Simply stunning "S" gardens!
Serre de la Madone, French home of Lawrence Johnstone, who also owned one of Britain's most visited gardens today - Hidcote Manor - is a far cry from his country house in Gloucestershire. It's a stunning property on the French Riviera, currently being restored, and one of a group of properties in the Menton area that every gardener should see once in their life, along with Val Rahmeh and Villa Ephrussi. A really lovely garden even though it has some way to go in terms of being returned to its former glory.
Snowshill Manor was home to a somewhat eccentric English architect - Charles Paget Wade - who collected musical instruments and toys, which fill the house today and attract many visitors. But it's the garden I wanted to see and I'm glad I did. A Cotswold idyll, with stepped terraces and a Venetian-style well (above), plus glorious views over the surrounding countryside. Really easy to combine with the Stone House and Sudeley Castle (below) if you want to do several gardens in a day.
An ancient timber-framed property sits at the heart of Bramber, West Sussex - called St Mary's House and all too often overlooked by main gardening guides - this charming garden is being restored by the current owners and the help of a team of volunteers. Glorious roses and a series of garden rooms await you here, plus a splendid walled garden, complete with Victorian pineapple pits; a contemporary poetry garden and a new terracotta garden.
The garden at Stone House in Gloucestershire is a real find, if you've been trekking round the better-known properties in tourist season. This charming 2.5 acre garden is filled with interesting nooks and crannies, a rock garden and glorious borders. It's located in one of the prettiest Cotswold villages I've seen, with it's honey-coloured houses. Gustav Holst, who composed "The Planets", was once the organist in the local church. Worth making a detour for because it's such a personal and loved plot.
Sudeley Castle has a garden on a grand scale. The glorious Queen's Garden (above) is laid out in front of the ruined castle, and is just one of many different garden areas you'll see here. There's a Secret Garden designed by Rosemary Verey; a Cloister Garden which sits in the shadow of the ruined chapel; a wonderful rose garden and lots of open spaces for the kids if you're taking a day out in the countryside. Close enough to combine with Stone House, but this is a very different garden, so get the best of both worlds by combining the two.
And in this round up of "S" gardens, no list would be complete without mention of Sussex Prairies - the magical world created by Paul and Pauline McBride, who are coming to Rajasthan with me next month to help on the Jardins sans Frontiers project. If you haven't already read about our plans, click on the JSF link to find out!