Gardens to visit (UK and abroad)

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Last updated Oct 2015

Garden visiting is a national obsession – for inspiration, enjoyment, and afternoon teas.

There’s always somewhere to visit, whatever time of year, so invest in a guidebook or two to start you off on a garden appreciation experience, aand read on for longer descriptions of gardens that we’ve visited ourselves. Any recommendations that you have – please let us know.

For our articles in this section, look at the menu on the left (you many need to click on the ‘expand all’ option, or on the + sign to see the different topics).

In the pipeline

Soon to be included are gardens in the West Country, Herefordshire and Nottinghamshire. Then there are the gardens of Madiera, Northern Spain, and France (Normandy and around the Loire) that we’ve enjoyed. We Brits tend to be sniffy about other nations’ gardens, but the foreign gardens we have seen are superb places. Not too busy, not too expensive, and full of plants we wish we could grow if only we had the climate. Although the way our weather is changing, perhaps we soon will be able to….

Handy lists of gardens

For an online UK guide, including accommodation, look at Great British Gardens.

For national plant collections in the UK, look at the National Council for the Conservation of Plants.

For National Trust properties, look at their English and Welsh, or Scottish, parks and gardens.

And of course don’t forget the ‘Yellow Book’ (read our Yellow Book review) listing many excellent private gardens open for charity in England and Wales, and the Scottish equivalent, Scotland’s Gardens Scheme Guide.

Garden shows and displays abroad

Although the following are all shows in the sense of being public and temporary, they are open over long periods, so in our minds come into the category of gardens rather than the short-lived shows we are used to in the UK.

Try Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands for their stupendous annual display of spring and early-summer flowering bulbs in a wooded setting. This is a spectacular showcase for the Dutch plant breeding and horticultural industry.

In France, the annual garden festival at Chaumont (in the Loire region) runs from April to November, with display gardens having to stand the test of time (unlike our one-week wonders in the UK). Truly inspiring.

Another summer-long event is the Dutch Floriade, but you have to put this one in your diary as it’s held only once in every 10 years. Towns compete to host it, so for the next festival, in 2022, you’ll have to keep your eye on the news and Google search results.

How to get there?

If going abroad, a ferry crossing is a calm and pleasant start and end to a trip – e.g Stena Lines.

Garden-related package holidays, coach tours or independent travel by train in the UK, or including a ferry crossing to go further afield, are all possibilities in addition to travelling by car. 
Transport Direct is a comprehensive journey planner that takes into account all modes of transport, including walking. It can be a bit slow because it’s such a huge undertaking, but once you find out the best way to use the site, it reveals some interesting routes.

For train-only enquiries, try The Trainline for times and tickets (prices and booking). Just type in your journey details below:

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