present owner’s grandfather, Major Edward Compton, who inherited Newby in 1921 and gardened for over 50 years till his death in 1977. He designed a labour-intensive ‘garden for all seasons’ in compartmented formal rooms off a main axis, created with a broad grass walk, running from the south front of the house down to the River Ure and flanked by double herbaceous borders against double yew hedges.
His son, Robin Compton, and Robin’s wife, Jane, were also passionately interested in the garden, flowers and colour and design. They totally restored and replanted these lovely gardens over a ten year period, winning the BTA Heritage Award and the HHA/Christie’s Garden of the Year Award. The gardens are now run by Mrs Lucinda Compton with Head Gardener, Mark Jackson.
Like the other gardens featured, it has many fascinating garden areas, which are described in depth on the website, but the areas I would most like to see include the following:
Double Herbaceous Borders
172 metres long with a modern colour palette of soft pastels; vibrant lilacs; magenta pinks; lime green; claret and silver. Plants include architectural Cynara; Eryngium; Echinops; and Giant Scotch Thistle Onopordum acanthium ; Delphinium cultivars and Campanula lactiflora; Crambe cordifolia; Geranium and Origanum; asters; dahlias; sedums and undulating drifts of colourful flowering perennials like Echinacea, Lythrum, Sanguisorba and Veronicastrum .
The Autumn Garden
A compartmental walled garden containing Clerodendron trichotomum var. fargessii; Hydrangea quercifolia and Hydrangea aspera Villosa Group and 40 late Summer flowering herbaceous Salvias; 800 dahlias in exotic purples, radiant reds, blousy pinks, moody maroons; Sedum; Echinacea; Phlox; and Verbena bonariensis.
The Rose Garden, mainly old-fashioned once-flowering hybrids and cultivars of Gallicas, Damasks, Albas, Centifolias and Mosses, the peak season being June into July, as well as some more modern repeat-flowering David Austin hybrids; underplanted with annuals like Salvia, Cleome, and Cosmos. The photographs on the website look so beautiful!The Water Garden, created by a man-made stream following a slope down into a pool. Plantings include: the famous soft pastel Harlow Carr primulas; Iris; Gunnera manicata; ornamental rhubarb Rheum palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’; Lysichiton americanum (Bog Arum); Brunnera; Darmera peltata; and hostas; camellias; rhododendrons and bamboos.
The East Rock Garden, the brain-child of Miss Ellen Willmott in the early 1900s, containing Euonymus; Nicotiana; Osmanthus; Viburnum; Cistus ; foxgloves; Ceanothus; and an impressively-striped Acer tegmentosum ‘White Tigress’; Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’, Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’; and hundreds of dark ‘Havran’ Tulips, against a backdrop of Magnolia stellata and Camellia japonica magnoliaeflora..
The White Garden, containing a lily pond and two identical flower beds with variety of white herbaceous perennials, bulbs and annuals, providing harmony and contrast with different heights, flowering times, scents, foliages and textures.
The Woodland Garden, an informal relaxed garden with many plants collected by ‘Chinese’ Ernest Wilson, including the ‘Pocket Handkerchief Tree’, Davidia involucrata, underplanted with epimediums; Himalayan Birch, Betula utilis var. jacquemontii ; the Snowdrop Tree, Halesia carolina; and Snowbell Tree, Styrax hemsleyana.
The Tropical Garden, with its dense plantings of exotic-looking shrubs and plants with large lush foliage: Yuccas (Adam’s Needle), Eryngiums (Sea Holly), and Phormiums, backed by Eucalyptus gunnii, different Paulownias (the Foxglove Tree) and Sweet Viburnum (Viburnum awabuki). Perennials are interspersed with colourful tender exotics like Tithonia rotundifolia (Mexican Sunflower), Leonotis leonorus (Lion’s Tail), Phytolacca ‘Lakka Boom’ and the Castor Oil plant (Ricinus sp.). Whilst Summer is the best time to see the Tropical Garden, there is a wonderful show of flowering magnolias in Spring.
The Beacon Garden, planted to commemorate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, with a tall beacon in its centre, under-planted with hundreds of Narcissi, and surrounded by four beds planted with a central Weeping Pear Pyrus salicifolia and pale pink and deep red peonies (Paeonia officinalis and Paeonia lactiflora).
The Curving Pergola, covered with the golden racemes of Laburnum x watereri ‘Vossii’ in late May/ June.
The Orchard Garden with a central circular bed and a geometric arrangement of Quince and Apple trees. Four Philadelphus hedges create a square-within-a-square, all softened by the late Spring blossoms of fruit trees, flowering Philadelphus hedges and Crab Apple (‘Red Sentinel’) espaliers. Long grass is interspersed with naturalised Tulipa sylvestris and Fritillaria meleagris. The top bed of the Orchard Garden contains magnolias; a large Wisteria and a Banksiae lutea rose, as well as smaller perennials and annuals, including veronicas and diascias. The East bed contains Rosa ‘Alfred Carrière’ and Rosa ‘Alchemist’.
The National Cornus Collection, which contains over 100 specimens with 30 species and 76 different hybrids and forms, including my Cornus ‘Norman Hadden’, photo below.There are so many smaller gardens I would love to visit as well. Here are three of my favourites:
Virginia and Leonard Wolff’s Monks House (https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/monks-house) for its bulbs, thousands planted by Leonard, old roses, colour, literary history and beautiful interiors, as described by Caroline Zoob in her beautiful book, Virginia Wolff’s Garden (see my post: https://candeloblooms.com/2017/05/16/inspirational-and-dreamy-garden-books-part-two-books-about-specific-gardens/);Snowshill Manor Garden (https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/snowshill-manor-and-garden and https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1000781), an Arts and Crafts garden in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, designed and built from 1920 to 1923 by MH Baillie Scott and owned by Edwardian architect, Charles Wade, who collected a fascinating array of treasures (22 000 of them in fact, chosen for their colour, craftsmanship and design) from tiny toys to Samurai armour ; masks to spinning wheels; musical instruments to fine clocks; and model boats to bicycles, all of which he stored in the house, preferring to live in the smaller Priest’s House in the grounds.
Typical of the period and style, the garden is a series of outside with terraces and ponds, and formal beds, full of colour and scent. Many of the garden ornaments are painted ‘Wade Blue’, a soft powdery blue, which harmonises with the Cotswold stone and the blue/purple planting theme.
There is also an ancient dovecote, a pool, a model village, Wolf’s Cove, which was built by Charles Wade, a kitchen garden, orchards and some small fields with sheep. Apparently, he used to entertain up to 500 guests each year, including Edwin Lutyens, John Masefield, J B Priestly, Virginia Woolf and, in 1937, Queen Mary! And finally….Tintinhull Garden (https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/tintinhull-garden), started in 1933 by Phyllis Reiss and developed further in the 1980s by internationally-acclaimed garden writer and designer, Penelope Hobhouse, who described it so beautifully in her books: On Gardening; Garden Style; and Colour in Your Garden (See my post : https://candeloblooms.com/2017/02/21/garden-guides-and-garden-design-books/).
The garden is broken up into intimate garden rooms, linked by axes and paths, and the great diversity of plantings can be investigated through the official website, which has illustrated lists of all the plants used in the different areas of her garden.On Thursday, we will cross over to the continent to explore a few French gardens on my bucket list!