The Manor House, Upton Grey is a must for anyone who wants to see a unique garden with colour, style and magnificent planting, which has been recreated with great passion by current owner, Rosamund Wallinger. The original garden was designed by Gertrude Jekyll, but when the current owners moved there, they had no idea of its provenance.
The garden has two distinct parts - with a terraced layout behind the main house, supported by typical Jekyll-style dry-stone walls. The planting here is lavish - there is a riot of colour and you'll find yourself going round and round to check that you haven't missed anything. And at the front of the house there is a wild garden with a meadow overlooked by the local church, which all adds to the complete picture of an English garden. This is a garden not to be missed, but you need to make an appointment to see it, so check out the website for details - Ros Wallinger, the owner is charming and has written a fascinating book - Gertrude Jekyll's Lost Garden: The Restoration of an Edwardian Masterpiece. Once you've seen the garden, you can recreate it in your mind by looking through the book, and if you're lucky Rosamund will be there to answer any questions.
Equally spectacular and close enough to visit on the same day, is West Green House Garden at Hartley Wintney (right and below), but you'll need to check opening days here, because they have changed for 2009. These gardens have been lovingly planted by well-known designer Marylyn Abbott (who is renowned for her colour schemes) and are another notable feast for the eyes in the early part of the season, when the alliums are in full bloom. There is also an enchanting water garden.
Both of these gardens can be done in a day because they are quite close together, but DO remember to phone and make an appointment for The Manor House (details on website) and check the web for opening details on West Green House early to avoid the coach tours - it is a very popular garden and deservedly so, but to get the best out of it, you want to try and avoid the crowds. Upton Grey is in the middle of the countryside, so you may want to visit after lunch at one of the many charming country pubs that you will find in this area. You'll see England at it's best if the sun is shining!