After one of the worst winters on record in England, when the country was besieged by storm after storm and terrible flooding, spring has finally arrived. But gardens throughout the country seem to be unaffected by the sodden ground and many are blooming early and offering spectacular blossom displays. So in this brief post-Easter round-up, I've selected 10 of the best spring gardens to visit if you want to get out and about in the south.
|Visitors can enjoy 60 acres of woodland walks at Bowood House in Wiltshire|
Bowood House, near Chippenham in Wiltshire, has just won the "Garden of the Year" award, sponsored by the Historic Houses Association and Christie's, and has one of the best bluebell and spring colour displays in the country. There are more than 60 acres to explore and the rhododendron walks are open daily from 11.00-18.00 (last admission at 17.30). Entrance is £6.75 for adults (children 2-12 go free).
|Tom Coward has breathed new life into the gardens at Gravetye Manor|
Gravetye Manor former home of William Robinson, who championed naturalistic planting. Today it is a prestigious hotel, but visitors can still enjoy the gardens which are curated and cared for by Tom Coward who trained with Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter (see below). The gardens here are a blaze of colour from early March, when the daffodils flower, followed by tulips and then alliums. Well worth having lunch or tea here if you're visiting the garden.
|Great Dixter, former home of Christopher Lloyd, has stunning spring colour|
Great Dixter, featured recently in the BBC television series "British Gardens in Time", is exceptional in springtime, thanks to head gardener Fergus Garrett's innovative planting schemes. He worked for many years alongside former owner - Christo Lloyd and is determined to carry on his planting legacy at the property. The tulip displays are magnificent and this is a great time of year to see the bones of the garden, before the perennials grow to dizzy heights. Open daily except Mondays, 11.00-17.00. £8.00 for adults/£2.50 for children (5-15).
|Hole Park in Kent offers bumper spring blossom displays|
Just around the corner, you'll find Hole Park at Rolvenden, which has one of the most brilliant bluebell displays anywhere in southern England and opens every day in April and May. Located in the heart of the Kentish Weald, this is a wonderful garden to meander through because of fine views over the surrounding countryside and the vast array of colours throughout the woodland walks. There are formal gardens adjacent to the house. Open daily until 9 June (11.00-18.00) £6.00 for adults.
|Loseley Park has a 2.5 acre walled garden that's well worth visiting in springtime|
The 2.5 acre walled garden at Loseley Park, near Guildford is well worth making the effort to get to when it opens its doors in May - a roomy and "roomed" flower bonanza featuring herbs, roses and organic vegetables, to give interest and colour throughout the seasons. You can get a sneak preview this Friday (25 April) if you head to the Spring Garden Show, but otherwise the gardens are open Sunday-Thursday 11.00-17.00. Admission to the gardens is £5.00 for adults and £2.50 for children (5-16), but free to HHA members.
|Mount Ephraim in Kent offers 10-acres of exceptional spring colour|
Mount Ephraim in Kent also deserves a mention - 10 acres of Edwardian gardens that have been restored and revamped over the last 60 years by the current owners - and home to an impressive collection of spring bulbs, shrubs and trees. Offers exceptional blossom walks at this time of year. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 11.00-17.00 until end of September. £6.00 for adults and £2.50 for children (4-16).
Parham House in Sussex is a well-kept garden secret, offering visitors the chance to enjoy another astounding walled garden, where you will see plenty early in the season. Currently blooming under the stewardship of head gardener, Tom Brown, who came here from RHS Wisley, where he specialised in herbaceous borders, you can see real results here after his four years at the helm. Open Sundays in April, but Wednesday through Friday and Sundays from May to September. £8.00 for adults and £4.00 for children (5-15).
Ramster, near Chiddingfold in Surrey, has a very short opening season (April to June), but visitors are well advised to make the effort to get there if they want to see a 20-acre woodland garden within easy reach of London. Like Bowood and Hole Park, the bluebells are ablaze at this time of year and the rhododendrons and azaleas guarantee spectacular displays on any spring day. Open daily from 10.00-17.00, £6.00 for adults (children under 16 free).
The Royal Landscape is famous for its rhododendron displays - at both the Savill and Valley Gardens - expect to see dazzling colours in the next few weeks as the woodland plants begin to bloom. Wonderful walks in both these gardens on a spring day and although the Savill Gardens are on a rather grand scale, the well-labelled borders will give you plenty of ideas for your garden at home. Open daily, 10.00-18.00 (summer season) £9.50 for adults.