Discover the 15 Best English Gardens You Must Visit ⇒ For many keen gardeners, a visit to an English garden is one of the highlights of any trip to the UK. There are lots of beautiful gardens to visit in the country and most of them offer something to see at any time of year. With bright blossoms and lush topiary displays everywhere, it’s hard not to fall in love with England’s many gardens. Visitors can live out their fantasies of the Victorian elite, as many of these scenic spots are located on the grounds of historic castles and mansions. Join CovetED on the discovery of the 15 best English gardens you must visit.
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Designed at the turn of the 20th century, Iford Manor brings a slice of Italy to England with its vibrant evergreens and classical statues. This Italianate garden, designed for himself by Harold Peto in 1899, is on a steeply terraced slope above and beside a house that gazes over the River Frome. The whole ensemble makes a perfect composition, an evocative balance between steps, stone, walls and quiet planting of evergreens. The space features Rococo elements throughout the garden and the gracefully-proportioned stairs take advantage of the hilly landscape.
Images Source: Fine Art America (above) and Gardenvisit.com (below)
A picture-perfect English garden attracting visitors for over 300 years, Stowe has fabulous views, lakes and temples all joined up with winding paths in a timeless landscape. This garden is a significant example of the English garden style, one not to be missed. Stowe Landscape Gardens is huge and important. In fact, with its 750 acres and 40 listed historic monuments and temples, it is one of the most significant English landscape gardens. The greatest names in English landscape architecture and garden design created it in the 18th century. In the 1710s, garden designer Charles Bridgeman, architect John Vanbrugh and garden designers William Kent and James Gibbs participated in shaping it. Between 1741 and 1751, the famous Lancelot “Capability” Brown (which celebrated a 300th birthday in 2016) was the head gardener. Stowe was a visitor attraction almost from its inception in the mid 18th century, even inspiring a poem by Alexander Pope.
Images Source: The Shakespeare Blog (above) and Treasure Hunt (below)
Cambridge University Botanic Garden
The Cambridge University Botanic Garden was opened in 1846 by John Henslow, mentor to Charles Darwin, and houses over 8,000 plants from around the world, including nine national plant collections and an arboretum. The garden has been designed to be visited throughout the year. Highlights include the scented garden, buzzing bee borders and winter garden. The scented garden features dozens of varieties of sweet-smelling spring flowers. Step inside the glasshouse to discover huge cacti, exotic plants and a tropical rainforest.
Images Source: cambridge-x.co.uk (above) and 1 Photo 1 Day (below)
The grounds of Levens Hall are filled with a wide array of sculptural topiary. The garden was designed by Monsieur Beaumont in 1694 with over 100 individual topiary pieces, some over nine metres high, putting it on the list of the world-famous 17th-century topiary gardens. Many of these towering topiary pieces are geometric shapes but look out for the chess pieces – King and Queen, the Judges Wig, the Howard Lion, the Great Umbrellas, Queen Elizabeth and her Maids of Honour, a Jug of Morocco Ale and four Peacocks. It is probably the best-loved topiary garden in England, although originally conceived by a Frenchman. Today, it is rich in immaculate topiary forms and splendid new herbaceous borders.
Images Source: Daily Mail (above) and Forestina-Fotos – DeviantArt (below)
An 18th-century ‘Capability’ Brown garden set in the grounds of Chatsworth, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The garden is famous for its 200 ft fountain, rock garden and surviving Joseph Paxton glasshouses and contemporary sculptures. In a great family day out, younger visitors can enjoy the maze, adventure playground and farmyard. Chatsworth in Derbyshire has gardens which have evolved over 450 years and are most famous for the 300-year-old Cascade and the above-mentioned gravity fed Empire fountain. The gardens also feature a kitchen garden.
Images Source: NomeGrown – Blogspot (above) and Gardenvisit.com (below)
The Beth Chatto Gardens
Beth Chatto and her late husband, Andrew, have created a stunning garden from an old car park (just 15 acres), using water-thrifty plants that will amaze and delight all who see it. A real hidden gem, The Beth Chatto Gardens include a water garden, woodland area, scree beds and gravel garden. The art of planting at its best. Today, superb and influential 94-year-old gardener Beth Chatto is responsible for all the current ideas on plant husbandry and suitability, as well as being a supreme garden artist. Visitors can also visit a splendid nursery of unusual plants.
Images Source: britiquity.ml (above) and The Telegraph (below)
Tresco Abbey Garden
These sub-tropical gardens are hidden on the Isles of Scilly, built by Lord Proprietor Augustus Smith in 1834. The tropical garden is set in 17 acres and the warm climate and location on a hillside, protected from salt winds by pine windbreaks and stone walls, ensure unusual exotic plants from all over the world are in plenty, making it a feast for the plantsman. This garden is unique. Follow the paths which cross the garden and discover towering palm trees, giant red flame trees, blue spires of echium and pink pelargonium. A visual treat for any visitor. Despite being first established in the 1830s, the Tresco Abbey Garden remains an attraction for the range of exotic plants on view.
Images Source: Isles of Scilly (above) and Tresco Island (below)
Chelsea Physic Garden
Located in a microclimate by the River Thames, the Chelsea Physic Garden was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries to train apprentices in the medicinal qualities of plants. It became one of the most important centres of botany and plant exchange in the world and has a unique collection of over 5,000 edible, useful, medicinal and historical plants. Still on a grid system with order beds and many unusual plants, this garden offers visitors a real sensory experience.
Images Source: LondonTown.com (above) and Gardenvisit.com (below)
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Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Kew Gardens, probably the world’s most famous garden, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The attraction, created in 1759, boasts the earliest and greatest botanic garden, including breathtaking landscapes, historic buildings, along with one of the rarest and most interesting range of plants. Hop aboard the Kew Explorer land train to enjoy the 40-minute tour of the gardens and learn about Kew’s plants, trees and history. The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew offer 250 years of history, and 300 acres to explore, including the Victorian Palm and Temperate glasshouses and the modern Princess of Wales Conservatory. Easily reached by District line train from central London, it is a garden for all seasons – and all can be viewed from the high-level treetop walk.
Images Source: eternalexploration – WordPress.com (above) and Wikipedia (below)
Studley Royal Water Garden
Studley Royal Water Garden is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, looked after by the National Trust. A stunning 18th-century water garden with ornamental lakes, mirror-like ponds, statues and follies, built around the romantic ruins of the 12th-century Fountains Abbey. Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden together make up one of North Yorkshire’s most rewarding visitor attractions. This garden has it all: green lawns stretch down to the riverside providing picture-perfect picnic spots, the riverside paths lead to the deer park, home to Red, Fallow and Sika deer, all surrounded by ancient trees. The Abbey, a nearly 900-year-old Cistercian monastery is not only Britain’s largest monastic ruin, it was also Yorkshire’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. What makes the adjoining Studley Royal Water Garden more remarkable is that it was the life’s work of one man, John Aislabie. Aislabie was expelled from Parliament. Afterward, he spent his last 21 years creating the water garden. His son later bought the monastery and joined it to the garden as a picturesque “folly”.
Images Source: Welcome to Yorkshire (above) and Mapio.net (below)
The Alnwick Garden
Designed by celebrated international garden designers Wirtz and described by the Duchess of Northumberland as “an inspiring landscape with beautiful gardens, unique features all brought to life with water”, The Alnwick Garden is a magical playground not far from Alnwick Castle (famous as a location for the Harry Potter films). While many of the gardens featured in this list took centuries to create, Alnwick began in the 1990s when the current Duchess of Northumberland (mistress of the castle), discovered the bones of an older garden, overgrown and almost erased on some of the Alnwick estate. The Duke and Duchess donated the land and a considerable fortune to establish the garden as an independent trust. Nowadays, from stunning spring blossoms to fragrant roses, visitors can find striking water features and geometric ornamental gardens, including one of the largest collections of European plants. Visitors will also delight in the roots and shoots vegetable garden and learn all about planting. You can even stop to see the bees making honey. When you’re done exploring, stop off for lunch at the tree-top restaurant, located in one of the world’s largest wooden tree houses. Today, the garden, less than 30 years old, also has open woodlands planted with wildflowers, an established rose garden and a sinister poison garden, featuring some of the deadliest plants and herbs on earth. The Alnwick Garden is kept behind locked gates and can only be visited with a guide.
Images Source: Girls Afternoon Tea (above) and Pictures of England (below)
Sissinghurst Castle Garden
Sissinghurst Castle Garden is the most visited garden in England and one of the most romantic. Created by 1920s writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband Sir Harold Nicolson, it is divided into intimate garden “rooms” that offer different garden experiences all year round. The White Garden is world famous. What you will see is a series of enclosed spaces or garden rooms each styled and planted in a different way but all giving an overwhelming impression of abundance and romanticism. Rare plants mingle with traditional English cottage garden flowers. Statuary and pathways were chosen carefully to best complement the landscape. With its hidden corners and long views, this garden offers sensual surprises at every turn.
Images Source: YouTube (above) and Wellywoman – WordPress.com (below)
Hidcote Manor is one of Britain’s most popular gardens, located in the Cotswolds, and notable for its miles of sculptured hedges, as well as its formal outdoor “rooms”. Created in the early 20th century by Maj. Lawrence Johnston – a wealthy, well educated and eccentric American who became a naturalised British subject and fought with the British Army in the Boer and First World Wars -, it is in an area full of great gardens, including one just across the road, Kiftsgate. Johnston sponsored and participated in plant hunting expeditions around the world to secure rare and exotic species for this extremely pretty garden. Beginning in 1907, he used his artist’s eye to create “a cottage garden on the most glorified scale”. Hidcote Manor early 20th-century gardens inspired a trend of overscale cottage gardens and feature sculpted topiaries, native plants and an elegant waterscape.
Images Source: Wikimedia Commons (above) and David’s Garden Diary – WordPress.com (below)
The Eden Project
The Eden Project in Cornwall is one of Britain’s most visited attractions, located in a disused china clay pit and famous for its distinctive biomes with different environments, including “the world’s largest rainforest in captivity with steamy jungles and waterfalls”. The rainforest biome is about 165 feet high and filled with tropical trees, giant banana plants, birds and insects native to that region of the world. Bring a bottle of water, because climbing up inside is hot work. The smaller biome – the Mediterranean biome – has plants native to regions in a temperate zone from about 48 to 77 degrees. There are citrus groves, vineyards and more than 1,000 plants found in the Mediterranean region, as well as South Africa, South West Australia, Central Chile and California. It aims to educate and inspire, as well as offer an enjoyable day out. In the summer, it hosts major concerts. For those looking for a more “traditional” garden, Cornwall is full of them, including the Lost Gardens of Heligan (restored by the same team as The Eden Project), Trebah and Glendurgan (across the road from each other) and Trelissick.
Images Source: Eden Project (above) and Ward Williams Associates (below)
The vision of banker Henry Hoare, described as a “living work of art” when it first opened in the 1740s, Stourhead is now looked after by the National Trust. The gardens provide visitors with an English 18th-century view of a magical watery garden with stunning temples and follies at every turn, enhanced by a superb collection of plants and 19th-century conifers. Rows of flower beds and herbaceous borders, such as sweeping lawns, a picturesque lake, temples and a grotto contribute to being considered one of the most beautiful watery landscape in the country. One of the temples was the location of a rain-soaked (and unsuccessful) marriage proposal scene in the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice.
Images Source: Incentive England (above) and National Trust’s South West Blog (below)
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Source: House Beautiful, VisitEngland, Gardens Illustrated, Anglotopia, TripSavvy