Waltham Place

10 of the best gardens to visit for planting inspiration

The best, but lesser-known, gardens to visit for planting inspiration

There’s a wealth of gardens to visit up and down the country. From romantic gardens to the top English gardens, there will inevitably be something specifically for you. This list is catered to people who are excited about plants: they are the top plant gardens in the UK, and are perfect for getting inspiration for your own borders.

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Don’t forget that following the coronavirus lockdown measures, many gardens are only just opening up and have added systems in place. You may need to book in advance to visit, so make sure you check with the garden before you travel.

Here are ten of the best lesser-known gardens to visit in the UK.

1

Gravetye Manor

The Gravetye Manor is a delightful historic hotel set in more than 1000 acres of tranquil English countryside

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.

The garden is connected to the hotel and restaurant, so you will need to either book at either of these for the garden, or an open day. Check the website for more information.

Vowels Lane, West Hoathly, Sussex RH19 4LJ. Tel 01342 810567. gravetyemanor.co.uk. See website for access and open days.

The giant snowdrop Galanthus 'S.Arnott' has a honey-like scent.
© Jason Ingram

2

Cambo Walled Garden

A planted naturalistic display of rare and interesting perennials in soft purple hues is on display in the enchanting 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.

Check for the garden open and event days, where the garden will be open to the public. The gardens are open, but tickets will need to be booked. Check the website for more information.

Cambo House, Kingsbarns, St Andrews, Fife KY16 8QD. Tel 01333 450054. camboestate.com. Open 10am-5pm, daily.

3

Lady Farm Gardens

The Lady Farm gardens is a farmhouse garden in schemes of grasses and low perennials

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.

The garden is not usually open to the public, so check the website for events or other opening possibilities.

Chelwood, Somerset BS39 4NN. Tel 01761 490770. ladyfarm.com. Check website for opening times.

4

Scampston Walled Garden

Award winning Scampston Walled Garden, designed by Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf, featuring modern, perennial low planting alongside traditional areas

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.

The walled garden, cafe, hall gardens, parkland and plant nursery are all open following lockdown. Advance booking of tickets is not required.

Scampston Hall, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 8NG. Tel 01944 759111. scampston.co.uk. Open 10am-5pm, Tuesday-Sunday, Easter to October.

Holbrook Garden, a naturalistic garden builds from delicate spring bulbs to bold tapestries

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.

Book tickets via the NGS site.

Samford Shrubs, Sampford Peverell, Tiverton, Devon EX16 7EN. Tel 01884 821164. holbrookgarden.com. Check website for opening times.

Waltham Place is an English ornamental landscape garden with splendid specimen trees

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.

Advance bookings for garden tours are now being accepted.

Church Hill, White Waltham, Berkshire SL6 3JH. Tel 01628 825517. walthamplace.com. Open by appointment and for NGS.

7

Packwood House

Contemporary planting in bright oranges, yellows and purples sit alongside historic topiary at Packwood House gardens

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.

The parkland and gardens are now open, the house is open Friday to Tuesday. Please book ahead before visiting.

Packwood Lane, Lapworth, Warwickshire B94 6AT. Tel 01564 782024. nationaltrust.org.uk. Check website for opening times.

Keith Wiley's Wildside Garden features a depth of naturalistic planting with expansive colour

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.

Wildside is now closed for 2020. Check the website for 2021 opening times.

Green Lane, Buckland Monachoram, Yelverton, Devon PL20 7NP. Tel 01822 855755. wileyatwildside.com. Check website for opening times.

Clematis, salvias, phlox and roses offer colour, form and scale at the Wollerton Old Hall garden

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.

The garden is open, but advance tickets must be bought, even for season ticket holders.

Wollerton, Market Drayton, Shropshire TF9 3NA. Tel 01630 685760. wollertonoldhallgarden.com. Check website for opening times.

10

Trentham Gardens

Tall trees line the lake at Trentham Gardens

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.

The garden is open for those with pre-booked tickets.

Stone Road, Trentham, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire ST4 8JG. Tel 01782 646646. trentham.co.uk. Check website for opening times.

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NOTE: Please check all opening details before setting out to visit any of the listed gardens.