Winning tip: Amber drifts, North Yorkshire
The walled garden of Scampston, near Malton, offers so much: it is a series of contemporary garden rooms within the walls of the 18th century kitchen garden, and has a beautifully restored conservatory, garden cafe and plant shop. In 2003, Dutch designer Piet Oudolf (co-designer of the High Line in New York City) created contrasts in structure and form: from yew pillars, box squares and lime limes through amber molinia grasses to the perennial flower meadow. Scampston Hall is the home of the Legard family, and the grounds allow you to explore trails through the 18th-century Capability Brown countryside, past mature trees, follies and an ornamental lake.
Gardens-only ticket adult £9, child £5† scamston.co.uk
Whisper of awe, Cromarty, near Inverness
Miller’s Yard: Garden of Wonders is little more than a backyard, but it is a secret, quiet space, filled with the wonders of its title – a visual and sensory microcosm of art, geology and nature. Admire okra-green ferns, candy-coated geraniums, and pink-spiked persicaria, each artfully peeking out where they please, swaying in the wind like swallows and dragonflies. Swallow a huge ammonite statue of etched brass and copper scrap, patinated orange and maroon. Step on fossil fish shapes indented into the bleached-grey flagstones. A quiet secluded place where visitors whisper in awe.
Adult £6.50, nts.org.uk
The Secret Garden in the market town of Louth is a tropical paradise, teeming with a fascinating array of plants, including 15 varieties of bananas. The path winds around a pond and an exotic island, with several seating areas, the air spiced with evocative scents. As plant collectors, the owners are constantly looking for new pleasures. This private garden is open to the NGS throughout July and August.
£3, reservation necessary, findagarden.ngs.org.uk
Hilldrop, in Horndon-on-the-Hill, is an experimental garden that uses industrial waste as soil, a dry garden, a recycling garden – and it’s an experiment that has worked, because it’s the nicest garden we’ve visited, full of insects and birds. It’s hard to believe that this breathtaking beauty is made from materials used to widen the A13, among other unlikely substrates. It is a living, organic example of how our gardens can thrive through climate change. The website doesn’t quite express how great it is.
Roman roots, West Sussex
My favorite garden to visit is at Roman Palace Fishbourne in West Sussex. Not only is this perhaps the oldest known formal garden in the UK, but it also sits in the courtyard of the largest Roman residence north of the Alps, which was created in AD 75, just 30 years after the Great Invasion -Britain. The plants used in the reconstructed garden, based on archaeological trenches, are species known to have been cultivated in ancient times. It is an oasis of Roman civilization in what used to be the remote northwestern frontier of Britannia. Hail Pomona, goddess of gardens, fruit trees and orchards.
Adult £12, Child £6, sussexpas.co.uk
David Russell Rudling
Arts and Crafts Principles, Leeds
York Gate Garden only covers an acre, but feels much larger. The garden forms themed rooms. You will be guided to discover herb borders, a vegetable garden, a stream garden, etc loggia, dells and follies. The ingenious layout gives a glimpse of what is to come, space also created by planting on different levels. Inspired by the 19th-century Arts and Crafts movement, artisanal craftsmanship is pervasive throughout this 1950s and 1990s designed space, and none of the many sofas are identical. Paths meander in and out, alternative routes avoid stairs. You are welcome to walk around a second time so you can see all the colorful holes.
seven pounds† perennial.org.uk
Charming Retreat, South London
There are community gardens dotted around London, which are often overlooked by people going to the famous parks. Walworth Garden is my favourite. A stone’s throw from Kennington station, this is a nature reserve that stretches far beyond its borders. Educational programs train professional gardeners working in South London. Meanwhile, free workshops lure people to the charming retreat. The plants also impress: bananas, extensive herbs and vegetables and beautiful espalier trees. It is beautiful, expertly cared for and truly community oriented. Perfect.
Salvia sensation, Kent
In early June, iridescent rhododendron blooms pass the baton to hundreds of pink and indigo salvias in the hidden idyll of Great Comp Garden between Sevenoaks and Maidstone. Once home to a prominent suffragette and pioneering female English cricketer, Great Comp is now known as the site of one of the most important salvia collections in Europe. Mexican hardy salvias, flowers from Argentina, an Italian garden and swaying grasses make this three-acre garden a horticultural honeypot that’s easily accessible from south-east London. A perfect place to store the phone and make time alone for rest within the walls.
Adult £8.50, Child £3, greatcompgarden.co.uk
Herbaceous highlights, Snowdonia
Caerau Gardens near Bala claims to be the tallest public garden in North Wales at 304 metres. There are certainly beautiful views, lots of examples of thoughtful planting and an eclectic mix of former show garden features. The owners, Toby and Stephanie Hickish, have provided entertainment for children with a sunken trampoline and a zip line between the rides – it’s not a garden that takes itself too seriously. Tasty offers from the café and a small selection of plants for sale complete the offer. We had a very friendly welcome from Stephanie – it’s not everywhere you can chat with the garden designer. caerau-gardens.co.uk
Full of colour, Cotswolds
hidcote is an Arts and Crafts inspired garden with intricately designed outdoor spaces. Created by horticulturist and Boer War veteran Lawrence Johnston – he developed a keen interest in African flora during the conflict – it is characterized by colorful “outdoor rooms” that are full of surprises. It was donated to the National Trust in 1947 when Johnston decided to turn his attention to his garden at Serre de la Madone in Provence, France. Design-minded visitors will love the maze of narrow cobblestone paths and secret gardens of plants bursting with color. Many of the species that grow here were collected during hunting trips from Johnston to faraway places. It is the perfect place to visit if you are looking for garden inspiration. Among the garden’s visitors and residents are green woodpeckers and hummingbird hawk moths.
Grown up £15, child £7.50 nationaltrust.org.uk
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