Season to be CHEERFUL

Spring has officially shake off winter’s blues and explore wonderful and wild gardens already bursting into colour

Martyn Cox



dmg media (UK)


TOMORROW is the spring equinox and official start of a new season, according to astronomers. So forget about winter and make plans to visit a garden famed for its early colour. From daffodil havens to places with fine displays of blossom, here’s my guide to ten of the UK’s best spring gardens. Cotehele, Cornwall Perched high above the River Tamar, this garden has a first-rate display of daffodils. In March and April, more than 300 varieties brighten up the meadows close to an attractive manor house, built for the Edgcumbe family in the 15th Century. Elsewhere, there are snake’s head fritillaries, anemones, celandines and grape hyacinths to enjoy, while rhododendrons, azaleas and flowering cherries add pops of colour in the wooded valley below the house. Dunsford, Devon This nature reserve attracts plenty of bird-spotters but is well worth the trip to marvel at its wild daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) that provide a yellow carpet in woodland, grassy areas and along the banks of the River Teign. Located on the eastern edge of Dartmoor National Park, the 140-acre Site of Special Scientific Interest also has bluebells, swathes of wild garlic and wood anemones. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London Located on the banks of the Thames, this sprawling 300-acre landscape has countless spring attractions. The extravaganza starts in March with daffodils, wallflowers and Dutch crocus, followed by snake’s head fritillaries, displays of tulips and bluebells in woodland. There’s an azalea garden, rhododendron dell and a cherry walk, where scores of Prunus ‘Asano’ turn heads in April, with their double, powder-puff-pink flowers. Blickling Estate, Norfolk Situated in a loop of the River Bure, Blickling’s 55-acre formal garden includes a parterre, lake and kitchen garden and sits within a 4,600-acre estate of parkland, woodland and farmland. Daffodils and magnolias are followed by azaleas, rhododendrons and bluebells. Audley End House and Gardens, Essex An imposing Jacobean mansion once owned by Charles II sits at the heart of a 50-acre estate with parkland designed by Capability Brown, a walled garden, one-acre parterre garden and a vast lake. Thousands of naturalised daffodils turn heads in early spring, with bedding plants and fruit trees in blossom, while old tulip varieties take up the reins later in the season. Felley Priory Garden, Nottinghamshire Reputed to be the setting for several D.H. Lawrence novels, Felley Priory sits within a 2½-acre garden started by Major Robert ChaworthMusters and his wife Mary in the 1970s. The garden has plenty to offer in spring, with a highlight being a romantic old orchard carpeted with heirloom daffodils in shades of yellow, white, apricot and orange. Look out also for snake’s head fritillaries and magnolias. Brantwood, Cumbria Created by artist, writer and social reformer John Ruskin in the late 19th Century, Brantwood is perched on high ground overlooking Coniston Water and the rugged landscape beyond. The 250-acre estate includes eight gardens, including the Zig-Zaggy, inspired by the mount of purgatory from Dante’s The Divine Comedy. Carpets of daffodils and other bulbs appear in early spring, followed by bluebells and lots of azaleas. Bodnant Garden, Wales A striking 18th Century house stands at the head of a sloping woodland garden that descends to the River Hiraethlyn, a tributary of the River Conwy. This 80-acre plant-lover’s paradise contains a fantastic range of camellias and rhododendrons, along with a National Collection of almost 100 different magnolias. The Laburnum Arch is a 176ft-long tunnel that drips with sweetly perfumed, pendulous yellow flowers. Brodie Castle and Estate, Moray A baronial-style castle is at the heart of a 287-acre estate famous for its daffodil displays since the 19th Century. Former owner Major Ian Brodie bred about 400 varieties between 1899 and 1942, some of which can still be found in the garden’s 200-strong National Daffodil Collection. In woodland, rhododendrons, azaleas, daphnes and other spring-flowering shrubs thrive under a canopy of trees. Glenarm Castle and Garden, County Antrim Woodland rhododendrons, herbaceous peonies, spring-flowering trees and early-flowering bulbs can be found in the grounds of Glenarm Castle, the turreted ancestral home of the McDonnell family, the Earls of Antrim. Explore the 1,300-acre estate and you’ll find topiary, water features and cracking coastal views. A tulip festival takes place in the garden’s fouracre, 18th Century walled garden from April 29 to May 1.