England has a wealth of beautiful gardens to visit and explore, says Adrienne Wild
The Lost Gardens of Heligan
On a sunny spring day, it’s hard to find a more idyllic spot than Cornwall’s Lost Gardens of Heligan. Not only do they hold National Collections of rhododendrons and camellias, they also have an amazing history that will capture your imagination.
The story begins when the 80-acre gardens, which were part of the former seat of the Tremayne family, fell into serious disrepair as a result of the First World War.
It is picked up again in 1990, when ecologist Tim Smit (who went on to create the Eden Project) and John Willis (a Tremayne descendant), discovered the remnants of this Victorian garden beneath tangled undergrowth.
Today, the wild and formal areas, like the Italian Garden, are fully restored, along
with Victorian glasshouses and an original manure-heated pineapple pit, which is once again producingthe exotic fruit.
The garden features productive flower and vegetable gardens that hold over 200 heritage varieties, as well as a series of lakes that are fed by an ancient ram pump. It’s also home to the Jungle, which many visitors say is the most stunning element of Heligan.
Located in a valley, it’s accessed by steep paths that cross over ponds full of exotic water lilies and past giant palm trees, ferns and bamboo, many of which were introduced by the Victorian plant hunters.
Info: 01726 845 100; heligan.com
Savill Garden & The Valley Gardens
Set in Windsor Great Park, these are among Britain’s finest gardens to visit. From April, the 35-acre woodland site, created by Sir Eric Savill in the 1930s, comes alive with vibrant camellias and magnolias.
It’s also particularly stunning when swathes of daffodils and crocuses clothe vast informal lawns.
The borders feature stunning plant combinations, for example bold drifts of ‘candelabra’ primulas and skunk cabbages, rub shoulders with Siberian iris.
Visit in May to see the iconic blue Meconopsis and the amazing pocket handkerchief tree, Davidia involucrata (sprigs of which were used in the last royal wedding decorations) in bloom.
An enormous Magnolia ‘Peter Veitch’ and flowering Japanese cherries add to the spectacle.
In the Valley Gardens, glades of rhododendrons and azalea walks give the gardens their wow factor. And walking through the groves of sweetly scented Loderi hybrids is a heady experience you won’t forget in a hurry.
The most famous display is the Punch Bowl, where thousands of Japanese Kurume azaleas flaunt their blooms. Have your camera ready!
Pashley Manor in Ticehurst, near Wadhurst, East Sussex, was once a Tudor hunting lodge owned by Anne Boleyn’s family, and the giant 500-year-old oaks near the entrance gate give a clue to its origins.
Today, the 11 acres of award-winning gardens, carefully restored and cleverly planted by owners Mr and Mrs Sellick, offer visitors the treat of seeing colour and plants of interest throughout the year.
A key feature is the abundant kitchen garden, which is a work of art, growing vast amounts of herbs, salads and vegetables used by the kitchen at its Garden Room Cafe.
The bluebell wood, however, is the real joy of spring, and as the season progresses the fragrant rose walk, imaginatively and tastefully planted herbaceous borders, and ponds with fountains and colourful wild fowl inspire.
Don’t miss the popular Tulip Festival in late April/early May, when more than 20,000 tulips carpet the whole garden, with at least 100 different varieties on display.
Quirky metal and wooden sculptures (which are all for sale) are also integrated with the plantings, providing a surprise around every corner and lovely photo opportunities.
Info: 01580 200 888; pashleymanorgardens.com
Golden daffodils ‘fluttering and dancing in the breeze’ was the awesome sight that inspired William Wordsworth to write his famous poem Daffodils.
The cheery sight of these jaunty flowers filled his heart with pleasure, a sentiment shared by millions of gardeners each spring.
So what better place to see them in all their glory than Wordsworth’s historic home and gardens at Rydal Mount, in Ambleside in the Lake District?
Wordsworth, who lived at Rydal Mount from 1813 until his death in 1850, was a keen landscape gardener and this four-acre plot remains very much as he designed it – informal and in complete harmony with its surroundings.
The extensive grounds have lush emerald-green lawns, fell-side terraces, rock pools and an ancient mound, and in March and April, the riotous bursts of yellow from the daffodils are followed by bluebells and rhododendrons.
The garden also boasts 26 rare plants and trees of special interest, which will please the plant enthusiasts among you.
Visiting this romantic garden is a peaceful experience, especially if you take time to sit down by the waterfall or stand on the mound and take in the magnificent lake views.
Wordsworth’s spirit is reported to remain at Rydal Mount, so maybe you’ll even be inspired by his presence! The shrine for spring visitors is the National Trust-owned Dora’s Terrace, where Wordsworth planted native daffodils in memory of his daughter.
Info: 01539 433 002; rydalmount.co.uk