A year of glorious gardens to visit
Here are some of my favourite gardens to visit.
These are taken from gardens I visited in 2016 that will also open to the public in 2017.
Some are ‘great gardens’ run by professional gardeners, but others are middle-sized gardens open for the NGS or other charities.
It was so difficult to choose only 12!
Winter gardens to visit
Not an easy month for garden visiting. So many gardens are closed. But winter gardens have their own austere beauty and it’s a good time to see the structure of the garden. The garden I would most recommend looking at is your own. That’s not cheating – it really is a good time to review both your plant structure and hard landscaping.
February is for snowdrop walks and winter light. Doddington Place Gardens, Doddington, Kent, has its snowdrop walk in mid-February.
March is a good time to see behind the scenes. Gardens are still showing their bare bones. It helps enormously to go to a talk or workshop to learn how to ‘read’ the winter garden. I really think you learn more about gardening at this time of year, because this is when the garden is prepared for the lushness of summer.
Great Dixter has talks and workshops throughout the year. I went to a wonderful one in early spring (see here for the Great Dixter pruning tips I picked up). I can warmly recommend it.
Spring gardens to visit
Spring seems to come later every year, and apart from bulbs, things are still quite bare in the garden in April. It’s time to get clever with containers. Or go on another course. Sarah Raven is good at both courses and container planting. She’s also fabulously good with bulbs.
I went to a really informative ‘Year Round Veg’ course there in April. It transformed my vegetable harvests last year.
By May, gardens are bursting into song. I love the light, bright foliage greens that make country gardens in particular, look so fresh and new. It’s definitely time to get out the NGS Handbook and visit as many gardens as possible. I took these photographs in May of Kylie O’Brien’s garden near Faversham, Kent. She’s open this year for the NGS by appointment – you can ring her to arrange a visit. Details in the NGS handbook.
Summer gardens to visit
Open gardens in June means Faversham for me. At the beginning of June, three walled town gardens will be open for the NGS. They have all appeared in this blog (garden maker, Posy Gentles, garden writer, Sarah Langton-Lockton and Faversham Open Gardens’ John and Mary Cousins).
And the Faversham Open Gardens & Garden Market Day is on Sunday 25th June. It’s the largest open gardens day in the South East of England, with around 30 gardens and 20+ market stalls. You can read about some of the gardens involved last year here, where you will also find Posy Gentles and the Cousins’ gardens.
The historic market town of Faversham is given over to all things gardening on the last Sunday of June. There’s a festive air, and lots of cafes and pubs where you can rest from all that garden visiting.
In early August, I visited Heale Gardens in Wiltshire. It’s another ‘English country garden’ which incorporates contemporary style in a charming way. Heale has quite a few ideas that the middle-sized garden owner might like to copy.
Late summer gardens to visit
Ah – September means dahlias. You could visit Sarah Raven at Perch Farm again (she is Queen of the Dahlias). Or you could go to the Salutation Garden in Sandwich.
This garden was destroyed by sea flooding in 2013, but it has risen again. If you feel your garden lacks late summer colour, pick up dahlia planting ideas from the Salutation.
By October, the gardening world is putting up the ‘closed’ signs and retreating to the potting shed. But, depending on the weather, it can still be a wonderful time to see grass-based gardens.
The ‘new planting’ pioneered by Piet Oudolf and Christopher Bradley-Hole has now been around for some time. Some people never took to it, and some say that it’s ‘over.’ However, it’s been so successful that it’s likely to become a classic style, rather than actually going out of fashion.
If you like prairie planting, go to Sussex Prairie Gardens. In fact, go even if you don’t like prairie planting. I loved the use of colour in this garden, and also the way they use sculpture to give structure to grasses.
End of the year gardens to visit
November and December
You might think that not many people visit gardens in November. But ‘winter gardens’ are a growing trend as organisations such as the RHS work hard to interest the public in gardening all the year round.
Fashions in homes favour the winter garden, too. Anyone with an extension with big glass doors or who has large modern windows will see their garden all year round.
I visited RHS Hyde Hall in November to see the development of their new winter garden.
While RHS gardens are created and maintained on a scale that the middle-sized gardener could only dream of, there’s still plenty of inspiration and planting ideas for us.
I apologise for the very South East England bias in this post – it’s where I live, so these are the gardens I know best. Please do let me know what gardens you’d recommend visiting elsewhere in Britain.
And do join us every Sunday by subscribing to the blog in the box on top right of this page. We will whizz into your in-box every Sunday morning. Or catch up with us on the Middlesized Garden YouTube channel.