England’s green and pleasant land is some of the most beautiful in the world, and we Brits have been preoccupied with creating green spaces for ourselves since before the Middle Ages. Over time, gardens have morphed from places for growing vegetables and spaces for activities, to the Landscape Gardens of the 1700s and Victorian-style gardens with their masses of flowers and intricate designs. Today, you’ll find rolling green countryside and perfectly manicured gardens speckled all over the country. Surrey has been blessed with attention from some of the world’s most esteemed landscape gardeners, so if you’re seeking an abundance of flora to visit of a weekend, you need look no further.
Painshill Park, Cobham
With its slightly weird and wonderful landmarks, the journey around Painshill was initially designed to reflect the memories of its creator Charles Hamilton’s escapades in Europe. Today, a walk around the park and its serpentine lake will have you laying eyes on a Gothic Tower, a Greek-inspired ‘Temple of Bacchus’, a replicated Turkish tent and most impressively of all, a hand-made Crystal Grotto. Reflective of the natural rock caves Hamilton saw in Italy, this glittering, pearlescent feat makes quite a sight to behold. And yes, all of this in Surrey no less.
Claremont Landscape Garden, Esher
This Grade I-listed National Trust property makes a great day out for the whole family, and has the honour of being one of the earliest surviving Landscape Gardens in the world, dating back to 1715. You can give everything a go here, from Robin Hood-esque archery to tree walks, boating on the lake and Victorian-style playtime at The Thatched Cottage. On summer evenings, release your inner thespian watching the likes of A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed in an open-air theatre under the summer sky.
The Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden, Dorking
For something a bit unique, make a day trip to The Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden, a magical place where contemporary sculpture and Mother Nature blend seamlessly into one another, featuring some 200 pieces of art from 50 different artists from all over Europe (most of which are for sale). You can currently find intricately-carved wooden faces tucked between hanging leaves, life-size mirrored figures amongst the trees, and a sea of 5,000 bicycle bells flowing over the mossy floor which tinkle happily with a strong breeze. This woodland idyll even has a streamside self-catering cottage on site, which allows guests out-of-hours access to the garden, and all the Snow White vibes they could ever wish for.
Isabella Plantation, Kingston upon Thames
A speck of 40 acres within the 2,500-acre Richmond Park, Isabella Plantation should not be overlooked for its stature. Within this small area, you can wander through dense woodland and glades, over streams and past ponds, all of which are home to a wealth of wildlife, from reed-hiding water birds to heather-loving butterflies. One of the biggest draws of this lovely location is its resident Kurume azaleas, introduced from Japan in the 1920s, which grow around the Still Pond alongside rhododendrons, camellias and other brightly coloured shrubberies.
RHS Garden Wisley, Woking
As part of the RHS’ collection of gardens, Wisley is a spectacular spot for any budding horticulturist (or anyone for that matter) to gain inspiration from some of nature’s most colourful feats of flora. Venture inside the giant glasshouse for a wander through three zones: the cloud forest, whose inhabitants hail from South America, the dry desert zone where prickly pals and succulents grow, and the tropical zone, a hot and steamy space with towering banana trees and palms. Elsewhere you’ll find a bonsai walk, orchard, rose garden, arboretum and an exotic garden with colourful verdure from all over the world.
The Savill Garden, Egham
With a world-famous rose garden opened by Queen Lizzy herself, The Savill Garden is a hotspot of British floriculture. Ponder the beauty of swirling rose patterns, taking in the scent of 2,500 flowers as you walk across the floating path above them, or wander through the manicured grounds, crossing a stunning Japanese-style bridge as you go. Spring, summer and autumn woodlands merge into each other, looking resplendent in their season, while exotic native Kiwi species live in the New Zealand Garden. Be sure to take some plant life home with you too, to create your own mini Savill at home.