Spring and summer are some of the best times to visit the UK’s wide variety of beautiful gardens, when flowers begin to blossom and bloom. Many displays will be at their most colourful and the weather should be at its best, enabling you to while away as many hours as you wish outside in the fresh air.
Here we pick some of the best gardens that the country has to offer, which range from Japanese-themed gardens to expansive acres that include a safari park.
Compton Acres, Dorset
Often described as one of the finest privately owned gardens in England, it goes without saying that Compton Acres is worth visiting when staying in holiday cottages in Dorset. With extensive refurbishment having taken place over the past eight years, the gardens are truly at their best right now and have a fascinating historical context that can be enjoyed by visitors.
"The gardens were first created in the 1920s by an entrepreneur who set out to achieve his dream of building a series of gardens which reflected his experience of travelling across the world; from the splendour and romance of Italy to the vibrancy and colours of Japan. Today, all five themed gardens are filled with plants from across the world, plus rare specimens which cannot survive in other parts of the UK." – Compton Acres
This popular attraction in Wiltshire is not only famous for its magnificent house, which is one of the best examples of Elizabethan architecture in Britain, but also for its 900 acres of grounds. From the extensive adventure park to the safari experience, there’s plenty to keep all ages entertained at Longleat.
“Apart from the ancestral home, Longleat is also renowned for its Safari Park. Open in 1966, it was the first outside of Africa and began a revolution in zoological collections that has since spread around the globe. For the first time animals were able to move freely across hundreds of acres of land and to interact naturally with each other.
The 900-acre Longleat Estate is home to over 100 different species of animal which live within the Safari Park and other animal areas. Although famous for its lions, Longleat is home to tigers, wolves, rhinos, giraffes, camels and the hugely popular monkey drive-through to name a few.” - Longleat
The Garden House, Devon
The Garden House is especially exciting to visit this year, as the new summer garden has opened, which is new for 2015. Outstanding examples of naturalistic planting can also be seen when visiting and the Jubilee Arboretum, which is complete with bridges and tumbling water, provides the perfect environment for relaxing.
“Owned and managed by the Fortescue Garden Trust, The Garden House in Buckland Monachorum is an idyllic, 10-acre English country garden gem set in a tranquil Devon valley. Several gardens in one, it features more than 6,000 different plant varieties and is not only a must for horticultural enthusiasts, but anyone with a passion for beautiful plants.
Visitors can also enjoy free entry to a plant sales area, offering a range of plants that mirrors those on display in the garden, while the tearoom has a range of hot meals, cream teas, cakes and other refreshments. There’s also a woodland animals trail to keep the children entertained!” – The Garden House
Furzey Gardens, New Forest
Located in the heart of the New Forest, Furzey Gardens provides peace and tranquillity and is renowned for its beauty all year round. Those visiting can make the most of the harmonious walks and spectacular views of the Isle of Wight, while knowing that they are supporting the students who work hard to keep the gardens immaculate.
“Visitors return year after year to enjoy the rare rhododendrons and azaleas that bloom in spring. However, Furzey Gardens is a garden for all seasons with interest and colour all through the year. The autumn colours are particularly wonderful and in the summer the cottage bursts with life. Furzey Gardens are also more than just a garden, we are a charity that supports people with learning disabilities who work and maintain the gardens, who also work in the nursery raising plants for selling and creating crafts that are sold in the shop. The historic thatched cottage can be explored, and our Gold Award-winning RHS Chelsea Garden can be enjoyed by the lake – built by our learning disability team, it won a gold medal in 2012.”
Mapperton Gardens, Dorset
This romantic garden is hidden amongst unspoiled countryside and reflects at least three periods of history. From the 1920s garden laid out by Mrs Ethel Labouchere in her husband’s memory to the Orangery which was planted by the Earl of Sandwich’s father in the 1950s, the grounds are truly captivating and will interest anyone with a love of the outdoors.
“Mapperton Gardens is a unique valley garden in West Dorset, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The gardens surround the Jacobean manor house, stable blocks, dovecote and All Saints Church. Below the Orangery and Croquet Lawn is an Italianate formal garden with fountains, topiary, grottoes, ponds and stone statuary, laid out in the 1920s. Beyond this is a summer house overlooking two fish ponds, leading to the Wild Garden. Also, Mapperton stars as ‘Everdene Farm’ in this year’s cinema release ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ based on the novel by Thomas Hardy.” – Mapperton Gardens
Larmer Tree Gardens, Wiltshire
Known as the jewel of the Cramborne Chase, which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it’s no surprise that the Larmer Tree provides a gorgeous setting. Situated on the Dorset/Wiltshire border, the beautifully laid out gardens were created by General Pitt Rivers in 1880 and were originally designed to provide the Victorian public with enlightenment and entertainment.
“Recognised by English Heritage as a Garden of National Importance, they were the first privately owned gardens to be opened for public enjoyment. From the magnificent main lawn, radiate wide laurel-hedged rides that take you to tranquil woodland beyond, The Larmer Tree contains a wonderful collection of ornate buildings, peacocks and free-flying Macaws, retained in an enchanting and tranquil atmosphere.” – Larmer Tree Gardens
Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, Dorset
This year will see the Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens celebrate their 250th birthday, which you can be a part of during an English country cottage holiday. Originally established as kitchen gardens for the nearby castle by the first Countess of Ilchester in 1765, they have since been developed to be filled with rare and exotic plants from all over the world. As part of the anniversary, £100,000 has been invested to create a 36-metre rope bridge which crosses the Jurassic swamp pond area of the garden.
“The Rope Bridge is an amazing addition to the Gardens and has taken months of planning. It sways a little when you walk on it, but it’s quite safe and the ‘jostle’ is all part of the fun!” - John Houston, manager of Abbotsbury Tourism.
Forde Abbey, Dorset
Boasting 30 acres of award-winning gardens, there’s always something of interest to see at Forde Abbey and Gardens in Dorset, from carpets of springtime bulbs and vibrant summer borders to the wonderful colours of the arboretum in autumn.
“View all of these against the backdrop of the Centenary Fountain, the highest powered fountain in England, and the magnificent house itself. Delight in the outstanding 850-year-old family home complete with the ornate Mortlake tapestries and catch a glimpse of its monastic past. Delicious homemade lunches and cakes are available in our Tearooms along with the gift shop, plant centre and pottery exhibition.” – Forde Abbey
The Lavender Farm, New Forest
Purple carpets of lavender fields are waiting for you at this delightful farm located in the New Forest, as well as a charming nursery which is filled with herbs, perennials and roses too. This way you can take a little part of the Lavender Farm home with you, which will be a wonderful reminder of your holiday in the New Forest.
“Our family-run farm is a tranquil haven, and provides a place to escape from the pressures of everyday life. Experience the beautiful gardens, overlooking two acres of stunning English Lavender, breathing in its calming aroma, before indulging in delicious homemade lavender shortbread and cakes in our tearooms.”– The Lavender Farm
Image Credit: Larmer Tree, Compton Acres, Longleat, The Garden House, Furzey Gardens, Mapperton Gardens, Larmer Tree, Abbotsbury Tourism, Forde Abbey Gardens