There’s a wealth of gardens to visit for planting inspiration. We suggest 10 of the lesser-known gems in the UK.
Building on its heritage as the garden of innovative plantsman William Robinson (1838-1935), Gravetye Manor is now firmly back on track as a garden of exemplary plantsmanship. Head gardener Tom Coward has revitalised the borders, wildflower meadow and productive kitchen garden of this 25-acre hotel garden.
Vowels Lane, West Hoathly, Sussex RH19 4LJ. Tel 01342 810567. gravetyemanor.co.uk. See website for access and open days.
Cambo Walled Garden
This historic 2.5-acre walled garden – with a burn running through the middle, spanned by three bridges – is planted with a naturalistic display of rare and interesting perennials. The garden also has a great array of snowdrops early in the season. An enchanting garden for plant enthusiasts, Cambo also hosts an Art of Naturalistic Planting design course.
Cambo House, Kingsbarns, St Andrews, Fife KY16 8QD. Tel 01333 450054. camboestate.com. Open 10am-5pm, daily.
This rural Somerset garden makes clever use of its varying conditions to create distinct areas. Of particular note are the prairie planting, stream-side ravine, shady hosta walk and lake edge. Lots of ideas for what can be achieved when making a garden from scratch – and also with low maintenance in mind.
Chelwood, Somerset BS39 4NN. Tel 01761 490770. ladyfarm.com. Check website for opening times.
Back in 1999, Scampston’s 18th-century walled garden was given a contemporary make-over by Dutch plant master Piet Oudolf. Yew, box, topiary, hedging and pleached limes, are used in a less formal way to define the serpentine plantings of well-chosen perennials.
Scampston Hall, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 8NG. Tel 01944 759111. scampston.co.uk. Open 10am-5pm, Tuesday-Sunday, Easter to October.
Nurseryman Martin Hughes-Jones has focused his enthusiasm in a variety of experimental plantings, inspired by natural plant communities. The garden builds from delicate spring bulbs to bold tapestries of yellows, reds and purples in early autumn.
Samford Shrubs, Sampford Peverell, Tiverton, Devon EX16 7EN. Tel 01884 821164. holbrookgarden.com. Check website for opening times.
Considered both inspirational and challenging, the gardens of Strilli Oppenheimer showcase her devotion to gardening in harmony with nature. Rich herbaceous plantings are linked intentionally with less commonly welcomed invaders, such as ground elder. Biodynamic principles extend to the kitchen garden, farm and estate.
Church Hill, White Waltham, Berkshire SL6 3JH. Tel 01628 825517. walthamplace.com. Open by appointment and for NGS.
Here you’ll find glorious, contemporary, ‘mingled’ planting set alongside historic topiary. Of particular note are the hot borders along the raised walkway, which reach an exuberant crescendo in late summer with clever combinations of hardy and tender perennials, thanks to the skill of head gardener Mick Evans and his team.
Packwood Lane, Lapworth, Warwickshire B94 6AT. Tel 01564 782024. nationaltrust.org.uk. Check website for opening times.
Keith Wiley featured in a National Portrait Gallery exhibition in 2004 as ‘one of the most distinguished people in Britain whose work has influenced our ideas about nature, gardens and the world of plants’. At his garden in Devon you’ll find planting inspired by a landscape of hills, valleys and a dry river bed – all sculpted by Keith to maximise planting opportunities.
Green Lane, Buckland Monachoram, Yelverton, Devon PL20 7NP. Tel 01822 855755. wileyatwildside.com. Check website for opening times.
Roses, clematis, phlox and salvias are a strong theme in this four-acre garden surrounding a 16th-century house. These and other perennials are set against a defining linearity of paths, walls and hedges that divide the garden into sections, each with its own mood.
Wollerton, Market Drayton, Shropshire TF9 3NA. Tel 01630 685760. wollertonoldhallgarden.com. Check website for opening times.
The large estate at Trentham offers year-round interest with plantings from three of our best contemporary planting designers. Tom Stuart-Smith has reinterpreted the original Italian Gardens with massed, naturalistic planting within the parterre’s 70 beds, while Piet Oudolf’s Rivers of Grass and Floral Labyrinth impress with his signature swathes of skilfully combined perennials. Nigel Dunnett, of the Sheffield School and Olympic Park success, has just completed vast new areas of meadow adjacent to the lake, with annual and perennial schemes chosen for their impact and sustainability.
Stone Road, Trentham, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire ST4 8JG. Tel 01782 646646. trentham.co.uk. Check website for opening times.
NOTE: Please check all opening details before setting out to visit any of the listed gardens.