Open all year round, this Cornwall treasure trove of plants is the result of the labours of Ray and Shirley Clemo who scoured the globe collecting plants and seedlings that they could cultivate back in the UK. There are now more than 6,000 labelled plants to explore. Wander down to the lake where a pair of glorious black swans reside amongst the ducks. The expansive pinetum creates a theatrical arrangement of conifers and pines while the Japanese Garden echoes the lovely Kyoto Gardens where Ray and Shirley got their inspiration.
I sometimes think autumn is the best time of year to visit this fabulous National Trust treat. Laid out by Capability Brown in the 18th century, a cluster of lakes create the centre piece here and in autumn you'll witness kaleidoscopic autumnal hues, particularly among the tupelos and shrubs. You might well recognise the landscape around you here – these gardens are some of the most photographed autumn displays in the country. Highlights? The Japanese maples, oaks, beeches, swamp cypresses and birches – which are mirrored beautifully by the lakes, creating a double whammy of colour. Look out for special events put on throughout autumn.
Live in London and can't face a long drive out of town? Head to the simply wonderful Syon House, one of the last great stately homes of the capital and just nine miles from Charing Cross. Even if you don't step foot inside the house, the gardens are reward enough for your train journey. The Great Conservatory stands testament to the bygone craze for glasshouses – once filled with exotic plants from across the globe and, having been restored in the eighties after a period of decline, it has stood the test of time remarkably well. There are 600 years of horticultural history in the Gardens and Arboretum – a leafy glade of tranquillity if ever you saw one – and the 100 acres of parkland are home to some of the most spectacular trees in the UK including 20 Champion trees and ancient oaks that were standing in the 1600s.
The National Trust always comes up trumps when it comes to providing fabulous places for a country stroll and Biddulph Grange is no exception. The organisation restored this Victorian garden in Stoke on Trent and today you have a range of areas to peruse, from the Egyptian Court to the Chinese Temple and the Dahlia Walk (just divine at this time of year) to the Himalayan Glen. Kids love the tunnels and pathways that wind around the property and there are loads of trails and activities for them to get stuck into as well. The tea shop, of course, is a must (once you have earned it, of course!).
Sitting on the west coast of Scotland and overlooking the islands, Arduaine Garden near Oban makes for a serene afternoon's stroll. A fascinating collection of plants and shrubs dot the 20-acre landscape and there are amazing vistas from the cliff point view point over the Atlantic. This a lush, mossy haven for hundreds of bulbs, perennials and climbers and a pleasure to visit, its climate softened by the warming effect of the Gulf Stream. Look out for the little path that takes you down to the local rocky beach.
As fallow deer spring past you and verdant green meadows meet your gaze at every turn, Holkham Hall grounds remind you that Great Britain is hard to beat for bracing country walks. Some 3,000 acres await your wellies – with old evergreen oaks, meadows left to flower as they will and a stunning lake as backdrop. There are cycling routes too, if you feel the need to see more of this bucolic haven than walking would allow. Oh, and don't forget to drop in on the walled gardens which have been restored to their former glory. A wonderful north Norfolk day out.
The birthplace of the English Landscape Movement, Chiswick House Gardens has been renovated after decades of neglect and is now home to some fabulous vistas, great design and just gorgeous statuary and garden buildings. Some of the highlights of the new look gardens include the planting of 1,600 trees (including some propagated from the original 18th century Lebanon cedars), restoration of the 19th century conservatory housing some rare camellias, the planting of native trees and shrubs from the Northern Wilderness and the restoration of the walled gardens. The new café, on the east side of the house, provides a social hub for visitors and there's a terrific new playground for the kids too.
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