Walled kitchen garden in West Sussex
In the South Downs, just six miles from the cathedral city of Chichester, West Dean Gardens is rather magnificent. A 100-metre long Edwardian pergola – seasonally covered in magnolia, clematis and rose – features a gazebo; its mosaic floor interspersed, bizarrely, with horses’ molars.
The intimate Sunken Garden is somewhere serene to enjoy some moments of reflection. And the 2.5-mile walk around the arboretum – particularly stunning in late spring with its rhododendrons and azaleas – is glorious.
West Dean’s most notable attraction, though, is probably its Walled Kitchen Garden. It features 16 extremely fine Victorian glasshouses, teeming with exotic flowers, seasonal fruit and vegetables, including orchids, peaches, chillies and aubergine. The garden hosts some exuberant annual events, too, including the famous Chilli Fiesta in August, featuring live Latin music and dancing.
Stay 30 minutes’ drive away at Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa.
Images left to right: West Dean Gardens kitchen garden by Helen Yates; summer
Water gardens and exotica in North Wales
Spanning 80 acres, Bodnant Garden, just south of Llandudno, is the work of five generations of one family (the McLarens), each contributing since 1874 to its creation and development. The property was later entrusted to the care of the National Trust, in 1949.
Overlooking the River Conwy, with arresting views towards the Snowdonian foothills, the garden features flower-filled formal Italianate terraces, manicured lawns, water gardens and wildflower meadows.
We don’t always think of Wales as awash with the exotic but, thanks to its coastline being warmed by the Gulf Stream, its plant life actually is, and significantly so. Many of the trees and flowers you see here began life in China, the Himalayas, Japan and the Americas. The seeds were hunted abroad by experts, and brought back to Wales where they thrived.
Bodnant Garden is also known for its extraordinarily beautiful collections of rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias, and for its Laburnum Arch (a 55m long golden tunnel) – the longest in the UK – which flowers in May and June.
Stay 10 minutes’ drive away at Bodysgallen Hall & Spa.
Bodnant Garden’s laburnum arch
Beatrix Potter connections and croquet in Suffolk
Melford Hall, in the pretty village of Long Melford, is a turreted Tudor mansion, impressive yet saved from ostentation by its mellow brickwork. Though now owned by the National Trust, the property has been the home of the Hyde Parker family for over 200 years and remains so. Children’s author Beatrix Potter was a cousin of the family and a frequent visitor. Some of her sketches and watercolours are on display inside, as are fascinating collections of naval paintings, Tudor portraits and Chinese porcelain.
The grounds at Melford Hall are a blissful place to relax on a sunny afternoon. Make time to explore the beautiful landscaped gardens, the croquet lawn and the impressive 15th-century Holy Trinity church. The Park Walk, a picturesque experience through a former hunting park, has lovely views back towards the house and is only a mile long, making it accessible to most.
Stay 10 minutes’ drive away at The Swan at Lavenham.
Melford Hall and gardens
Article written by Mischa Mack