Spring loaded! 12 local gardens to visit now
Spring has sprung and it's blooming lovely. Enjoy the best the season has to offer with these mood-boosting local walks around the county.
Embercombe, Higher Ashton, Teign Valley
The 50-acre rewilding estate are inviting people to join them with a picnic in their blossoming orchards and medicine garden for #blossomwatch on Saturday 23 April. Hot drinks and cake available.
Burrow Farm Gardens, Axminster
This pretty 13-acre garden has just taken the crown for the Nation’s Favourite Public Garden (as voted by the National Gardens Scheme and readers of The English Garden Magazine). Go see what the fuss is about, including woodlands filled with wildflowers, and an enchanting Azalea Glade, bristling with ferns, primula and sherbet-coloured azalea (obvs). Open from Fri 1 April, £9pp, kids £2.
Marwood Hill Gardens, Barnstaple
The words ‘bog garden’ may not inspire but hey, it’s here the springtime magic happens at this 20-acre valley garden, as it blooms with a rainbow of floral treasures. Marwood hold numerous national collections, including heritage collections of spring beauties, including camellia, magnolia, rhodos and cornus. Well worth a wander at this time of year. Open daily from Fri 1 April, £9.50pp, under 12s free.
Lukesland Gardens, near Ivybridge
Lukesland is like being transported to a Scottish glen – 24 meandering acres with paths and pools and brilliant magnolia in eye-popping bloom now, followed by later in spring, hundreds of flame-coloured rhodos and azaleas. Owners Lorna and John ensure it’s all family and dog-friendly and a huge 86 year-old magnolia which rarely flowers, Magnolia campbellii, is doing its thing this year. Spring openings: Suns, Weds and Bank Hols from 13 March – 12 June, 11am- 5pm. Adults £7.50; kids free.
Buckland Abbey, Yelverton
Buckland…great name for a place don’t you think? *checks ancestral line* A 13th century abbey, in a sheltered valley, with peaceful walks, meadows and woods to wander. Muddy loves the Great Barn, especially when it’s decorated for Xmas or Easter and annual Egg hunt, when they put on games for kids and there’s a special ‘Easter Tree’ in the kitchen garden decorated in hand-painted eggs. Pre-booking essential.
Dartington Trust, near Totnes
The 26 acres of Grade II listed gardens brim with snakehead frittillaries, native primroses and all sorts of daffies now, from tiny species, to tall trumpets. Highlights include the Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure sculpture, a bridge by Peter Randall Page and a whispering circle, plus just outside the entrance the excellent Green Table Cafe is on-hand for coffee, home-made soups, frittata and sarnies to takeaway. Adults £7, kids £2, under fives free; family £15 (2 adults plus up to 6 children).
RHS Rosemoor, Great Torrington
Gardening perfection, what else would you expect from the Royal Hoerticultural Society’s south west outpost? Here has numerous gardens in different styles to see, including Mediterranean, Exotic, Potager, Fruit & Veg, but right now the place to be is The Cherry Garden, a riot of pink and white blossom, perfect for a spot of ‘Hanami’, the Japanese name for flower viewing. Open daily £12.95pp.
The Italian Garden, Great Ambrook
Known as Devon’s answer to The Lost Gardens of Heligan, The Italian Garden at Great Ambrook is currently being restored to its former Edwardian glory with lottery money. It’s a captivating place, full of history and tales of louche behaviour. Only open by appointment, book a private group visit (6-10 people) for a behind the scenes tour.
Cockington Court, near Torquay
Torquay and the tiny village of Cockington on its edge are like chalk and cheese, this being a go-back-in-time oasis with thatched cottages and at its heart a natural green playground of Cockington Country Park. The 420 acres include a craft centre, arboretum, along with dog-friendly woodland and lakeside walks. The Weavers ice-cream parlour is open (as is the working waterwheel next to it) and for coffee and light bites, stroll across the lawns to Cockington Court and the Seven Dials cafe. Galleries and studios follow on 12 April. Free except for parking.
Killerton House, nr Exeter
This National Trust lovely has loads to see in spring, with over 100 rhodos, magnolias and awesome views out over the rolling Devon countryside. Muddy has spent many a happy hour here with both older rellies who enjoy the easy-to-manoeuvre flat paths and the Mudlets who love hiding among the trees, Don’t miss the quirky thatched 19th century Bear’s Hut (pictured) at the end of the lawn which once housed a poor bear called Tom, brought to Killerton by the 12th Baronet’s brother from Canada. Pre-booking essential.
The Garden House, Buckland Monachorum
A bijou 10-acre oasis on the edge of the moor, packed with springtime treasures made all the more astonishing for its contrast with its wild moorland edge location. Oodles of hot horticulture to relish now, including camellia, magnolia with blooms the size of dinner plates, azalea and rhodos, plus bridges and brooks and garden rooms to to enjoy. Open Tues – Sun, £12pp, under 5s free.
Stone Lane Gardens, Chagford
I’m always amazed this RHS Partner Garden on Dartmoor isn’t better known as it’s a beaut, a magical 5-acre woodland garden filled with graceful white-barked birch trees and alder. Go now to see the boughs leafing up, pretty catkins and spring bulbs in bloom, plus there is sculpture dotted around under the trees to enjoy. This marks 30 years of their Annual Sculpture Exhibition, with the official opening courtesy of the Eden Project’s Tim Smit in July. £5/children £2.50 and under 11s free, dogs welcome.
Hartland Abbey, Hartland
Here’s a go-back-in time wander through sheltered woodland walks and walled gardens, created to shelter the grounds from the worst North Devon’s coastal winds could throw at it. The result is a tranquil sanctuary, around a 12th century abbey, loaded with spring bulbs, camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias. Look out for the ferns unfolding in the Victorian fernery and the giant leaves of Brazilian gunnera, sprouting in the Bog Garden. £11pp, or £14.50 if you want to have a nosey indoors too.
Want more green-fingered inspo? Get planet-friendly gardening tips from BBC Gardener’s World presenter and garden designer, Arit Anderson.