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TEN OF THE BEST KITCHEN GARDENS

Veronica Peerless

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In days gone by, most grand houses had a kitchen garden, which supplied the household with veg, herbs, fruit and cut flowers. Many of them are still in existence, although they're more likely to supply the cafe or farm shop these days. They're worth a visit in their own right, and not just if you're interested in growing your own. They're spectacularly productive, on a scale that most of us can only dream of, and expertly tended. And they're beautiful too, with geometric layouts, trained fruit trees, beautiful glasshouses, herbaceous borders and flower cutting patches. Here are ten of the best.
West Dean Gardens

The first thing that strikes you about West Dean gardens is how utterly immaculate they are, and the kitchen garden and glasshouses are no exception. The classic Victorian layout contains everything from perennial veg such as artichoke and seakale to espaliered fruit trees and herbs. The old cutting patch is now filled with flowers in ‘hot' colours – red, orange and yellow. Inspirational.

West Green House Garden

West Green is home to a potager – a French-inspired veg and flower garden that is designed to look good and be productive, too. Flowers and veg mingle happily in neat rows or scrambling up arches and obelisks, and the beds are edged by ‘stepover' apples that look especially pretty in spring. Enjoy some of the harvest in the café.

Audley End House & Gardens

The walled garden at Audley End is a fascinating insight into the workings of a Victorian kitchen garden. It still follows some of the practices noted in a diary of one of its young gardeners at the time, William Cresswell. It's run along strictly organic lines and also includes a range of flowers for cutting, including Victorian scented peonies and dahlias.

Holkham Walled Garden

In Victorian times the walled gardens would have provided veg, fruit and flowers for Holkham Hall. They're currently being restored to their former glory, and much of the work has been completed. The sunken greenhouses, at a lower level to avoid extreme temperature fluctuations, are due to be restored soon, providing some welcome warmth for figs, olives and pears.

Pashley Manor Gardens

The old kitchen garden at Pashley Manor is now laid out as a (French-inspired) potager, brimming with fresh produce and flowers that supply the café and the house. In addition to all kinds of veg and an enviable bounty of soft fruit, there are deliciously scented pyramids of sweet peas at each corner of the garden.

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