Best spring gardens in the UK
Sunshine on your face, the scent of blossom in the air, the dreamy song of a blackbird. What better way to while away a spring day than in an idyllic country garden? Here are 10 of the best
In recent years, much has been written about the restorative power of gardens and the great outdoors to positively influence our mental and physical wellbeing.
These beneficial properties may be most pronounced in springtime. After winter’s short, dank and drear days, the rush of green growth heralded by spring and the accompanying buzz of wildlife suddenly spurred into action is incomparable.
While springtime gardens may lack summer’s flower-power, they offer a quickening and scale that is unmatched. Spring bulbs form vast carpets under the dappled shade of fresh, lime-green tree foliage. Herbaceous perennials grow like teenagers, often with lustrous foliage colour. Blossom trees – including beautifully fragrant cherry, almond, plum and apple – provide early pollen and nectar for foraging bees.
The vibrancy and pace of spring is what makes it such a special season, and a wonderful time to visit gardens – here are 10 of the UK's best.
10 glorious gardens to visit this spring
Sizergh Castle, Cumbria
Near Kendal, Cumbria. Open daily.
Wordsworth waxed lyrical about the native wild daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus and, when naturalised as they are here and spreading as far as the eye can see, it is easy to understand why. The Limestone Rock Garden is a wonder of jewel-like alpine plants and fresh foliaged Japanese acers, while a great café serves local produce, too. 01539 560951, nationaltrust.org.uk/sizergh
Blickling Estate, Norfolk
Aylsham, Norfolk. Open daily.
Spring is a stand-out season at the gardens of this wonderful Jacobean stately home. The Temple Walk is generously planted with rhododendron and azalea, there are mature magnolia through the gardens, and tulips by the thousand in the formal beds. Daffodils stretch seemingly for miles in early spring, followed by similarly expansive bluebells. 01263 738030, nationaltrust.org.uk/blickling-estate
The Savill Garden, Surrey
Egham, Surrey. Open daily.
Part of the Windsor Great Park estate, with one of the country’s finest plant collections. Aptly named Spring Wood is planted with mature specimens of magnolia and rhododendron, including many Loderi hybrids, the flowers of which are deliciously scented, while the Azalea Walk is at its peak in mid to late May. Brilliant for families, with a great café, too. windsorgreatpark.co.uk/en
The Himalayan Garden, North Yorkshire
Grewelthorpe, North Yorkshire. Open daily from 12 April.
Set in a valley between Harrogate and Ripon, this garden features hundreds of native Himalayan plants in a setting that is perhaps as close as you can get to being in an actual Himalayan valley – especially on a misty morning. Many of the rhododendrons are wild species, collected and grown from seed and now in their mature prime. 01765 658009, himalayangarden.com
Great Comp, Kent
Near Sevenoaks, Kent. Open daily from 1 March.
Located on the greensand ridge, a geological feature, this 2.8-hectare garden’s acid soils allow camellias, rhododendrons and magnolias to thrive, alongside huge drifts of tulips, daffodils and muscari. Roderick and Joy Cameron began creating the Italianate garden in 1957, opening to the public a decade later. The spring plant fair is not to be missed. 01732 885094, greatcompgarden.co.uk
Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire
Near Worksop, Nottinghamshire. Open daily.
The once-great stately home has long gone but the walled garden remains, and in spring is alive with tulips, the blossom of wall-trained fruit trees and fresh rhubarb. Outside the walled garden, new bulb plantings augment the 80,000 bulbs planted beneath the Cedar Avenue. 01909 476592, nationaltrust.org.uk/clumber-park
Bowood Woodland Garden, Wiltshire
Near Chippenham, Wiltshire. Open April to June.
With two miles of footpaths over 12 hectares, the Woodland Garden has an extensive collection of rhododendrons and azaleas in a carpet of bluebells. It opens for only six weeks of the year in spring, when the plant collections are at their peak. A trip to it dovetails nicely into a visit to the main gardens and stately home of Bowood House next door. 01249 812102, bowood.org
Arduaine Garden, Argyll
Near Oban, Argyll. Open daily from 1 April.
Set on Scotland’s west coast amid stunning scenery, this beautiful garden benefits from the benign influence of the Gulf Stream. Now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland, the historic garden featured over 200 rhododendrons by the 1920s, which are still spring highlights, as are stands of primula and iris. But the real stars are the glades of iridescent blue Himalayan poppies (Meconopsis species) – jaw-droppingly beautiful. 01852 200366, nts.org.uk/visit/places/arduaine-garden
Bodnant Garden, Clwyd
Near Colwyn Bay, Clwyd. Open daily.
Rightly considered one of the UK’s finest gardens, Bodnant springs to life with pools of daffodils in Old Park Meadow, along with national collections of magnolia and rhododendron. Extensive plantings of cherry and viburnum fill the garden with fragrance in mid-spring, alongside plentiful bluebells. For three weeks from mid-May, the famous Laburnum Arch, a long pergola walkway, drips with golden-yellow flowers, and alone is worth a visit to experience it. 01492 650460, nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden
Glenarm Castle, Co. Antrim
Ballymena, Co. Antrim. Open from March.
Another garden benefitting from coastal microclimates, Glenarm is known for its beautiful walled garden, once crammed with edibles, now bursting with colour from herbaceous borders. Yew hedges form green corridors, framing views to babbling fountains and glades of specimen trees. An area of mature woodland reopens in 2022, with the Woodland Walk featuring plantings of mature camellia and rhododendron, beneath which a sea of frothy wild garlic flowers creates a pungent understorey. 02828 841203, glenarmcastle.com
Matthew Wilson is a garden designer and a panellist on BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time.