A Green and Pleasant Land: 10 English Gardens to Visit This Spring

The heady scent of hyacinths; leaves unfurling; buds in bloom... It can only mean one thing – spring has sprung, and England’s most beautiful gardens are at their best. These are the green and pleasant idylls we’re visiting as blossom season arrives.

Centuries of box-clipping, rose pruning and green-fingered excellence have gone into the creation of some England's - and indeed the world's - most beautiful gardens. Come spring, these verdant realms dress themselves in the jewelled excess of the season: think carpets of dainty bluebells, majestic hyacinth displays and heavily scented bunches of cheerily nodding narcissus. Pack up a picnic and go in search of the busiest cottage borders, the stateliest 18th-century walled oases and the most dizzying displays of woodland wildflowers in these beautiful English countryside gardens.

Bloomin' beautiful: 10 English countryside gardens to visit this spring

Hidcote Garden, Gloucestershire
Image credit: National Trust Images / Ray Dale

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Hidcote

Gloucestershire

In mid-summer, the golden brickwork of Hidcote House is disguised by a haze of silken bells, when the surrounding garden's staggeringly tall, lilac-coloured foxgloves erupt into flower. It's an exuberant display. The late Lawrence Johnston, a keen horticulturist, designed the 10.5-acre Gloucester garden in Arts and Crafts style, in keeping with the 17th-century former farmhouse. Wander its leafy expanses to discover secret glades, unexpected vistas across Cotswold countryside and hidden pathways that wind into the Wilderness - a secluded stretch of woodland that fringes the estate. Come the warmer months, the beds overflow with blousy blooms, star-like dahlia knocking heads with fragrant campanulas.

Address

Hidcote Bartrim, Chipping Campden GL55 6LR

Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent
Image credit: National Trust Images / Eva Nemeth

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Sissinghurst Castle Garden

Kent

As temperatures rise, the balmy Kentish air above the celebrated gardens of Sissinghurst is perfumed by an excess of rose blooms. Lovingly tended by the poet, novelist and journalist Vita Sackville-West and her diplomat husband Harold Nicolson in the 1930s, the romantic garden is renowned for its historic rose bushes - and literary connections. The couple's informal planting arrangements threw off the stuffy formality of Victorian horticulture, liberating the classic English garden with cascades of frilled flowers, effusive herbal scents and dizzying border displays. Caper along the regal Purple Border, waltz between the ditzy blooms of the Cottage Garden (pen in hand, to jot down your stream-of-conscious musings, in light of Vita's lover, Virginia Woolf, having been a regular visitor), then head into the recently restored Delos Garden, whose rocky expanse of resilient foliage and hot-toned blooms are inspired by Greek planting.

Address

Biddenden Rd, Cranbrook TN17 2AB

West Dean Gardens, West Sussex

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West Dean Gardens

West Sussex

Tucked beneath the undulating curves of the chalk-boned South Downs, these sprawling gardens saw their first flower beds dug in 1622. Then, almost 400 years later, a patient restoration by gardener Jim Buckland revived the waning elegance. Begin your wanderings through the majestic collection of Victorian glasshouses, which are brimming with languorous vines and weighty fruits, then stroll across to the sunken garden's 100m-long pergola to admire its nodding clematis and gaggles of blousy geranium in shades of crimson, coral and amaranth. Beyond the formal gardens, the surrounding parkland is watched over by ancient weald; strike out on the 4km circuit of the arboretum to catch glossy rhododendron groves and, in summer, the white haze of wildflowers. Post-perambulation, a hearty farm-to-fork lunch at the nearby Goodwood Estate's Farmer, Butcher, Chef awaits.

Address

West Dean, Chichester, West Sussex PO18 0RX

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Chelsea Physic Gardens

London

Founded in 1673 as the Apothecaries’ Garden and situated close to the River Thames for optimum climate, this oasis was set up to train apprentices and identify plants. Despite being home to over 5,000 different edible, useful and medicinal plants (many of which have changed the world), it is often overlooked by busy Londoners. Visit for educational ambling.

Address

66 Royal Hospital Road Chelsea London SW3 4HS

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Glendurgan Garden

Cornwall

This sub-tropical garden is a little patch of paradise in Cornwall. Glendurgan’s history stretches back to 1820 when the valley was purchased by Alfred Fox; in 1833 he developed the famous laurel maze. Blooming with magnolias, wildflowers, woodland flora and exotic trees, the gardens are at their best in the spring. Continue your explorations beyond the garden and follow the external path that leads down to Durgan Beach and the Helford River.

Address

Glendurgan Falmouth Cornwall TR11 5JZ

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Chatsworth House

Bakewell

This regal house and garden was built for Sir William Cavendish and Bess of Hardwick in 1555. Famous for its waterworks and sculptures, Victorian rock garden and labyrinthine maze, the 105-acre garden is quite a site to behold. It’s no surprise, then, that the house was featured as Pemberley in the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice – and retains all the pomp and charm of its fictional proprietor Mr. Darcy.

Address

Bakewell Derbyshire DE45 1PP

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Blickling Estate

Blickling

In spring, tiptoe through the carpet of dainty English bluebells and follow the winding paths through the great wood before reaching rows of hellebores, daffodils and rhododendron. The formal garden is the result of three centuries of inspired planting, with wisteria and peonies marking the garden’s perimeter. Grab a waymarked map and head out into the 500 acres of parkland and woods.

Address

Blickling Aylsham Norfolk NR11 6NF

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Anglesey Abbey

Cambridge

With majestic avenues and sprawling formal gardens, the grounds at Anglesey Abbey are some of the grandest in England. Each season offers a different highlight, from snowdrops and spring bulbs (including magnificent displays of hyacinths in the formal garden and tulips in the Himalayan silver-birch grove) to the sweeping herbaceous border and English rose garden in summer. Late arrivals will enjoy colourful dahlias in September.

Address

Quy Road Lode Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB25 9EJ

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Kew Gardens

Richmond

This UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to 1759, making it one of the oldest botanic gardens in the UK. Head to the treetop walkway 59 feet above the ground, where you can wander among lime, sweet chestnut and oak trees while admiring the magical glasshouses, stately buildings and beds of orchids that fill the gardens below.

Address

Richmond TW9 3AE

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Levens Hall

Kendal

Famous for its 17th-century topiary gardens – with some pieces over nine metres high – designed by Monsieur Beaumont in 1694, Levens Hall is a maze-like, surrealist garden. Get lost amid geometric and abstract shapes like the Howard Lion, Queen Elizabeth and four peacocks, before retiring to the nearby tea rooms.

Address

Levens Hall Kendal Cumbria LA8 0PD

This article was updated on the 9 March 2022.