Alphabet Gardens 2013 - Some awesome "A" properties

The holm oak walk at Arley Hall in Cheshire
With so few gardens to visit in the winter months and with weather forecasters telling us this is going to be the coldest winter on record for many years, I plan to feature a series of alphabetical posts in the next few weeks, showing what's on offer here in the UK for garden lovers. The list is far from exhaustive, but growing every year and covers some of the gardens I've enjoyed visiting during the last four years. Most are only open during the summer months, but if you're planning garden visits for 2014, you may want to bookmark those you like the look of.
Aberglasney Gardens in Wales is well worth visiting because of the painstaking restoration work carried out here to transform what was once considered "lost" into what is there today. Saved by a group of historic house enthusiasts and an American benefactor in the 1990's, the results are impressive and, as you wander through the grounds, you feel as though you've stepped back in time. Also worth knowing remembering because it's open every day except Christmas Day.
Alfriston Clergy House in East Sussex (above) is a 14th century cottage surrounded by a series of Arts & Crafts terraces, owned and operated by the National Trust - the first property added to their portfolio as long ago as 1896. It nestles in glorious countryside near the coast and makes an interesting stop if you're visiting any of the Bloomsbury Set gardens in area, especially Monks House, which is just a stone's throw away. 
Athelhampton House in Dorset (above) has a fine architectural garden, with unusual features including a circular Corona, Great Court with its 12 immaculately clipped yew pyramids, and the benefit of the River Piddle, which bounds the garden on one side and feeds the pools and fountains that are one of the most attractive features of the property. An interesting house too, and lovely views over the surrounding Thomas Hardy countryside. Gardens open March to end of October, and there are many other spectacular properties nearby, including Mapperton.
An Cala in Scotland sits in a marvellous position near the sea (above), and is a series of carefully planted areas which invite further investigation, and there are many charming touches including sheep sculptures, a burbling stream and a small wooden temple. Generally considered to be at its best in spring and summer, and with a wonderful collection of azaleas and rhododendrons, I visited in the autumn and really enjoyed my afternoon amid the falling leaves, with the bracing air. Open April - October, and well worth combining with some of the other fine gardens in the area.
Nearby Arduaine is another must-see in Scotland (above), with fine sea views, an incredible collection of trees and shrubs and an interesting history. The first great gardener who lived here was James Campbell, a tea planter, who brought back fine specimens from his forays into Sri Lanka and the East. Acquired in 1971 by two Essex nurserymen, Edmund and Harry Wright, the gardens were given to the National Trust for Scotland in 1992. Open year round - wonderful for views over the Sound of Jura and long walks.
Arley Hall in Cheshire is one to visit if you've got at least half a day to spare. Reputed to be the home of Britain's first herbaceous borders (above) - first recorded on a map in 1846 - they are well worth visiting throughout the season and you'll be treated to different flowering displays every month. But equally impressive are the two walled gardens, the spectacular springtime rootery, filled with early flowering woodland shrubs, and the holm oak walk (top). Open March to September.
Ascott in the Vale of Aylesbury, is a former Rothschild home and a grand 30-acre landscape featuring topiary, borders and fountains. Originally purchased by Baron Meyer de Rothschild, but transformed by his nephew Leopold into what you see today. With fountains by Thomas Waldo Story (above) and a huge topiary sundial sculpted out of golden box and yew, this is a garden to savour on a summer's day.


  1. Thank you for the Pictures from this wonderful gardens, it's always a big help for us to look at your blog when we are in Britain!


  2. A fabulous summary, and a catalogue of fabulous places to potentially visit soon!

  3. Look forward to seeing the others in the series Charlotte, and have noted a couple of these already. Thanks.

  4. All are amazing! I hope to get back to the U.K. someday, so these gardens will be on the wish list. I certainly enjoyed Kew in London--so much to see there, and I barely covered a fraction of it.


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