Why go: Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, it’s spectacular at all times of the year but in spring, don’t miss the flowering cherry tree avenue leading to the Temperate House, as well as the woodland garden which is filled with violets and trilliums.
Contact: 020 8332 5655; www.kew.org
Why go: Set in Richmond Park, this pretty enclosure has a lovely collection of rhododendrons and azaleas which are at their best in late spring and early summer.
Contact: 020 8948 3209; www.royalparks.org.uk
Why go: A little-known National Trust property with gardens that remain almost unaltered since they were first laid out. In the early spring, the fruit trees in the orchards come into blossom setting off this pretty, 17th century merchants house.
Contact: 020 7435 3471; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fenton-house
Kyoto Garden, Holland Park
Why go: Created for the Japan Festival of 1922, this small garden comes to life in spring with colourful blossom trees. Additionally, it has a good play area for children and is close to the recently-opened Design Museum.
Contact: 020 7602 2228
SOUTHERN REGION GARDENS
Why go: A world-famous garden with a central lake which is stunning throughout the year but especially in the spring when the succession of azaleas, magnolias and rhododendrons come into flower. ‘It’s a vast 2,650 estate set in a special and unspoiled location,’ adds Mark Lawson.
Contact: 01747 841152; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stourhead
Why go: The rhododendron woodland garden at Bowood House is one of the finest spring displays in Britain. There are great walks around the lakes surrounded by lovely spring flowers. ‘And there’s fantastic entertainment for the kids, with an amazing adventure playground and good café,’ says Bobby Hall.
Contact: 01249 812102; www.bowood.org
Why go: It’s generally acknowledged to be on of Hampshire’s most spectacular privately-owned gardens. Owned by a branch of the Rothschild family and bordering the New Forest, this 200-acre woodland has millions of rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias. In early spring, the scenery is filled with flowering cherry trees and daffodils.
Contact: 02380 891203; www.exbury.co.uk
Why go: to see the fiery orange azaleas, pink magnolias and pink and purple rhododendrons set among rare trees with willow sculptures.
Contact: 01794 369317; www.hants.gov.uk/hilliergardens
Why go: Stunning carpet of snowdrops providing a scent of honey as you walk around the beech woods during spring. The snowdrop garden is open from beginning of February to beginning of March.
Contact: 01488 608691; www.welfordpark.co.uk
HOME COUNTIES GARDENS
Why go: ‘It’s a fantastic hotel with a most impressive long drive and formal gardens which lead down to the River Thames,’ says Mark Lawson. Cliveden’s spring piece de resistance is its 200m Long Garden where 20,000 tulips are planted in four beds. Later on, the 10-acre water garden has magnolias and cherry trees.
Contact: 01628 605069; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cliveden
Why go: It’s ideal for bluebells, so best for a late-spring visit, and there’s a 1.5 mile woodland trail that displays stunning clusters. It’s also home to a huge variety of wildlife.
Contact: 01442 851227; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ashbridge-estate
Why go: This hillside arboretum includes more than 1,000 different shrubs and trees and is known for its display of bluebells, magnolias and azaleas in spring.
Contact: 01483 208477; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/winkworth-arboretum
Why go: Another garden famous for its collection of rhododendrons and azaleas, there are 20 acres also taking in daffodils, camellias and bluebells–the latter are lovely in May.
Contact: 01428 654167; www.gardenvisit.com/gardens/ramster_garden
Why go: Part of the Windsor Great Park, the garden consists of a series of woodland where camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas and flowering dogwoods.
Contact: 01753 860222; www.theroyallandscapes.co.uk
COTSWOLDS REGION GARDENS
Why go: It’s divided into a series of outdoor rooms, each with their own character, which, at this time of year, awaken from their winter sleep.
Contact: 01386 438333; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hidcote
Why go: A romantic spot boasting walled gardens and woodland paths which weave through acres of wild garlic and bluebells in late spring. There’s also an excellent tea room selling jams and local cheese.
Contact: 01285 831044; www.cerneygardens.com
Why go: With its national collection of Japanese cherries bringing a touch of Asia to the Cotswolds, blossom time at Batsford is famously spectacular. It also has some notable magnolias and Japanese acres.
Contact: 01386 701441; www.batsarb.co.uk
Why go: Designed by William Kent—and largely unaltered since then, there are large walled gardens with a long double herbaceous borders as well as a stunning rose garden. Other delights include parterres and espalier apple trees.
Contact: 01869 347110; www.rousham.org
Why go: Today a hotel rather than private garden but nevertheless a delightful place to visit—if you’re not a guest of the hotel, a £10 ticket will include tea or coffee and biscuits as well as a walk around.
Contact: 01285 740000; www.barnsleyhouse.com