1. Explore 'the artist's garden'
Labelled as the ‘artist’s garden’ by the RHS, Clearbeck in Higher Tatham, Lancashire, is a small, yet beautifully imaginative space designed by Peter Osbourne. It combines artistic sculptures by Andrew Kay, a 2-acre wildlife pond, and even a Rapunzel’s Tower. Meadows and mountains surround the whole garden and add a tone of serenity. Follow the path through the grotto to find the thoughtfully put-together Garden of Life. The names of the plants, such as a variety of snowdrop called ‘Hope’, give significance to the space. Visitors look closely at the plants, and the garden inspires them to think about why it has been chosen. Osbourne was inspired to create a place focused on the symbolism of life and death in the Christian faith.
2. The Bad Tempered Garden
Veddw House Garden in South Wales is an eccentrically designed garden, put together by Anne Wareham, who is known for her book The Bad Tempered Gardener. In her book, she tells how she designed Veddw alongside her husband. From the rolling hills mirrored in the waving hedges, to the meadow allowed to flourish on ancient grassland, Anne has been sensitive to the history and existing style of the surrounding area, and has managed to incorporate their influences into her garden. The mix of old and new adds to Veddw’s individuality; Anne has divided it roughly in half with an area of woodland, and an ornamental garden.
3. Derek Jarman's Beach front paradise
Prospect cottage in Dungeness is the garden of filmmaker Derek Jarman. The garden itself has added poignancy when you learn that Jarman tended it through his long, terminal illness. He saw it as a place of paradise, and wanted it to have themes of transience, loss and hope. He liked the idea of using poetry in the garden, and John Donne’s poem, The Sun Rising, is etched on the black timber wall. The major downside is that this garden is not open to the public, but as it is located on the beach at Dungeness, you can admire its beauty from a distance.
4. Poetry and History combined
Little Sparta, near Edinburgh, is poet and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay’s work of art. Works of literature, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Julie, ou la Nouvelle Heloise, and different epochs of history, such as French Revolution, or the Second World War, have inspired him. The garden is home to 275 artworks, as well as many pieces of poetry. It is functional as well as beautiful though, vegetable patches feature in the very heart of the garden.
5. Geographical gardens
Marks Hall’s long and turbulent history dates back to Saxon times. It switched between private and public ownership until the Second World War, when it was requisitioned for the service personnel based at Earls Colne. Years of neglect followed, until the Thomas Philips Price Trust was formed in 1971; allowing the Essex gardens to open to the public in 1993. Some parts of the 200-acre gardens are planted geographically; there are areas with plants from Europe, Asia, North America and the Southern Hemisphere. There is a particularly characterful oak, which has been liked to Edvard Munch’s ‘Scream’ painting, a swamp, and an Arboretum.
6. Scampston Hall
Dutch designer Piet Oudolf has worked the area around Scampston Hall in North Yorkshire, one of the greatest examples of a regency country home, into fresh, modern gardens. The intelligently designed space showcases his exuberant style, and has been divided into several rooms, including a Perennial Meadow, The Silent Garden, and several lakes. Celebrated 18th century gardener, Lancelot “Capability” Brown, though, re-designed the Park in 1782. His design is preserved today and his typical naturalistic planting still inspires visitors to the Gardens.
7. A 'living work of art'
One of England’s greatest landscape gardens, Stourhead in Wiltshire first opened in the 1740s and was popularly described as a ‘living work of art’. Designed by the banker Henry Hoare, and inspired by his Italian art purchases at around the time of his inheritance, it is an unmistakeable garden. The classical temples, and interesting structures around the garden, such as an homage to Rome’s pantheon, and a Gothic cottage, give the landscape its drama. Everything centres around a magnificent lake, which reflects the colourful and exotic trees dotted around the gardens.
8. 300 years of gardening
At Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, views of the gardens flow out from the house, much like the gardens of Versailles. It was only re-opened in 2011 after decades of restoration work. The gardens incorporate 300 years of garden design history; much of the original design from the 17th century has been preserved, while new features have been sensitively added. The 90 acres incorporate not only 300 years of gardening inspiration, but from many different sources, French, Dutch, Italian and English styles feature in this garden.
9. Darwin's 'outdoor laboratory'
Down’s House in Kent was Charles Darwin’s ‘outdoor laboratory’ when he lived here with his family from the early 1840s until his death in 1882. 12 of his famous experiments have been recreated in the gardens and you can follow the route of his daily ‘thinking path’. The greenhouse where he conducted many experiments on plant reproduction and the anatomy of orchids, as well as the study where he is thought to have written The Origin of Species, are also open to explore.
10. Beth Chatto gardens
From 1960 when the space was an overgrown wasteland, the Beth Chatto gardens in Colchester have thrived on the principal of using the right plant in the right conditions. Beth and her husband Andrew’s influential research into the origins and uses of plants has continued to guide gardeners to this day. Today the features of the gardens are still dictated by the local conditions; the Gravel Garden is home to many drought resistant plants which do not mind the low rainfall, but the Water Garden is fed by a natural spring which helps maintain its lush green lawn.
© Copyright John Myers and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
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