As the days get longer and winter starts to fade, spring arrives in fresh bursts of colour and new life.
From the carpets of delicate spring bulbs at Greenway in Devon to the clouds of orchard blossom at Sizergh in Cumbria, a stroll in a National Trust garden is sure to dazzle and amaze.
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It’s also a great time to experience nature springing back to life. Don’t miss the laburnum arch, a shimmering tunnel of golden blooms in late spring at Bodnant in Wales, or the aroma of azaleas and magnolias at Blickling in Norfolk
Here are some of the National Trust’s top gardens to enjoy this spring:
Glendurgan Garden, Cornwall
Glendurgan’s sheltered position on the south coast of Cornwall means that spring arrives early in the gardens. Visitors can stroll down through the peaceful, exotic valley to a sheltered beach with views out over the Helford River. During the spring months, the gardens’ highlights include bluebells, wild daffodils, columbines and primroses followed by rhododendrons, magnolias and camellias. There’s also the famous cherry laurel maze, which has been baffling people for over 180 years. Who will take up the challenge and reach the centre of this living puzzle?
Once the beloved holiday home of author Agatha Christie, Greenway now delights thousands of visitors every spring. In the gardens, swathes of spring bulbs cover the lawns while camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons brighten the woodland garden and line the driveway. Curious visitors can join the National Trust garden team for a free daily garden tour, which showcases the best bits of the spring garden and reveals some of its secrets and history.
With over 1200 plant species unique to the site, and riotous seasonal colour, the garden at Knightshayes is always worth a visit. Pay a visit in spring to see the woodland garden waking up after a winter of gentle rest and care from the National Trust garden team. With camellias, azaleas and magnolias all bursting into life amid carpets of daffodils, snowdrops and bluebells, this is when the garden begins to show its true colours.
Kingston Lacy, Dorset
There’s so much to see at Kingston Lacy, not least the beautiful Japanese Garden and peaceful Nursery Wood. Visit during the spring months to see spectacular displays of cherry blossom, azalea, camellia, and flowering tulips that continue all the way into May.
Hinton Ampner, Hampshire
Created by former owner Raulph Dutton, the gardens at Hinton Ampner were designed to show bold scent and colour all year round. During the spring months, highlights include the apple and pear blossom in late spring, coupled with delicious-smelling narcissus and vibrant tulips. Take a stroll down the Magnolia Walk to see pink and white magnolia blooms clambering to the roof, or go in search of forget-me-nots and tulips in the walled garden.
Cliveden is at its most colourful in the spring, when thousands of bulbs and plants create vivid displays throughout the gardens and woodland. See the meticulously planted beds of the Parterre, or stroll through the formal Long Garden with its thousands of colourful blooms. You can also explore the grounds and woodland to find drifts of daffodils and a blossom laden-orchard.
Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent
Daffodils start the season off in a flurry at Sissinghurst, dotted around Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West’s world-famous garden. It was Harold who originally planted spring bulbs in their ‘refuge dedicated to beauty’, and the seasonal blooms begin to appear in early March. Spot daffodils in the Orchard and drifts of tulips throughout the Cottage Garden, or wander across the estate to see carpets of bluebells. April visitors will see the magnolias beginning to bloom, bringing delicate colour to the surroundings.
East of England
Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge
In spring massed drifts of daffodils flourish throughout the gardens at Anglesey Abbey, while the heady scent of over 4000 blue and white hyacinths fills the air in the Formal Garden. Be sure not to miss the ‘sea of tulips’ which carpet the beautiful Himalayan Silver Birch Grove, their deep maroon foliage contrasting dramatically against the bright white bark.
Blickling Estate, Norfolk
The entire garden at Blickling springs into life at this time of year, with masses of colour and scent produced by a wide range of bulbs, perennials and shrubs. The Temple Walk blazes with the colour of rhododendrons and azaleas, while swathes of daffodils drift along tree-lined avenues. The National Trust garden team have also planted around 10,000 tulips, 2,000 hyacinths and 400 hellebores across the estate, so there’s plenty of seasonal colour to enjoy.
Visit Wimpole’s Pleasure Grounds to see glorious drifts of thousands of bright yellow daffodils and narcissus that are a feast for the eyes and provide subtle floral scents to really lift the spirits after a long winter. In the Walled Garden orchard under the fruit trees, there are small Snake’s Head fritillaries and delicate but colourful displays of species tulips nodding their heads in the gentle breeze, awaiting the fall of blossom confetti from the fruit trees above.
Eyam Hall, Derbyshire
Eyam’s spring highlights include drifts of golden daffodils and clouds of delicate apple blossom. As you wander round the gardens, listen out for the song of nesting birds. Spring often arrives late in this part of the Peak District, so it’s a great chance to enjoy all those early blooms again before the seasons change.
At this time of year the parkland floor at Dudmaston is covered by a sea of bluebells, and beautiful Magnolia trees are just coming into bud. Rhodendrons and azaleas follow soon after, turning the garden into a riot of colour. Keep an eye out for the azalea ‘Sappho’, whose pure white flowers and contrasting deep crimson centre have made it a favourite of the Dudmaston garden team.
Take a spring-time stroll around the grounds at Croome and experience the sweet, heady scent of flowering lime trees, the delicate hint of honeysuckle and or the luxuriant fragrances of lilac and rock rose. Anyone looking for more informal blooms can seek out the statue of Pan, the god of sheep and shepherds, which is surrounded by wild tulips, dog toothed violets, snakes head fritillary and anemone. On the island you’ll find banks of primroses and cowslips.
Dunham Massey, Cheshire
Spring offers the chance to see the garden come to life with an array of vibrant colours. Enjoy the sunny shades of over 70 varieties of daffodil along with 50,000 colourful dwarf iris, and discover the bluebell mound where the ground beneath the oak trees is carpeted with a sea of stunning blue hues.
With acres of parkland, woodland and gardens, Nostell is a wonderland in spring. Take a stroll through Engine Wood to spot carpets of bluebells and look out for the budding magnolia in the Menagerie Garden. Don’t miss the vista of purple scented hyacinths and golden daffodils in the Kitchen Garden.
Explore Sizergh in spring to see original Lakeland daffodils carpeting the wildflower bank, while Snakeshead Fritillaria nod to the cherry blossom above in the Small Orchard. Dwarf daffodils and blue Muscari nestle among the limestone in the rock garden and provide soft drifts of colour against the weather worn rock. The hives in the Orchard are a-buzz with bees, while the National Trust team are hard at work in the Kitchen Garden sowing and propagating tasty produce destined for the café.
During the spring months, the gardens at Cragside offer a kaleidoscope of colour and scent. Blooms come in all shapes and sizes, from hyacinths, crocus and muscari to pansies, viola and wallflowers. Don’t miss the stunning display of 8,500 tulips and daffodils, carefully planted in swathes of bright colours by the garden team to recreate the Victorian style that Cragside’s 19th century creators, Lord and Lady Armstrong, would have enjoyed.
Bodnant Garden, Conwy
With its fragrant blooms and stunning backdrop of the Carneddau mountains, Bodnant Garden is a delight for the senses. Spring sees a mass of daffodils burst into life, followed by bright azaleas and delicate magnolias. It’s said there’s a rhododendron in bloom every month of the year here, even in winter, but they reach a dazzling peak in late spring. The season is crowned by the famous Laburnum Arch, a grand tunnel walk at the very heart of the estate which blossoms into a vast and vibrant cascade of golden yellow towards the end of May.
Dyffryn Gardens, Vale of Glamorgan
A tranquil oasis just outside Cardiff, Dyffryn is a peaceful retreat where you can immerse yourself in the vast beauty of one of the country’s finest Edwardian gardens. The spring months boast nature’s finest, with birdsong ringing through the arboretum, awakening camellias, flourishing daffodils and beautiful budding magnolia by the rose garden. You can follow your senses with the fragrant viburnums and the sweet sarcococcas as you make your way to the glasshouse to discover bursts of colour with hyacinth and amaryllis flowering.
Colby Woodland Garden, Pembrokeshire
Set in a tranquil secret valley, this woodland garden is full of seasonal delights. Spring brings carpets of bluebells, crocuses, and daffodils, followed by swathes of camellias and azaleas. Rhododendrons are Colby’s speciality and thrive in the garden’s acidic soil: look out for the large-leaved varieties by the newt pond and old oak corner. Afterwards you can explore the meadow, hop across the stream on stepping stones and enjoy the birds singing in the trees.
Chirk Castle, Wrexham
The award-winning gardens cover 5.5 acres of manicured lawns, clipped yews, herbaceous borders, beautiful rose, shrub and rock gardens, and the wooded pleasure ground – perfect for a stroll. Don’t miss the terrace overlooking the 18th century ha-ha at the bottom of the garden, with stunning views over the Cheshire and Salop plains. The sight of bluebells is a seasonal highlight at Chirk Castle. In spring the woodland walk is transformed by a carpet of bluebells, making it a haven for wildlife and visitors alike.
Rowallane Garden, County Down
Carved from the County Down landscape, Rowallane is a place where you can leave the outside world behind and immerse yourself in nature’s beauty. Visit during the spring months to watch the season unfold around you: the fresh mornings, the first flush of life in the garden followed by spring bulbs in full bloom. Rowallane has an abundance of seasonal flowers from snowdrops and daffodils to magnolias.
Mount Stewart, County Down
The mild climate of Strangford Lough has allowed astonishing levels of planting experimentation, and many areas of the garden exude a strong Mediterranean feel. However there are still plenty of familiar sights to enjoy in spring, including the bright Rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias in full bloom throughout the Pleasure Grounds and Lake Walk. Don’t forget to look out for colourful spring bulbs, along with primulas and bright blue meconopsis, exotic trees and vibrant displays of bedding plants.Enjoy more Kitchen Garden reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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