"Take a break from tending your own garden and take advantage of the May Bank Holiday’s long weekend to visit a beautiful garden and come away fired with inspiration and new ideas. Here’s five of my favourite quintessential English gardens with lots to see in early May."
The Tollemache family have lived at Helmingham Hall, in Stowmarket, Suffolk for more than 500 years, but most recently, garden designer Xa Tollemache has been at the helm of the gorgeous gardens around the hall and its atmospheric moat. Find a classic parterre surrounded by musk roses, a walled kitchen garden and wonderfully planted herbaceous borders, burgeoning with fresh growth in May, early-flowering perennials embellishing them with soft colour.
The gardens open for the season on 1st May. Normal opening hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 12pm-5pm, until 17th September. You can also treat yourself to a vintage afternoon tea in the Coach House Tearooms. Or wait until 28th May, when there’ll be a Spring Plant Fair and Artisan Market to make for an even fuller day out.
Helmingham, Stowmarket, Suffolk IP14 6EF. www.helmingham.com
This classic English country garden is tucked away in the Northamptonshire countryside. In early May, you might just be able to enjoy the last of the display in Coton’s five acre bluebell wood, but don’t worry if they’ve gone over because there’s plenty more to admire including a pretty herb garden and superb herbaceous borders featuring plants such as peonies, geraniums, euphorbia and tulips, all flowering in May. A delicious tea room and plant sales area are sure to tempt you.
Open Tuesday to Saturday, and bank holidays from 12 noon to 5.30pm until 30th September.
Coton Manor, Coton, Northampton NN6 8RQ. www.cotonmanor.co.uk
Dalemain House & Gardens
The highlight at Dalemain in late spring and early summer are swathes of naturalised sky-blue Meconopsis (Himalayan poppies), in quantities that will make gardeners from parts of the country where they struggle to grow green – or blue – with envy. Set among the rolling Lake District landscape, the Georgian house with its imposing façade is the perfect backdrop to herbaceous borders and formal gardens. Read more about the poppies, and the rest of the garden, in the May issue of The English Garden, on sale now.
Open Sunday to Thursday, 10.30am to 3.30pm until 26th October.
Dalemain House, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 0HB. www.dalemain.com
There are 10 acres of gardens to explore at Aberglasney, one of Wales’s finest gardens to visit, especially if you’re a lover of plants. A unique Elizabethan cloister garden lies at its heart, instantly recognisable if you’ve seen pictures of Aberglasney, with its arcaded walkway forming a backdrop on three sides. The Penelope Hobhouse designed Upper Walled Garden features a circular arrangement of conical yews and beautiful borders, while the Lower Walled Garden encloses a kitchen garden full of fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. There’s also the dappled shade of Bishop Rudd’s Walk and the new Jubilee Woodland, where a wide range of woodland plants, many unusual, thrive.
Open all year with the exception of Christmas Day, Summer opening hours (until 29th October) from 10am to 6pm.
Aberglasney, Llangathen, Carmarthenshire SA32 8QH. www.aberglasney.org
If you want to enjoy a spectacular display of bulbs, add Arundel Castle to your list for this spring. The last flowers of the Castle’s Annual Tulip Festival, which features some 38,000 bulbs should still be looking colourful during the first May Bank Holiday. But by the end of the month, purple starburst alliums will be in the spotlight, as the gardens celebrate their Allium Extravaganza. Bright flowers, exploding into bloom throughout the month, and all with the magnificent backdrop of Arundel Cathedral.
Open Tuesdays to Sundays including Bank Holidays, 10am-5pm.
Arundel Castle & Gardens, Arundel, West Sussex BN18 9AB. www.arundelcastle.org
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Images: Annual Tulip festival 2017 by Julia Claxton