Now is the time to go gaga for the gardens of the great and the good.

With the work of the finest gardeners in the land in the full bloom, it is worth sparing the time to visit the UK’s prettiest gardens. As well as offering inspiration, tips and a very good tea, garden visits calm the mind and feed the soul.

For centuries, England has been a hotbed of thoughtful and passionate horticulturalists. Their legacy? Countless glorious gardens that are open to the public. Here are some of our favourites.

The Alnwick Garden, Northumberland

The current Duchess of Northumberland began her £42 million transformation of the gardens at Alnwick in 2000. Two decades on, the award-winning attraction features a Grand Cascade, with 120 water jets, a treehouse, ornamental garden, roses galore, the world’s largest Taihaku cherry orchard and the largest collection of European plants in the UK. Find more info here.

The Garden At Charleston, East Sussex

When Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, chieftains of the Bloomsbury set, lived at Charleston, they used the beautiful walled garden as a living painting, allowing it to evolve all year round. It was filled in 1916, when they arrived, with fruit trees and vegetables. Their friend Roger Fry redesigned it with the rectangular lawn, flowerbeds and gravel paths that have been open to the public since 1986. Their daughter Angelica Garnett said: ‘The garden here was not a gentleman’s garden or a gardener’s garden, it was always an artist’s garden.’ It continues to inspire today. Find more info here.

Highgrove, Gloucestershire

There’s something gripping about the thought of visiting the beloved garden of the Prince of Wales, that’s for sure, but a better reason to go is that it’s the enchanting result of 40 years’ work and passion. The gardens, arranged in a series of interlinked sections, are managed organically, making them a haven for flora and fauna. He has designed them to ‘please the eye and sit in harmony with nature’. Note: only visitors with a valid prebooked ticket will be permitted. Find more info here.

RHS Wisley, Surrey

Wisley is the RHS’s flagship garden. As such, it attracts over a million visitors each year and is a joy to behold. Its 240 acres exist as inspiration to the nation’s gardeners, rather than as a museum of plants, so the practical among you ought to pay attention. If you can’t make it to Wisley in person, the RHS website includes a fabulous virtual tour. Find more info here.

Stourhead, Wiltshire

A stroll around the gardens of this exquisite Palladian mansion is the epitome of escapism. You could be in another world as you wander amid its languorous lake, shady pathways, grotto, pantheon and temple. When Henry Hoare planted it in the 1740s, it was described as ‘a living work of art’. You are likely to come away from a visit to Stourhead slightly changed. Find more info here.

Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent

Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson fell in love with Sissinghurst Castle in the 1930s and she set about creating one of the most glorious gardens in the world. She wrote of it: ‘The heavy golden sunshine enriched the old brick with a kind of patina, and made the tower cast a long shadow across the grass, like the finger of a gigantic sundial veering slowly with the sun. Everything was hushed and drowsy and silent but for the coo of the white pigeons.’ Our highlight is the White Garden, in which everything is – you guessed it – white. Sackville-West insisted as she planted this one that it would have nothing in it but ‘white, green, grey and silver’. The effect is astonishing. Find more info here.

The Walled Garden At Houghton Hall, Norfolk

Contemporary sculpture co-exists happily here with five acres of award-winning walled garden. The present Marquess of Cholmondeley created the garden, in conjunction with his head gardener and Julian and Isabel Bannerman, in memory of his grandmother. The space is divided into several contrasting ornamental gardens, including a double-sided herbaceous border, an Italian garden and a formal rose parterre. No trip to Norfolk is complete without a visit to Houghton (which, incidentally, was the home of Robert Walpole, the first British prime minister). Find more info here.

Hidcote, Gloucestershire

The American horticulturalist Major Lawrence Johnston poured everything he knew into the gardens at Hidcote when he moved into the house with his mother in 1907. By the 1920s, it was widely admired by society and open to the public for charity two days a year. Its colourful and intricately designed ‘outdoor rooms’ have inspired much imitation and are famous to this day. Find more info here.

By Becky Ladenburg
May 2022

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Becky Ladenburg

Features Editor

As the GWG's features editor, Becky has her discerning finger on the cultural pulse. She's also our go-to expert on the property market.