What better way can there be to mark spring than to get out in the garden? Karen Neville gathers some inspiring gardens worth visiting.
Whether it’s your own garden in need of a little TLC or a visit to a stunning garden lovingly cultivated, there is nothing like getting out and enjoying one. In recent years, much has been placed on the physical and mental health benefits of gardening too, so get out there and be inspired…
• Runnymede and Ankerwycke, Windsor Road, SL4 2JL (satnav TW20 0AE)
The ideal place to relax outdoors, the river scenery is home to rolling hills, open meadows and wildlife. Why not enjoy one of the most inspiring sights at Runnymede in spring: the swathe of bluebells lit up by the sun as it flickers through the native woodland trees. Join a guided tour of Coopers Hill Woods on Sunday, 26th April, 11am-12.30pm, to discover hidden places where bluebells form a carpet in the undergrowth. Learn and observe how the trees and flora acclimatise to the changing of the seasons.
• Hatchlands, East Clandon, GU4 7RT
2020 is a celebratory year for Hatchlands Park, as it marks the 75th anniversary of this Georgian house, rolling parkland and ancient woodland coming in to the care of the National Trust. From this month stroll through the parkland and visit the Celebration Station – a tented structure which will move during the year – to the meadow, ancient woodland and by the banks of the pond. Discover the stories of the natural beauty and diversity of wildlife with photos, displays and fun nature activities. Find out how the families in the past enjoyed Hatchlands as well as leaving your own memories and thoughts about the future.
• Winkworth, Goldaming, GU8 4AD
Nestled in the heart of Surrey, Winkworth Arboretum is a beautiful green oasis, the perfect place for family adventures. Spring arrives at Winkworth with first a pop, then an explosion of colour: rhododendrons and daffodils appear first and then bluebells spread glorious purple flowers across the woodland floor. There are two play areas – a small natural play area for little ones and a larger Tree Adventure for older children, complete with a rope tunnel and fireman’s pole! With seasonal family events throughout the year and something to see whatever the weather, it’s the ideal weekend escape.
• Ramster Garden, Chiddingfold, GU8 4SN
The beautiful historic garden at Ramster opens this week, 28th, for the new season until 28th June when visitors will be able to enjoy the wildflowers, orchids, climbing roses, hydrangeas and summer flowering shrubs. Spring brings a bird watching camera where you can watch birds nesting or feeding as you take in the bright yellow daffodils and vibrant bluebells before the azaleas and rhododendrons burst into life in May.
• The Savill Garden, Egham, TW20 0UJ
The Savill Garden has earned its reputation as one of the finest woodland gardens in the country – not because it is the biggest woodland garden or that it has the largest collection of plants, but for a combination of all of these elements. Visit throughout the seasons and you will see there is always something new to discover. In exceptional years spring can begin as early as late February with the appearance of breathtaking magnolias, or it might be as late as April before we see the drifts of crocus followed by thousands of dwarf daffodils in the Alpine Meadow. Visit from mid-March onwards and you will be rewarded with a host of floral interest.
• RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, GU23 6QB
If you’re not inspired by the wonder of Wisley then nothing will inspire you – there are 240 acres of gardens to explore here in this home to some of the largest plant collections in the world. A spring must see is the carpet of crocus and highlights throughout the seasons including The Glasshouse, Rock Garden, The Mixed Borders and newly-created Exotic Garden.
• Loseley Park, Guildford, GU3 1HS
Wander through two and a half acres in the Walled Garden, divided into rooms, each has its own unique planting scheme and style. There are more than 1,000 rose bushes – count them if you can, while the flower garden has a maze of pathways and hidden corners and in among all the colour the White Garden has subtle silver and grey foliage.
• Painshill, Cobham KT11 1JE
Painshill, the beautiful landscape garden in Cobham, is a walk in a work of art. Follow the winding pathways and discover simply stunning views and beautiful follies as they unfold before you. There is a flat and even path around the Serpentine Lake for those with accessibility needs or buggies. Complete your day with a visit to the Tea Room for lunch or a homemade scone.
• The Surrey Hills Artisan Trail
You can really appreciate the great outdoors with The Surrey Hills Artisan Trail, launching on Saturday, 2nd May at Silent Pool. Join a free self-guided trail around the Surrey Hills to meet a wide range of artisans, taste local food and drink, take part in workshops and experience traditional craft skills.The launch will be followed by The Surrey Hills Artisan Festival on 16th and 17th May, celebrating local artisans in partnership with Denbies Wine Estate and Surrey Artists’ Open Studios. Enjoy delicious local food and drink and demonstrations and talks from artists sharing their skills, knowledge and passion. Visit www.surreyhills.org/events/surrey-hills-artisan-festival-2020/
• Hinton Ampner, Alresford, SO24 0LA
This masterpiece of 20th century garden design mixes formal and informal planting with splendid views throughout. The highly distinctive gardens feature manicured lawns surrounded by sculptured topiary sure to leave you drooling with envy over the state of your own unclipped bushes and shrubs. The summer months yield borders full of gloriously-scented roses. There’s an extra treat in store at Hinton Ampner too as the pop-up choir performs on Saturday, 16th May, as part of the celebration of 125 years of the National Trust.
• The Vyne, Basingstoke, RG24 9HL
Two lakes, a walled garden, formal garden and meadow along with lawns and a herbaceous border sit neatly inside The Vyne. Rest and relax in the sprawling gardens and woodlands and if it’s an invigorating walk you’re after there are plenty of paths to choose from which at this time of year will likely be coloured in a tapestry of bluebells. The Summerhouse Garden combines beautiful blooms with history including the 600-year-old oak tree which has enjoyed the company of Henry VIII, Jane Austen and Second World war evacuees. Sunny yellow daffodils will be beaming from the borders in the walled garden in spring to be replaced by dahlias in late summer.
• Woolbeding, Midhurst, GU29 9RR
“A horticultural haven bursting with colourful planting, sensational views and a whole host of surprises” is how Woolbeding is described and you can see for yourself when the West Sussex gardens reopen for the new season later this month. Once you’re there you’ll be spoilt for choice – the formal garden rooms feature an entrance garden, the west borders, well, herb and fountain gardens, the orangery, new greenhouse garden and vegetable garden. The Long Walk, by contrast, takes you to a ruined abbey and gardens filled with follies. There’s so much to see and do here you’ll need to go back to appreciate it all.
• Petworth House and Park, GU28 9LR
Petworth House is known for its fine art collection and the landscape is of equally fine quality, giving the impression of being natural, it was in fact transformed in the mid-1700s by Capability Brown.
• Gilbert White’s House & Garden, Selborne, GU34 3JH
The natural history hero was inspired by the surrounding landscape with much of the garden recreated using the notes he kept in his “garden kalendar”. The Six Quarters contains six large flowerbeds and today’s garden is a reconstruction of what his garden may have looked like and planted with many species White grew in the 18th century. Enjoy the aroma of the herb garden, the naturalists garden with pond, the main meadow, kitchen garden and orchard are all true to the original ideals and many of the historic features of the garden can still be seen including the haha, sundial and fruit wall.
• Jane Austen House Museum, Alton, GU34 1SD
She may have written about splendid gardens at grand houses but the gardens at Jane Austen’s own house are no less splendid for all their understated elegance. A wide variety of plants and wild flowers are featured in a beautiful setting beside the village green.
From the entrance courtyard you can enjoy the herb garden, many of which were used for medicinal and culinary purposes. Rose beds, the shrubbery and boundary border all feature blooms you can imagine the Bennets tending to in Pride and Prejudice.
• Chawton House, Alton, GU34 1SJ
If you’re visiting Jane Austen’s house in Alton then make sure this is your next stop. The grounds of the home of Jane’s brother Edward were restored to the English landscape style in the late 18th century with an informal lawn and open views across the estate. The gardens feature two terraces and at the highest point of the grounds you can find the Walled Garden which now features the Elizabeth Blackwell Herb Garden. Imagine yourself in Austen’s time as you walk in the shrubbery where ladies of the house would have taken their exercise.
• National Garden Scheme
This great initiative gives visitors access to more than 3,700 private gardens in England and Wales and raises thousands for charities through admissions, tea and cake. But more than that they are passionate about promoting the physical and mental health benefits of gardens too. Gardens and health week runs from 9th to 16th May and is dedicated to the positive impact gardens can have on health but throughout the year, they will be championing gardens as places of solace, recuperation and relaxation.
Whatever type of garden you favour or whatever type of gardener you are you’re sure to find some inspiration – choose from family-friendly or dog-friendly gardens, cottage or town gardens or if you fancy making a weekend of it, how about one with bed and breakfast on offer too?
• To find one near you, opening dates and times vary, visit www.ngs.org.uk