Updated 5 May 2022: English gardens are incredibly varied and here you’ll find something to suit every taste – whether you prefer to visit classically designed English gardens, formal and landscape gardens or modern gardens.
The best English gardens to visit
English gardens with a classic design
One of the most iconic English gardens to visit, created in 1930 by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson. It’s still almost perfect, although nowadays it is more manicured to cope with huge public interest.
Chelsea Physic Garden
Founded in 1673 as an apothecary’s garden, in a warm microclimate by the River Thames, to train apprentices in medicinal plants. Still on a grid system with order beds and many unusual plants.
Famous garden of late plantsman Christopher Lloyd. The house and garden were originally restored by Lutyens in the 1920s to create a series of enclosures and garden themes. Unusual, sometimes outrageous, colour schemes with contrasting formal and informal areas. Interesting plants throughout in the Lloydian tradition continually expanded by head gardener Fergus Garrett.
Lawrence Johnson’s influential early 20th-century garden became a model for many other gardens. Beginning in 1907, Johnson used his artist’s eye to create ‘a cottage garden on the most glorified scale’. Today it’s still an essential English garden to visit.
Built around an early 18th-century house, this is another Hidcote-themed garden but on a smaller scale. Strong Arts and Crafts atmosphere with yew topiary, water features and cottage garden planting. Today it needs some renovation but there are many good plants to see and spark inspiration.
Plantsman's English gardens
First established by the Isles of Scilly Lord Proprietor Augustus Smith in 1834. A warm climate for tender plants on a terraced hillside, protected from salt winds by pine windbreaks and stone walls. Unusual plants are the key here, making it a feast for the plantsman.
An Arts and Crafts garden created in 1925 in this sheltered seaside valley. Microclimatic sites for astonishingly beautiful and rare tender plants
Nursery and garden with many rare plants and a garden laid out by Derry Watkins and her architect husband to demonstrate their use. A magical place.
Stone House Cottage
A garden with walls and sheltered beds specially created to show off nursery plants. A rewarding visit to admire and buy.
Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens
This microclimatic English garden by the seashore is protected by belts of evergreen oak. The garden is a haven for unusual tender species, and features an interesting plant centre.
The Beth Chatto Gardens
Superb and influential gardener Beth Chatto is responsible for all our current ideas on plant husbandry and suitability; she was a supreme garden artist. Splendid nursery of unusual plants.
Formal and landscape English gardens
The most beautiful watery landscape in the country. The brainchild of the banker Henry Hoare, begun in the 1740s and enhanced by deciduous tree plantings and 19th-century conifers.
Harold Peto’s formal vista – a series of box-edged Italianate terraces and narrow canals – is a masterpiece, linking formal gardening with the softer landscape beyond the lake.
In 2010, the 10th Duke of Buccleuch invited Kim Wilkie to augment the early French-style layout with an imaginative and beautiful inverted sunken pyramid of grass based on the legend of the descent of Orpheus into the Underworld.
Two extraordinary restored historic landscapes. The first is an 18th-century park designed by Copleston Warre Bampfylde, with numerous follies, a grand cascade and a pond. The second is one of the most celebrated Lutyens/Jekyll gardens, with formal stonework, rills and Jekyll colour schemes, designed between 1904 and 1906.
This Italianate garden, designed for himself by Harold Peto from 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 best-loved topiary garden in England, although originally conceived by a Frenchman, Guillaume Beaumont, in 1694. Today it is rich in immaculate topiary forms and splendid new herbaceous borders.
An iconic place of pilgrimage for both historians and the casual visitor, the landscape was designed by William Kent between 1737 and 1741.
A beautiful formal Dutch-style water garden created from 1696. Light-reflecting canals lined by formal walls and hedges mark out an inspirational pattern, enlivened by plants authentic to the early period.
Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden
Special artist’s garden displaying bold plants and sculptures created from 1949. Images to stimulate the senses.
Designer John Brookes’ own garden demonstrates his eclectic style, combining straight lines within walls with informal more natural planting schemes. Many lessons to be absorbed here.
Enchanting well-stocked garden with strong architectural features surrounding a medieval house. Interesting formal layout smothered with soft flowing plants.
An astonishing private garden created in 1975, with a series of maze-like enclosures lined with box, inspired by Mondrian and designed to look good in winter and summer.
Herterton House, Hartington, Nr Cambo, Northumberland NE61 6BN. Tel 01670 774278
A modest-sized masterpiece by Geoffrey Jellicoe, created in 1968, but timeless in atmosphere. Jellicoe incorporated distant views over the downs. Pools and descending rills are hidden in thick planting, introducing surprise elements.
More like this
Two separate gardens respectively by Piet Oudolf (1995) and Christopher Bradley-Hole (2001). Oudolf in his typical exuberant style plants sustainable perennials while Bradley-Hole has a more formal architectural approach.
Please check opening times carefully with each individual garden before visiting. Also take note of any special events that might be taking place.
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