Catch those charismatic "C" gardens when you can!
Sit and savour the same views enjoyed by Sir Winston Churchill when you head to Chartwell in Kent, where you'll find an astounding landscape overlooking the Weald and some unexpected features including an immaculate and well-stocked kitchen garden, water gardens created by the great man, and his wife Clementine's charming rose garden. The house is steeped in history and attracts thousands of visitors annually, but the garden is also well worth visiting.
If you're looking for a charming cottage garden, head to Chiffchaffs in Dorset (above) on a spring or summer's day to immerse yourself in cosy planting schemes and to breathe in the country air. This property is particularly glorious when the rhododendrons are flowering in May and you can savour the woodland walk, but there's always something in flower here during the season and with the excellent adjoining nursery, you can the buy plants that inspire you. Only open on Wednesdays, Thursdays or Sundays, from 2.00-5.00 but well worth making a detour for if you're in the area.
The Claremont Landscape Garden in Surrey is unique - one of the earliest surviving gardens of its kind, just outside Esher in Surrey, this surviving 18th century gem bears the hallmarks of William Kent, 'Capability' Brown and Charles Bridgeman. This was once Sir John Vanbrugh's country seat, now preserved for the nation by the National Trust. Open daily throughout the year (except Christmas Day), expect to see wonderful vistas in the cold wintery weather, especially when it snows.
The garden at Claydon House in Buckinghamshire is a riot of colour throughout the summer months and has one of the finest walled vegetable gardens in the country. Much work has been done here in the last few years and the gardens, attached to a well-known National Trust property, are operated privately and open to visitors Wednesday through Sunday ((12.00-17.00) from March to October.
The fabulous Arts and Crafts garden at Coleton Fishacre in Devon is well worth making the trek to see if you're heading west or wanting to see an unusual landscape with fine coastal views. And the climate here guarantees that you'll see all sorts of unusual, exotic plants in high season, including proteas. Art Deco enthusiasts will enjoy the interior of the house, which was once home to Rupert d'Oyly Carte. Open daily throughout the spring and summer months (except Fridays).
Cothay Manor must surely rank as one of the most romantic gardens in Britain, with its moated approach (above) and 12 acres of glorious garden rooms, faithfully tended by owners Alastair and Mary-Anne Robb, who won the nation's heart when they appeared on "Country House Rescue" a few years back. You'll need several hours here to fully appreciate the scope of this property, which was originally created by Lt Col Reginald Cooper, who arrived brimming with ideas from close friends Lawrence Johnson of Hidcote, and Harold Nicolson of Sissinghurst.
Coton Manor in Northamptonshire has been in the same family for 50 years. There was nothing here when they arrived, but today it is one of the most prized public gardens in this part of the country, attracting some 30,000 visitors annually. Open selectively for snowdrops and hellebores in February and then daily throughout the main season, there's plenty to see in this charming 10-acre garden surrounding the 17th century stone manor.
One of the best spring and early season gardens in southern England is Cranborne Manor in Dorset, but you'll need to plan your visit, because it only opens one day a week - on a Wednesday. The original garden was laid out by John Tradescant (the Elder) in the 17th century. But today, this garden is a tribute to the family who live in the manor, who have put their own stamp on the property. Notable features include the wildflower meadow and exceptional spring flower displays.
One of the smallest gardens to make it into the alphabet listings - at just over quarter of an acre - the Crossing House is definitely one to visit if you're in the area, or on your way to neighbouring Docwra's Manor. This garden has been lovingly created by plantswoman Margaret Fuller at the back of the railway track and is open every day of the year. It will fill your heart with joy in mid summer!