|Rodmarton Manor, Gloucestershire - one of Britain's finest Arts & Crafts gardens|
2012 was the year when we had our summer in March - a brief week of glorious sunshine, when temperatures hit record highs and our forecasters warned us about drought! But as the last day of the year dawns, I look out of my window to see yet another wet day, amid reports that this marks the end of the wettest year on record! But it's still been a good year for garden visiting and as I look back over the year, I remember some of the gardens I've visited where the sun did shine, albeit briefly. There are many notable gardens in my memory book this year including two in the Cotswolds - Rodmarton Manor (above) - one of the finest surviving examples of an Arts & Crafts garden and Upton Wold (below), where the owners have created sweeping meadows and a magnificent arboretum at their glorious honey-coloured home.
|Upton Wold is a Cotswold garden with a difference - created by the owners over the last 35 years|
I managed to travel further afield this year and visit two of Scotland's legendary gardens - the Garden of Cosmic Speculation, which opens to the public for just one afternoon a year. This involved a 700-mile trek from the south with my son to see what Charles Jencks has created at Portrack, and although we weren't disappointed, we just wished we'd had the chance to see this extraordinary garden without being trampled by the thousands of other visitors hell-bent on attending the one open day a year! But this garden is certainly a spectacle if you don't mind joining the queues.
|Charles Jencks' Garden of Cosmic Speculation opens to the public for just one day each year|
I'm glad I saw this garden, but my vote went to Little Sparta in terms of magnificent landscapes and the chance to see a Scottish garden with a real difference. This five-acre hilltop gem, with incredible views over the surrounding countryside, was created by the concrete poet Ian Hamilton Finlay and although both the theme and the scale of this garden are very different from Jencks' creation, you won't be disappointed. Worth remembering that there is no disabled access. You have to park near the main road and hike up to the property, but well worth the effort.
|Little Sparta, former home of concrete poet Ian Hamilton Finlay is well worth making an effort to see when in Scotland|
On a slightly different scale, there's a notable smaller garden in the south that's well worth adding to your wish list in 2013 - the immaculate Crossing House garden (below) in Cambridgeshire - a tiny gem that sits right next to the railway line at Shepreth and is often overlooked by visitors who make the pilgrimage to the immaculate garden that Faith Raven has created at neighbouring Docwra's Manor. Occupying a tiny plot, but quite unique in that there are some 5,000 plants in less than half an acre here, this is a garden worth visiting if you're in the Cambridge area.
|The Crossing House occupies a tiny plot next to the railway line in Shepreth, Cambridgeshire|
My forays into East Anglia took me to visit several interesting gardens for the first time this year including the amazing project at Easton Walled Gardens in Lincolnshire, spearheaded by Lady Ursula Cholmeley. Started just 10 years ago, this is a real work in progress, well worth visiting if you're in this part of the country, as Lady Cholmeley breathes new life back into an historic garden that was almost lost. Savour the 12 acres of outstanding countryside here - it's a work in progress - and each year will see new developments under the stewardship of Lady Cholmeley.
|The terraces at Easton Walled Gardens in Lincolnshire - under restoration by Lady Ursula Chomeley|
And having ventured this far, I carried on to Norfolk on a long overdue visit to some of the great gardens there, taking in some of the top billing East Anglian gardens including Houghton Hall, which has had new life breathed into it by the owners and is now billed as one of the greatest walled gardens in the country. It's a very different project to Easton Walled Gardens in Lincolnshire, but well worth a visit and there are plenty of other gardens nearby, including the Queen's home at Sandringham and East Ruston Old Vicarage (to be reviewed in 2013).
|Houghton Hall in Norfolk has one of the finest walled gardens in Britain|
I also visited several other properties in Norfolk and Suffolk, but rain took its toll and some of these gardens may have to wait for sunnier days before I add them to my garden listings, because my photographs simply don't do them justice. I had better weather when I went to Herefordshire and North Wales in May this year, where I encountered Moors Meadow for the first time - the charming garden created by Ros Bissell.
|Moors Meadow is a delightful wildflower garden in Herefordshire|
Further forays this year took me to Yorkshire for a few days in May, where remarkably, the sun shone throughout my visit. One of the highlights of my trip was a visit to York Gate outside Leeds - flagship garden for Perennial, the garden charity - and certainly worth making a detour for. This is a tiny property, immaculately maintained by volunteers, hidden at the back of a churchyard, with a series of garden rooms. Opening hours have traditionally been very restricted, but there are plans to offer better access during 2013.
|York Gate - flagship of Perennial, the garden charity - outside Leeds in Yorkshire|
Cottage-garden enthusiasts should definitely bookmark Stone House Cottage in Worcestershire for inspiration in 2013. This delightful one-acre property has been crafted by the current owners over the last 35 years and although the house is not a cottage, the cleverly-divided garden will have would-be cottage-garden creators enthralled, as will the range of plants in the adjoining nursery. You can easily spend a couple of hours here, climbing the various towers to gain good vantage points and savouring the wonderful range of plants - particularly climbers - that you'll want to grow at home.
|Stone House Cottage in Worcestershire - a delight for cottage-garden enthusiasts|
These are just some of the new properties that I visited in 2012 - there are many more that I've yet to write about, but with two trips to India with John Brookes behind me (the most recent also waiting for review) and more rain than I've ever encountered before, some will have to wait until the New Year. Best wishes to all my readers for a prosperous New Year and thank you for joining me in my travels in 2012.