The world’s finest spring gardens are right here in Britain. No, really — that’s not an idle boast.
The mild, damp climate helps, along with a rich legacy of plants and centuries-old gardening traditions.
So here’s a varied selection of Britain’s most inspiring spring gardens. Opening times can vary from month to month, so be sure to check before setting off.
West Dean Gardens in West Sussex has 13 superbly restored Victorian glasshouses in Britain’s finest kitchen garden
West Dean Gardens, near Chichester, West Sussex
Key features include 13 superbly restored Victorian glasshouses in Britain’s finest kitchen garden. The Spring Garden has secret walkways and rustic flint bridges.
Don’t miss: Top lectures are held throughout the year, including Nigel Dunnett on natural plant communities.
Details: February to December (see westdean.org.uk/gardens for various seasonal opening times and prices).
Plant collector’s feast
Marwood Hill Garden in Barnstaple, North Devon, boasts a large pergola with 12 varieties of amazing wisterias
Marwood Hill Garden, Barnstaple, North Devon
A 20-acre plant collector’s garden of constant interest. Rhododendrons and spring shrubs accompany perennials such as candelabra primulas, Japanese irises and, for later, the Plant Heritage National Collection of astilbes.
Don’t Miss: Amazing wisterias — a large pergola with 12 varieties in white, pink and the more usual violet-blue.
Details: March 24 to September 30, 10am to 5pm. Plant nursery and sales 11am to 4.30pm. Visit marwoodhillgarden.co.uk, adult tickets £7.
Coton Manor Garden in Coton, Northamptonshire, is home to Britain’s most fragrant bluebell wood
Coton Manor Garden, Coton, Northamptonshire
A peaceful ten-acre garden surrounding the 17th-century manor house. Richly planted borders lead to a woodland garden with trilliums, erythroniums and other rarities.
Don’t Miss: Britain’s most fragrant bluebell wood. Five acres of shimmering blue beneath the awakening trees.
Details: Tuesday to Saturday from April 2 to September 28, noon to 5.30pm. Visit cotonmanor.co.uk, adults £7.50.
The National Botanic Garden of Wales is home to the world’s largest single-spanned glasshouse, designed by Norman Foster
The National Botanic Garden of Wales, Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire
Created in the derelict grounds of Middleton House and opened in 2000, features include wild meadows, an apothecary garden and a double walled garden demonstrating the evolution of flowering plants.
Don’t Miss: The world’s largest single-spanned glasshouse, designed by Norman Foster. Plants from semi-arid regions thrive within.
Details: April 1 to October 31, 10am to 6pm, and November 1 to March 31, 10am to 4.30pm. Visit botanicgarden.wales, adults £11.50.
Green Island Gardens in Ardleigh, Essex, features twenty acres of land intricately designed by the owner Fiona Edmond
Green Island Gardens, Ardleigh, Essex
Twenty acres intricately designed by the owner Fiona Edmond. Curvaceous borders with grass sweeps contrast beautifully with seaside, gravel and Japanese gardens.
Don’t miss: Special courses for serious design students, family fun at Easter and a holly wreath workshop in December.
Details: January 10 to November 30, but, for seasonal opening hours, see greenislandgardens.co.uk, adult £6.
Home of champions
Linked with Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden, Dawyck has a vast collection of trees and shrubs
Dawyck Botanic Garden, Stobo, Scottish Borders
Linked with Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden, Dawyck has a vast collection of trees and shrubs. The Azalea Terrace and massed rhododendrons are full of spring colour. Later, Himalayan blue poppies will flower in drifts.
Don’t Miss: World-famous champion trees, including Douglas firs grown from seed collected by David Douglas, Britain’s oldest Dawn Redwoods and the venerable Dawyck Beech.
Details: Open until November 30, with varying opening times. Visit rbge.orguk/visit/dawyck-botanic-garden, adults £7.
Rowallane in Saintfield, County Down, is one of Northern Ireland’s finest gardens with vast numbers of azaleas and rhododendrons
Rowallane, Saintfield, County Down
One of Northern Ireland’s finest gardens. Always beautiful, but vast numbers of azaleas and rhododendrons make it essential visiting in spring. There’s a fine walled garden, too.
Don’t miss: The part-shaded natural rock garden, made in the bedrock, rather than with imported stone. Plants include Asian primulas and poppies.
Details: March to October, 10am to 6pm, but check for seasonal variations at nationaltrust.org.uk/rowallane-garden. Adults £8 and National Trust members go free.
Cascades Gardens in Matlock, Derbyshire, includes a woodland, an 80ft natural cliff, streams, a canal, pond and naturalistic planting
Cascades Gardens, Matlock, Derbyshire
A four-acre garden designed for meditation. Features include woodland, an 80ft natural cliff, streams, a canal, pond and naturalistic planting.
Don’t miss: The chance to stay. Cascades Garden offers high-quality B&B accommodation. It’s also handy for the Peak District. Booking details on the website, cascadesgardens.com.
Details: Open daily from March 1 to September 30, adults £5.
Blend of styles
Holker Hall & Gardens in Cark-in-Cartmel, Cumbria, has twenty-three acres of formal and informal gardens to explore with spring bedding, massive rhododendrons and rare trees
Holker Hall & Gardens, Cark-in-Cartmel, Cumbria
Twenty-three acres of formal and informal gardens with spring bedding, massive rhododendrons and rare trees. Home to the Holker Great Lime, one of the Tree Council’s 50 Great British Trees.
Don’t Miss: Holker Labyrinth and standing stone circle designed by the notable Jim Buchanan, who has created labyrinths all over the world.
Details: Open 10.30am to 5pm Wednesday to Sunday and bank holiday Mondays until November 3. Visit holker.co.uk, adults £9.
Gaze in awe
Caerhays in St Austell, Cornwall, features vast rhododendrons and magnolias taller than oaks
Caerhays, St Austell, Cornwall
Cornwall has Britain’s finest spring gardens, but, for special plants, Caerhays is the jaw-dropping best. Walk under the branches of vast rhododendrons and gaze up at magnolias taller than oaks. There are camellias, too — especially the much-loved williamsii varieties.
Don’t Miss: The Michelia walk — a line of rare, non-hardy Michelia doltsopa trees with fragrant cream flowers.
Details: Open February 18 to June 16 only. See visit.caerhays.co.uk, adults £9.
Be sure to stop for a slice of tea and cake at Bettys, Yorkshire’s famous tea room, while visiting RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, as there is a branch there. The site also has wonderful play areas offering fun for all the family
RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Spring bulbs carpet the woodland, primulas line the streams and Alpines flourish in the vast rock gardens of this magnicifent RHS garden. The wonderful play areas offer fun for all the family.
Don’t miss: Tea and cake at Bettys, Yorkshire’s famous tea room, which has a branch here — pricey, but delicious.
Details: Garden open 9.30am to 6pm til October 31, then 9.30am to 4pm November to the end of February. See rhs.org.uk/gardens/harlow-carr, adults £11.80.