Now is the perfect time to get outside and appreciate the wonderful gardens all around us as they burst back into life
We are truly spoilt in our region by the number of formal, informal, traditional and unusual gardens that are lovingly tended and nurtured throughout the year for our benefit. Many are open to the public, either to fund their upkeep, to raise money for charity or just out of the benevolence and pride of their owners. Many local estates house rare and unusual species that were imported during Victorian times, making a garden day out the botanical equivalent of an exotic zoo visit. But you don’t have to be green-fingered to appreciate all they have to offer. Here are five alternative things to look for.
Firm floral favourites
Some gardens are legendary in horticultural circles and deserve their place at the top of lists for all garden lovers. Thanks to the National Trust, they are lovingly tended, beautifully presented and open to the public
With a stunning historical estate, neo-classical mansion, 50 acres of landscaped gardens, 1,000 acres of deer park, a rare breeds farm and medieval old hall, there’s something for everyone at Tatton. The gardens in Knutsford form part of the estate that was the property of the Egerton family for nearly 400 years until it was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1958. It is now financed and maintained by Cheshire East Council.
Tatton is one of the most complete historic estates open to the public. The opulently decorated early 19th-century mansion provides a fine setting for the Egerton family’s extensive collections, and the Victorian grandeur extends into the garden, with its glasshouses, formal, Italian and Japanese gardens.
The Japanese Garden is of particular interest. It was almost certainly the result of Alan de Tatton’s visit to the Anglo-Japanese Exhibition in White City, London, in 1910, and is now rated as the one of the finest examples of a Japanese garden in Europe.
The former head gardener’s cottage has been transformed into a beautiful tea room. Nestled in the Victorian walled gardens, it’s the perfect spot for a relaxing lunch. Other highlights include a 19th-century fernery, a well-stocked kitchen garden and an impressive witch hazel in the Tower Garden.
The incredibly well-preserved and cherished Dudmaston Hall sits enchanting wooded parkland and sweeping gardens hidden in the secluded Shropshire countryside. A much-loved property for over 875 years, Dudmaston is the home of Mr and Mrs Mark Hamilton-Russell, and you’ll find the family rooms scattered with photos and evidence of everyday life.
But it’s outside that the estate really comes into its own, providing visitors with amazing vistas and tranquillity. The orchard is the perfect place for the children to let off steam, and you can get close to nature at Big Pool and on Dingle walk. The wider estate also has extensive walking routes for year-round enjoyment.
The Dudmaston estate covers 3,000 acres of park and woodland, including the hall, four tenanted farms and the tiny village of Quatt. There are plenty of waymarked paths and trails to allow you to explore. As well as the ancient woodland, productive conifer plantations and brimming pools, Dudmaston is a large working estate and is always busy with farming events and seasonal activities.
There are many walking routes that cover hectares of the estate, and a meander through the Dingle is certainly worth doing. The property produces a series of trails to make sure you get the most out of your garden visit, and of course the Shepherd’s Hut tea rooms are perfect for much-needed refreshments.
The Erddig estate near Wrexham is synonymous with days out in north Wales and has something to offer visitors of every age. There’s a packed calendar of special events, walking tours, evening activites, group meetings, running races and more but – ignoring for now the stunning house and it’s incredible historic collections – if a relaxing wander round some of north Wales’s most beautiful grounds is what you’re after, then Erddig is a perfect day out for you.
The planting schemes and specimens on view in Erddig’s 13.5-acre walled garden are truly amazing, starting from the very first signs of spring. First to arrive are snowdrops, quickly followed by daffodils. At this time of year, the real treat are the tulips and the delicate snake’s head fritillary that arrive around Easter. The chequered native wildflower Fritillaria meleagris, with its delicate nodding pink-and-purple or white flower heads, is always worth a closer look.
The orchards of fruit trees, which featured in Joshua Edisbury’s original garden plans for the historic hall, are also of interest throughout spring. More than 180 different varieties of apple are grown here, and the delicate fruit blossom is trained along the garden walls and throughout the orchard, paving the way for thousands of bold tulips on display in the Victorian parterre bedding scheme.
Erddig has two bedding schemes – spring and summer. In May, the cascading Himalayan clematis tumbles from Wolf’s Den into the Rose Garden. Head into the den in late spring and you’ll also find a carpet of white flowering wild garlic.
Later into the summer, rare and unusual orchids peep into view along the banks of the canal.
A bluebell wood in bloom is one of the UK’s great seasonal highlights, and our friends at the Woodland Trust have hundreds you can visit for free to put a spring in your step
A carpet of native bluebells is a great indicator of ancient woodland, one of the UK’s most precious habitats, covering just two per cent of the country. ‘Bluebell season, between April and May, is a beautiful time to visit out woods and see one of the nation’s stunning spectacles,’ says the Andy Bond from the Woodland Trust.
This year, the trust is urging people to join its Bluebell Watch by letting it know where and when they see bluebells. This will help it understand the type of bluebells present in the UK. You can find your nearest wood at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods. Such habitats are home to a delicate array of plants and animals, so the Woodland Trust asks that visitors to bluebell woods stick to marked trails and avoid trampling the plants.
Big Wood, Runcorn, Cheshire
Once part of the Norton Priory estate, the wood was then owned by the Brooke family, who created a more formal landscaped pleasure garden with a surfaced path, pond, ha-ha ditch and wall. They also planted a variety of ornamental species, including monkey puzzle and sugar maple.
The wood is predominately broadleaf with oak, birch, willow, rowan and cherry, and it’s home to a variety of wildlife including birds, grey squirrels and foxes. In the spring, areas are carpeted with bluebells.
Pen-y-Coed, Penmaenmawr, Conwy
This attractive wood offers a mix of ancient semi-natural woodland with pockets of seasonal flowers such as bluebell and anemone, a conifer plantation that is gradually being replaced with broadleaves, archaeological features and lovely walks.
Helmeth Hill, Church Stretton, Shropshire
The ancient woodland on Helmeth Hill has a circular path visitors can follow to explore a wealth of ancient woodland species, including small-leaved lime, toothwort and wood sorrel. It harbours a beautiful array of bluebells in season.
We round up the best horticultural day trips in the Shire region
Bodnant Garden, Colwyn Bay Perched above the River Conwy, with views across the valley to the Snowdonia National Park.
Bodrhyddan Garden, nr Rhuddlan Gorgeous gardens can be found on the estate that has been home to the Conwy family since the early 15th century.
Bodysgallen Hall, nr Llandudno Stunning, historic gardens.
Chirk Castle Gardens, nr Wrexham The gardens at Chirk Castle were created from William Emes’ designs from the 18th century.
The Dingle Garden, Powys
Part formal garden, part woodland with its own lake, this garden is a stunning yet serene place to visit.
Erddig, nr Wrexham A unique family home with truly great gardens.
The Garden House, Wrexham Five acres overlooking the river Dee on the Shropshire border.
Gregynog, Powys More than just fine gardens, Gregynog is renowned for its links with music, the arts and hospitality.
Penrhyn Castle & Garden, nr Bangor Set against the Menai Strait and Snowdonia.
Plas Brondanw, Llanfrothen Edwardian garden created by Sir Clough William-Ellis, who also created Portmerion, with magnificent views of the mountains.
Plas Newydd, Anglesey
Based on a scheme by landscape designer Humphry Repton, the garden is situated above the Menai Straits and has stunning views of Snowdonia.
A pretty one-acre garden that is nestled at the foot of Mynydd Rhiw.
Portmeirion Gardens Exploiting the mild climate has allowed the planting of exotic species, which means these gardens have much in common with Cornish gardens.
Powis Castle & Garden The famous 17th-century garden at Powis Castle was based on designs by William Winde.
Dorothy Clive Garden, nr Market Drayton
Intimate and informal garden with lovely views over the Shropshire hills.
Dudmaston, Bridgnorth Delightful gardens that are a mass of colour in the spring.
The Dower House Garden, Bridgnorth A 1.5-acre site within the grounds of Morville Hall.
Hodnet Hall Gardens, Market Drayton Sixty acres of woodland with collections of magnolias, camellias, azaleas, rhododendrons and great for early spring displays, including bluebells.
Weston Park, Weston-under-Lizard, Shifnal A great example of an 18th-century landscape garden, where Capability Brown once worked.
Wollerton Old Hall Garden, Market Drayton Discover a long and colourful history.
Abbeywood Gardens, nr Northwich The Rowlinson family has lived at Abbeywood since 1987 and made many improvements and additions to the gardens.
Adlington Hall & Gardens, nr Macclesfield Home to the same family for over 600 years.
Arley Hall & Garden, nr Northwich The gardens at date from the 1700s.
Bluebell Cottage Garden, nr Dutton Quiet two-acre garden packed with plants.
Capesthorne Hall Garden, Siddington Surrounding the hall of the same name, featuring woodland, parkland and lakes.
Cholmondeley Castle Gardens, nr Malpas One of Cheshire’s Gardens of Distinction.
Dunham Massey, Altrincham Lovely parkland and formal gardens surrounding the early Georgian house.
Hare Hill Gardens, nr Macclesfield A woodland garden with an historic walled garden at its heart.
The Lovell Quinta Arboretum, Congleton A 28-acre arboretum created by Sir Bernard Lovell.
Lyme Park, nr Stockport Set at the foot of the Pennine Hills and famous for its deer herd.
Ness Botanic Gardens, Wirral One of the finest gardens in north England.
Norton Priory and Gardens, Runcorn Packed with nature and wildlife.
Rode Hall, Scholar Green
A Repton landscape surrounds the 18th-century house.
Stonyford Cottage Gardens, Cuddington Created from a wetland area on the edge of Delamere Forest.
Tatton Park Gardens, Knutsford Hosts an RHS show.