Top 10 ICONIC GARDENS TO VISIT
1 LEVENS HALL - 1690s
The world-famous topiary displays at Levens Hall in the English Lake District have been largely unchanged since the garden was laid out in the 1690's and are the best 17th century gardens in England. There are more than 90 pieces of topiary, under-planted with thousands of colourful annuals. The eccentric shapes, along with the rose garden, fountain garden, nuttery and herbaceous borders are carefully managed by head gardener, Chris Crowder, who is just the tenth in the job in over 300 years!
2 STOURHEAD – 1730s
City banker, Henry Hoare began the development of this stunning garden in 1735. He dammed the River Stour to make a sinuous lake and, around the lake's shores, he arranged paths, temples, urns, a shivery grotto and a great wealth of trees. It became one of the best-known gardens in England in the 18th century when ‘polite society' made garden-visiting a fashionable activity. Today, it remains one of the finest English landscape gardens.
3 BOWOOD HOUSE – 1760s
Bowood has been home to the Lansdowne family for over 260 years and carries with it a rich and fascinating history. ‘Capability' Brown created the landscape and stunning lake at Bowood over five years between 1763 and 1768. It is one of the best and most unspoilt examples of his famous work. There are 100 acres of pleasure grounds, including an arboretum, cascade, Doric temple, Hermit's Cave and the lake itself.
4 BIDDULPH GRANGE GARDENS 1850s
Biddulph Grange is Britain's best surviving Victorian garden which is both theatrical and revolutionary for its time. James Bateman developed the steeply sloping gardens around Biddulph Grange into terraces, populated with specimens from all over the world that plant hunters gathered on his behalf. Visitors are taken on a miniature tour of the world including China, Egypt and a Scottish Glen. It is as quirky today as it was for his Victorian guests.
5 GRAVETYE MANOR – 1880s
The gardens at Gravetye Manor in Sussex's High Weald are be considered amongst the most influential in English gardening history. The manor became the home of the creative, innovative and revolutionary gardener, William Robinson, in 1884. Robinson spent his remarkable life as a professional gardener and botanist but made his fortune through writing about his experiences and ideas on horticulture. His most notable works include The English Flower Garden - one of the best-selling horticultural books of all time - and the hugely influential title, The Wild Garden. Converted to a boutique hotel in 2010, the gardens at Gravetye are under the expert care of Tom Coward, head gardener.
6 HESTERCOMBE – 1910s
Designed just before WWI, Hestercombe, in the beautiful Somerset countryside just outside of Taunton, contains one of the great masterpieces of the collaboration between architect, Edwin Lutyens and garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll. The garden, on three levels, features beautiful formal stonework, with Lutyens' seats, steps, pergolas, pools and iris-fringed rills fed by high water-spouting masks. It is pure enchantment. The whole garden is planted with Jekyll's inspired combinations of colour and form, from records in her own hand, which survived, pinned up in the potting shed.
7 HIDCOTE MANOR GARDENS – 1920s In 1907 when American, Major Lawrence Johnston first acquired the property at Hidcote, there was no garden at all, just a few fine trees. It has been said that it must have taken immense optimism, imagination, skill and energy, not to mention foresight, to create the magnificent garden which is Hidcote today. Many, many gardens, not least Sissinghurst Castle, have been inspired by the series of garden ‘rooms' designed by Major Johnston in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
8 GREAT DIXTER - 1960s Great Dixter, the East Sussex garden of the late Christopher Lloyd, author, columnist and lecturer on garden plants and design, is an example of cottage gardening on a grand scale. The garden is composed of a series of small gardens including a fine topiary garden, exotic garden, kitchen garden – an attractive mingling of vegetables and flowers – a large orchard with a sea of wild flowers and a magnificent herbaceous border in summer, truly a joy for any gardener to visit. The gardens today reflect the carefully contrived planting principles of Christopher Lloyd, which have been enthusiastically taken forward in Christo's style by his head gardener Fergus Garrett.
9 THE EDEN PROJECT – 1990s Constructed in a 35-acre crater which was previously a gigantic china clay pit in Cornwall, the Eden Project claims to have the largest greenhouses in the world: giant geodesic structures which house the Rainforest Biome and the Mediterranean Biome. All around is inspiring outdoor planting with an on-site hotel opening in 2020. The fundamental message here is about sustainability and man's relationship with, and dependence upon, plants.
10 TRENTHAM – 2004 Described as “the garden make-over of the decade”, the gardens at Trentham have benefitted from the expertise and skill of great modern garden designers such as Tom Stuart Smith, Piet Oudolf and Nigel Dunnett. Utilising the wonderful historic features such as Capability Brown's lake and Sir Charles Barry's parterre, the new design features innovative and contemporary planting which is setting the trend for the next generation of English gardens.
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