Gardens to visit for inspiration

Gardens to visit for inspiration
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Gardens will be at their peak now, when beautifully-fragrant roses and colourful perennials burst into bloom. And what better way to spend time over the coming weeks than visiting (or is it nosing) other gardens?
There are literally hundreds to visit and we’re so lucky in the UK as, wherever you are, there’s bound to be a superb garden not too far away to marvel at gorgeous plants and glean plenty of ideas and inspiration.
I thought I’d pick just one or two absolute favourites. I love Cambridge University Botanic Garden, with its small but packed glasshouses featuring plants from the world’s different climate zones, and pretty gardens surrounding them. It’s easy to walk around it all, unlike overwhelmingly big botanic gardens such as Kew. That said, Edinburgh Botanics is another favourite of mine, and the perfect place to take a picnic – try the rock garden with its gentle slopes of lawn and colourful rockery.
The Dorothy Clive Garden in Shropshire is gorgeous and although I haven’t been, Wollerton Old Hall nearby looks lovely and is on my list to visit – they’d be perfect to do together. East Ruston Old Vicarage in Norfolk is amazing, with its dense, exuberant planting, clever design and use of space, and the owners’ fantastic container displays. Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex are brilliant if you need help finding plants for tricky spots (hot and dry, shady, boggy) and if you’re in Kent, Great Dixter and Sissinghurst are must-visits for gardeners – almost places of pilgrimage.
These gardens are all truly spectacular, but sometimes the best gardens of all are the small ones, just like yours or mine, where you can pick up loads of ideas for more humble plots. For that, pick up a copy of The Yellow Book, which lists by county some 3,850 gardens that open for charity, organised by the National Gardens Scheme. Admission costs around £2-£3, all of which goes to charities such as Marie Curie and Macmillan. Last year, the scheme raised over £2 million! So go visit – you’ll be helping this year’s total, too.

MUST-BUY PLANT…
Solomon’s Seal

EVERYDAY:
Polygonatum multiflorum

Solomon’s seal is a perennial with graceful arching stems of green leaves. Creamy-white bells of waxy flowers hang in a row along the underside of the leaves.

EXTRA SPECIAL:
Polygonatum hybridum ‘Betburg’

A more unusual variety with leaves of deep chocolate brown as the foliage emerges
in spring. This fades a little as the year progresses, but it’s still a star plant.

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