|The Italianate garden at Mapperton House, which sits in a valley|
It's easy to have a dalliance with Dorset now that spring has arrived - home to some of the most unusual gardens in England and a majestic coastline that has earned it the nickname the "Jurassic Coast" - you could happily spend a week in this county and still see only a few of the great gardens here! Start with Mapperton House, with its incredible sunken Italianate garden which features a magnificent pergola.
|Glorious topiary and views over the surrounding countryside at Mapperton|
The stunning Elizabethan house is hidden deep in the Dorset countryside, approached by a long driveway and the garden appears at first to be just a small cottage plot at the front of the property, with a large lawn at the back. But walk to the end of the lawn and a magical world opens before your eyes, because the main garden is in a valley below the house. There's a series of pools and magnificent topiary. Definitely one of my favourite gardens in Britain.
|Athelhampton's famous Great Court with its yew pyramids|
Move on to Athelhampton House, on the banks of the River Piddle, which has one of the finest architectural gardens in Britain, designed by Reginald Blomfield. The Great Court (above) has 12 impressive yew pyramids and two summerhouses, which flank the impressive herbaceous borders. Elsewhere in the garden you will find eight more garden courts (or rooms) - each one very different, but perhaps the most impressive is the Corona (below), with its sculpted stone walls, backed with immaculately trimmed hedging.
|The Corona at Athelhampton - surrounded by tall hedges|
Forde Abbey (below) is another impressive property, with its 30 acres of gardens, including a series of ponds and its famous Centenary Fountain - the highest powered fountain in Britain - installed to celebrate 100 years of the Roper family at the property. There is also a bog garden, rock garden, and one of the finest kitchen gardens in the country, which supplies most of the salad and vegetables to the restaurant here. Many fine trees in the arboretum and lovely walks.
|Forde Abbey has 30 acres of gardens and many places to sit and admire the views|
You may find it hard to see all three gardens in a day, but there are so many glorious Dorset gardens and so many fine places to stay in this beautiful part of the country, that it's worth staying in the area for several days.