Great Britain has a tradition of cultivating some of the world’s most stunning gardens. From immaculately landscaped stately homes, to lesser well-known suburban gardens, the UK has long been admired for its fine horticulture.
One reason the UK has so many examples of stunning gardens is the climate. The UK lies within the temperate zone, where it is not too hot, not too cold, and has just enough rain and sunshine.
In the UK you simply do not get extremes of nature, such as droughts, severe winters, or having to suffer the aftereffects of earthquakes, tsunamis or typhoons.
So now you know the why, here’s the where you should visit some of the UK’s most beautiful gardens.
This is a 180 year-old, 40 acre woodland garden that was first opened to the public in the 1950’s. Known as the Sleyt, a word used to describe a boggy area in the 17th century, over the next 200 years, this area slowly transformed into a garden.
In more recent times, the plantation has received over one million pounds in grants for restoration purposes. The plantation is best known for its evergreen azaleas which line the many ponds and streams. In fact, there are said to be over 100 different varieties of azaleas, around 50 species of rhododendrons and more than 125 varieties of hybrid rhododendrons.
Jo Scrivener, Richmond Park’s Assistant Park Manager, said:
“The Isabella Plantation is the jewel in Richmond Parks’ crown, and spring is the perfect time to visit with our azaleas and rhododendrons in bloom.”
A more modern garden is the Sissinghurst, which was created back in the 1930s by Vita Sackville-West. Sackville-West was the gardening correspondent of The Observer, and a poet, and she designed the Sissinghurst alongside her husband, Harold Nicolson, an author and diplomat.
In the 1930’s it was quite unusual for a woman to take the reins in the development of a garden, as back in those times, they were seen as mothers and wives. Sackville-West however, was an independent woman, who already had a successful career as a novelist in her own right, and was said to have embarked on several affairs with other women.
Sissinghurst gardens were designed to resemble a series of separate ‘rooms’, each with their own character, by having a different colour and theme. They are divided by highly clipped hedges and walls constructed with pink bricks.
Fans of the hugely successful 1980’s TV programme Brideshead, might like to know that this fictional story was filmed at Castle Howard.
The television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel featured extensive use of this stately home’s gardens. The location of these gardens are situated on Castle Howard’s prominently position on a ridge. Here there is a formal garden that leads away from the house to a landscaped park.
Within the grounds are lakes either side of the house, an arboretum that has had a three year restoration programme by the Yorkshire Arboretum, in which you can seed diverse species of plants from around the world and rare rhododendrons.
You should also make time to check out the Walled Garden, which was originally set out as a kitchen garden in the 18th century. Today, part of the garden still provides vegetables which are sold in the gift shop, but there are also roses which have been dedicated to the memory of Lady Cecilia Howard.
Bodnant gardens were founded in 1874 and subsequently developed by five generations of one family. They were finally gifted to the National Trust in 1949.
The gardens include 80 acres and feature formal areas such as the Italianate Terraces, and more informal spaces, for instance the Shrub Borders.
Many of the plants displayed at Bodnant are grown from seeds and cuttings which have been collected from all over the world on plant-hunting expeditions.
As well as cosy corners, expansive lawns, stunning impressive terraces, and ever –changing displays of colours, there is also a wooded valley and stream to explore.
Probably Bodnant’s greatest claim to gardening fame however, is the flowering Laburnum Arch. This is a series of arches where the golden yellow flowers of the laburnum tree cover each arch.
At the moment the countdown is on to see when the arch will reach its flowering peak. This is typically during the last week of May.
The Castle of Mey was purchased by The Queen Mother in 1952, where the gardens were sadly neglected. However, the head gardener James Sinclair, and more recently Sandy Webster bought them back to their former beauty.
At present, the gardens consist of the Walled Garden and the East Garden, complete with a woodland area. Much of The Queen Mother’s original design still remains.
In the Walled Garden sections are divided by mixed hedges which hide surprises for the visitor. There are also fruit, vegetables and flowers grown in the garden and greenhouse which are used by HRH., Prince Charles, whenever he is staying at the castle.
HRH is a frequent visitor and has many paintings of the castle, so you could possibly spot him on the grounds with an easel and paints.
The produce grown in the gardens are used by the tearoom and any leftover is sold in a stall outside the greenhouse.
As for flowers, the Queen Mother’s favourite old rose, Albertine, still grows in abundance behind the Great Wall of Mey.