Here are the entries for some of our favourite gardens from the guide:
(Historic Scotland Inventory)
The Earl of Stair
Stair Estates, Rephad, Stranraer, Wigtownshire, Dumfries and Galloway DG9 8BX. Tel: (01776) 702024/(01581) 400225; www.castlekennedygardens.co.uk
5m E of Stranraer on A75
Open main season (telephone or consult website for details), and by appt
Entrance: £4, OAPs £3, children £1 (2007 prices)
One of Scotland’s most famous gardens, set on a peninsula between two lochs and well worth a visit for its sheer 75-acre magnificence and spectacular spring colour. The gardens, originally laid out in the late seventeenth century, were later remodelled by Field Marshal the 2nd Earl of Stair. He used his unoccupied dragoons to effect a major remoulding of the landscape around the ruined castle, which had burnt down in 1716, combining large formal swathes of mown grassland with massive formal gardens, criss-crossed by avenues and allées of large specimen trees. The garden is internationally famous for its pinetum, its good variety of tender trees and its species rhododendrons, including many of Sir Joseph Hooker’s original introductions from his Himalayan expeditions. The monkey-puzzle avenue, now sadly a little tattered, was once the finest in the world; there is also an avenue of noble firs underplanted with embothriums and eucryphias. An impressive two-acre circular lily pond puts everyone else’s in their proper place, and a good walk from this brings the visitor back to the ruined castle and its walled garden, well planted with themed borders. The adjacent garden centre sells some excellent plants.
Mr and Mrs W. Jordan Pensthorpe, Fakenham NR21 OLN. Tel: (01328) 851465; www.pensthorpe.comTel: (01328) 851465; www.pensthorpe.com
1m E of Fakenham on A1067 Norwich-Fakenham road. Signposted
Open all year – telephone or consult website for details
Entrance: £8.50, OAPs £7, children (4-16) £5, family £23
Although Pensthorpe’s raison d’être is as a nature reserve for water birds and wildlife, it also includes three important gardens within its 250 acres of lakes and riverside walks. The millennium garden designed by Piet Oudolf in 1999 is a masterpiece of perennial planting (at its height from July to October) and possibly the best place in Britain to see his style of planting using sedums, grasses, astrantias, eupatoriums and bronze fennel to form huge bold ‘colonies’ beside the water and winding gravel paths. The smaller Wave Garden, designed by Julie Toll in 2005, combines wild and cultivated plants to great effect, peaking earlier, in late spring and summer. Striking and colourful, both gardens somehow manage to merge gently into the natural landscape. The third, a wildlife garden, designed and planted with the help of organizations like Butterfly Conservation and the British Dragonfly Society, is a wonderful haven that aims to help visitors attract wildlife into their own garden.
Dr and Mrs R. Moule
Lamorna, Penzance TR109 6XH. Tel: (01736) 732153
4m S of Penzance off B3315. Follow signs for Cove
Restaurant; garden is at top of hill on left
Open main season (telephone for details), and by appt
Entrance: £4, children free
The astoundingly beautiful Lamorna valley has long attracted creative men and women to settle in this remote corner of west Cornwall – among them the painters Laura Knight and Alfred Munnings and the authors Derek Tangye and John Le Carre. Now the roll-call has been swelled by a pair of talented gardeners, for the present owners have tranformed an amazingly difficult cliff-and-valley site perched high above Lamorna Cove into a terraced masterpiece. They started planting the three acres in 1998, restricting their palette mainly to southern-hemisphere shrubs and exotics. Springtime is a delight as the camellias, rhododendrons, bluebells and primroses start to flower among the natural woodland on the lower slopes; turn a corner and huge structural granite outcrops alter the terrain and make a perfect frame for tree ferns, aeoniums, phormiums, agaves and aloes. Birds abound, as do the butterflies darting in summer between great columps of agapanthus, lavenders and crocosmias. The steeply winding pathways allow intimate glimpses and wide seascapes, and nothing beats a bird’s eye view of the centre of a huge tree fern; plenty of benches and seats are provided from which to appreciate not only the panorama and the plantsmanship, but also the ingeniuous methods devised for transplanting soil and gravel down the vertiginous slopes.