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FIFTEEN OF THE BEST SPRING GARDENS

Veronica Peerless

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There are hints of spring for ages – a snowdrop here, a crocus there... And then - whoosh! - It all finally happens. Seemingly overnight, trees are dripping in blossom, gardens are awash with daffodils and tulips, and every shade of green unfolds. I'm always amazed by the sheer amount of colour at this time of year, so welcome after months of grey. There's only one thing for it in spring, and that's to get outside, visit a garden and soak it all up, because all too soon the show will be over for another year.
Antony

Over 7000 tulips in flower are undoubtedly the draw of Chenies in spring. Owner Elizabeth MacLeod and Bloms Bulbs come up with ever more dazzling colour combinations in different parts of the garden, under planted with spring bedding such as forget-me-nots and wallflowers. Don't miss the arched walkway, where daffodils and hellebores are followed by purple and white alliums.

Bodnant Garden

At a Welsh garden you'd expect plenty of daffodils, and Bodnant doesn't disappoint. Magnolias are the stars of the show in April, although the blaze of rhododendrons give them a run for their money. Fast forward to late May and you can enjoy the azaleas at their best, as well as the famous laburnum arch – 55m of stunning yellow flowers.

Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway

A visitor once described Exbury as ‘heaven with the gates open', and I'd wager they visited in spring. Swathes of yellow (primroses and daffodils) are swiftly followed by the lipstick shades of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. The gardens were created by plant collector Lionel Nathan de Rothschild, who created several new varieties of rhododendron and azalea.

Gresgarth Hall

This immaculately planted garden, home to garden designer Arabella Lennox-Boyd, is particularly delightful in spring. A walk over the Japanese bridge into the Woodland Garden is a must: flowering Prunus trees are underplanted with swathes of daffodils (the white narcissus, ‘Thalia', is a favourite), while the Rhododendron Hills are home to many unusual blue and mauve varieties. Beyond is a stunning bluebell wood.

High Beeches Garden

High Beeches may be spectacular in autumn, but it's at its prettiest in spring. There are myriad shades of green as the leaves of the many unusual trees unfurl; these are complemented by the beautiful blooms of magnolias, camellias and azaleas. Visit early in the spring to see the Daffodil Field of Hope, where bulbs have been planted in memory of loved ones.

Nymans

Nymans' acid soil means it's the perfect home for the magnolias for which it is especially known; many hybrids, such as M. x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel' were bred here. The magnolias aren't the only attraction, though: there are also cherry and dogwood blossoms, camellias and rhododendrons, and carpets of narcissi and fritillaria. Wisteria scrambles over the ruined house.

Sheffield Park & Garden

Sheffield Park is known for its fine collection of trees and shrubs, many of which give a dazzling display of colour in spring. Pink and white dogwoods vie with rhododendrons and azaleas of every hue, from electric blue to bronze; there's also veritable sea of bluebells. The perfect place for your first picnic of the year.

Thorp Perrow Arboretum

The grounds of Thorp Perrow are home to one of the most spectacular displays of daffodils you're ever likely to see; it includes many old and unusual varieties. Thorp Perrow is an arboretum that's home to trees from around the world, and many of them are smothered in blossom in spring. The carpets of bluebells is quite a sight, too.

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