Summer time, holidays and the chance to cast garden visits a bit wider. We’ve selected seven inspirational gardens for Country Gardener readers around the country which offer something really unique and special.
Swiss Garden, Bedfordshire
A magical Regency-era landscape garden with an alpine theme, recently restored with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund with plants from all over the world, ponds, bridges, rose arbours, miniature buildings, a grotto and fernery.
Within 10 acres you can wander among splendid shrubs and rare trees; around tiny islands and ponds; and over intricate ironwork bridges. At the centre of this romantic scene is the tiny thatched Swiss Cottage, lined with intricate fretwork and perched on a grassy knoll. Hidden nearby is a breathtaking fernery and grotto, full of dazzling light and mysterious darkness. Visit 9.30am-5pm until the end of October.
Swiss Garden, Old Warden Park, Old Warden, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire SG18 9ER www.shuttleworth.org/swissgarden
The Beth Chatto Gardens, Essex
Gardens established by renowned plantswoman, a masterclass in how to deal with tricky growing conditions, both dry and wet.
The whole garden was built from scratch from fallow fields along a backbone of 350-year-old oaks, still the most fabulous occupants in this magical place. Covering six acres, these beautiful gardens have become world famous. Original problem areas have been transformed by the use of plants suited to the conditions into gravel, water and woodland gardens.
Also visit the highly-regarded nursery next door. Visit: Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 10am-5pm, until October.
Beth Chatto Elmstead Market, Clacton Rd, Elmstead, Colchester CO7 7DB www.bethchatto.co.uk
Levens Hall, Kendal, Cumbria
The best-loved topiary garden in England, although originally conceived by a Frenchman, Guillaume Beaumont, in 1694. Today rich in immaculate topiary forms and splendid new herbaceous borders. There are ten wonderful acres of gardens waiting to be explored and enjoyed. They include the unique collection of ancient and extraordinary topiary characters sculpted from box and yew. Further on, beyond the romantic old orchard and separated by the great beech hedges, lie magnificent herbaceous borders. These are traditionally double in format and are amongst the finest to be found in England.
Visit: open through to 5th October 10am to 5pm. Closed on Fridays and Saturdays.
Levens Hall, Kendal, Cumbria LA8 0PD www.levenshall.co.uk
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. It is still on a grid system with ordered beds and many unusual plants. It’s a place in London to find peace and tranquillity in this beautiful botanical garden in three and a half acres. You’ll also find one of the oldest rock gardens in Europe, a herb garden with culinary and medicinal plants, botanical order beds, glasshouses, rare plants and tender species; as well as the largest outdoor olive tree in Britain. Take a self-guided historical or medicinal walk and discover the newly added Garden of World Medicine showing the use of plants medicinally by tribal societies.
Visit: through to 30th October every day 11am to 5pm. Garden only Mondays.
Chelsea Physic Garden, 66 Royal Hospital Road, London SW3 4HS Tel 020 7352 5646 www.chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk
The Courts Garden, Wiltshire
A great example of an arts and crafts English formal garden, set in seven acres around an 18th century house. Originally created between 1900 and 1921. The Courts Garden was based on a Hidcote Manor in Gloucestershire model, it is now freshened and superbly planted and maintained. The garden is designed as a series of rooms. Amazing topiary work and cloud-pruned hedging.
Visit: Thurs-Tues, 11am-5.30pm, until 30 October. Holt, Bradford-on-Avon BA14 6RR www.nationaltrust.org.uk/the-courts-garden
Bury Court, Surrey
A contemporary courtyard garden designed by Piet Oudolf, specialising in grasses and hardy perennials. This quirky garden is not particularly big, it has a relevance to ordinary gardens. The planting combinations are mesmerising. Bury Court is a handsome collection of brick and flint buildings, old and new, including a farmhouse, oasts and a magnificent barn, all set among fields, and this naturalistic planting was clearly always going to suit its rural character. Look out for masterful use of modern-styled topiary, including a circle of iron trellis covered with tightly clipped silver weeping pear (Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’). The minimalist front garden, designed by Christopher Bradley-Hole, is also worth a view.
Visit: Open the last Wednesday of every month, 11am-3.30pm, until the end of September. Bury Court Bentley, Farnham GU10 5LZ www.burycourtbarn.com
Bodnant Garden, Conwy
An 80-acre National Trust hillside garden with views across the valley towards Snowdonia.
Bodnant is a fine piece of landscape garden history dating from a time when wealthy families would build beautiful houses and gardens. There are formal gardens and water gardens close to the house, then you go out into the natural, informal gardens with rhododendrons and mature trees. It encompasses everything English garden design is about, without being kitsch.
Visit: every day, 10-5pm. Bodnant Garden, Bodnant Rd, Tal-y-cafn, Colwyn Bay LL28 5RE. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden