showcasing the best of the south west
Top 10 Gardens in the South West

Top 10 Gardens in the South West

Pictured above: The garden at Kilver Court, Somerset

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

A chance discovery of a motto etched into the limestone of Heligan’s walled garden ignited the passion and determination to recover one of the most beautiful and now iconic gardens in Cornwall. It read ‘Don’t Come Here to Sleep and Slumber’ and although it was written in August 1914 it has been relevant from the moment the garden began to be dug out of its overgrowth 25 years ago. Now it is 200 award winning acres of history, mystery and romance. Including the Victorian Productive Gardens, Pleasure Grounds, ancient woodland, farm and The Jungle of bamboo tunnels, majestic tree ferns, giant rhubarb and bananas. Quite rightly one of Cornwall’s greatest gardens and a big favourite of ours.

Stourhead Wiltshire

Owned by the National Trust, this stunning 2,500 acre Wiltshire estate with Palladian villa, epitomises the work of the industrious conservation charity. Described as ‘a living work of art’ in the 1740’s it continues to delight today and the lake remains the centre piece of the garden. It is breathtaking all year round but particularly beautiful with the arrival of flowering shrubs in spring and the flaming trees in autumn. Paths lead you through beech, oak, sycamore, Spanish chestnut, ash and holm oak trees to classical temples and far reaching vistas. 

Mapperton House and Gardens Dorset

When the location scouts for ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ were on the search for Hardy-esque backdrops they looked no further than Mapperton. Luckily the owners of the Dorset sandstone manor, the Earl and Countess Sandwich, are used to such intrusions and happy to share their estate with film crews, weddings and public visitors. The valley gardens at Mapperton reflect over three periods of history including the 17th century remains of a parterre. There is also an Italianate garden laid out in the 1920’s and a 1960’s orangery. Beyond the wall and summer house are fish ponds, leading to the wild garden with a wonderful selection of shrubs and trees. We need to go back. Last time we spent too long eating excellent home baked cake in the café…

Kilver Court Somerset 

If you hang around at Country Calling long enough you will know that we love a bit of shopping at the designer outlet store in Somerset. So when they opened the 3.5 acre garden next door they cemented their reputation as a destination. Set against a 19th century viaduct, garden highlights include George Whitelegg’s Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal winning rockery, parterre, organic vegetable garden and a mill pond. There's a 100foot herbaceous border currently being redesigned to feature high colour and we particularly love the small stream and waterfall. Before you go pop into the Garden nursery for a final green fingered retail fling.

Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden Cornwall

This is the tiniest of gardens, set back behind the bustling streets of St Ives, an oasis of sculpture and continued memorial to the artist Dame Barbara Hepworth. Leading out from her studio, it was a space she created and extended, with tantalising glimpses of the sea. And by the end of her life Trewyn garden was crowded with her awe inspiring work amongst the gravel paths and exotic planting. A treat for gardeners and art lovers alike.

RHS Garden Rosemoor  Devon 

The RHS was given Rosemoor in 1988 and created a national garden that continues to thrive despite some of the North Devon challenges of acidic soil, a valley-bottom location and frosts. This is a gardener’s garden. You don’t come here to take the dog for a walk. Surrounded by woodland there is a garden for every fancy – cottage, hot (vibrant colours), courtyard, vegetable and ornamental. The best place to visit if you want to learn more about horticulture.

Lanhydrock Cornwall

A Cornish National Trust gem, Lanhydrock is a late Victorian country house with garden and wooded estate. It’s not just the house that is listed, the gardens are too with their origins in the 17th century. There is true grandeur in the garden thanks to the formal parterre as well as bountiful herbaceous borders and the magnificent magnolias which Lanhydrock is famous for. Don’t miss the thatched cottage, once home to the Victorian gardeners and now a centre of information about the history and garden planning.

Bowood House and Gardens Wiltshire

Who knew that Capability Brown’s name was actually Lancelot? One of the most revered landscape gardeners of the 18th century, Bowood is thought to be one of the finest examples of his work with a flowing mix of plantations and sweeping lawns leading down to a mile long lake. The perfect setting for the glorious stately home and a gem of a Wiltshire visitor attraction. We would recommend booking on one of the monthly exclusive tours of the private walled gardens and if you time it between April and June you can catch the resplendent rhododendrons and azaleas in the woodland garden.

Hauser & Wirth Somerset 

Whilst this is one of the smaller gardens on our list it packs a high class punch against the backdrop of the globally respected art gallery and excellent Roth Bar & Grill. Designed by the internationally renowned landscape architect Piet Oudolf, it includes over an acre and a half of perennial meadow – the Oudolf Field. Carefully shaped and planted, the garden echoes the tradition of classical gardens, but the variety of species and combination of plants creates a looseness, a soft formality. At the far end of the field is the Radic Pavilion transported from the Serpentine Gallery in 2015 and closer to the gallery courtyard areas feature sculpture from visiting artists. For us, one of the garden’s enduring successes is how it works in every season, retaining its beauty and structure in the depths of winter. It is also free as is entry to the gallery so means you can pop in whenever you are passing. Or make a special trip and end up in the Roth Bar & Grill for a big delicious lunch.

Trebah Gardens, Cornwall

Looking for a sub-tropical paradise with a stunning coastal backdrop? Head to Trebah Garden near Falmouth and walk the four miles of footpaths, through canopies of exotic blooms down to their secluded beach on the Helford River. Open year round, each season has its star – 100 year old rhododendrons in spring, giant gunnera (our feature editor’s favourite), a china blue Hydrangea Valley in autumn and in winter the trees and southern hemisphere flowers take centre stage. Just as marvellous, they are a family and dog friendly garden with adventure play areas, children’s trails and 
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