10 stunning secret gardens in Somerset & Dorset
Fancy a snoop at someone else's dahlias? Spend the afternoon at one of these gorgeous gardens in Dorset and Somerset usually hidden away from the public.
Admire the fruits (and flowers) of someone else’s labour and pick up some in-situ clever border design ideas while you’re at it. The National Garden Scheme sees over 3,500 private gardens in England and Wales open to the public – adults pay a few quid, while kids go free – with the proceeds going to charity. They often offer homemade cakes, so tea could be sorted too.
Here are some of our favourite secret gardens in Somerset and Dorset to start you off on your Frances Hodgson Burnett odyssey.
Park Cottage, Wrington Hill, Wrington, near Bristol
This is a garden to get lost in, with potager, jungle garden, rainbow border, white garden, green gallery, massive herbaceous borders and a Victorian-style greenhouse. Sun 24 & Sun 31 July, 12pm–5pm.
Elworthy Cottage, near Taunton
A one-acre plantsman’s garden on the Brendon Hills on the edge of Exmoor. Island beds, unusual plants, wildflower areas (with lots of wildlife) and at this time of year, crocosmias, heleniums, asters and ornamental grasses. Recreate the atmos with plants from their nursery next door. Homemade teas in aid of the Children’s Hospice Southwest. Sun 24 July, Tues 26 July & Mon 29 August, 11am – 4pm.
Court House, East Quantoxhead
This 5-acre garden with borders, trees, rare shrubs, a traditional kitchen garden and a 3-acre woodland has views out to the sea and to the Quantock Hills. Homemade teas. Sun 24 July, 2pm-5pm.
Sutton Hosey Manor, Langport
This elegant garden covers three acres – a third of which is walled. Stroll along a lily canal through pleached limes, an amelanchier walk past a duck pond; a rose and juniper walk from an Italian terrace, a Judas tree avenue and through an ornamental potage. Homemade teas. Sun 24 July, 2.30pm–6pm but if you can get together a group of 10 friends, they’ll open up by arrangement.
Farmyard turned tranquil gardens, with clipped box, island beds, borders, masses of unusual perennials, large wildlife pond, meadow, shaded areas, bog garden, orchard and veg garden. Homemade teas. Thurs 11 Aug, 2pm–5pm; groups of 8 or more by arrangement.
The Old Rectory, Pulham, near Dorchester
Formal gardens surrounding an 18th century rectory with views, yew pyramids, planted terraces, parterres, mature trees, a pond, fernery, a ha-ha (a sunken fence, typical in 18th century landscaping), a hornbeam circle and – if you’ve time – 10 acres of woodland walks. Have a cuppa while you’re there Sun 7 Aug, 2pm–5pm.
22 Avon Avenue, Ringwood
Japanese style water garden with ponds, waterfalls, water lilies, resident goldfish and sculptures, with azaleas, rhododendrons and topiary all around. Homemade teas in aid of charity. Sun 28 August, 12pm-5pm.
Higher Brimley Coombe Farm, Beaminster
An acre of garden with amazing views across the Marshwood Vale to the sea. Rose and herbaceous borders, prairie styled planting (yeehaw!) and an orchard with paths mown through the long grass. Cream teas available. Thurs 8 Sept & Sun 11 Sept, 2pm–5pm.
Batcombe House, Batcombe, near Shepton Mallet
Stunningly designed plantswoman’s gardens with kitchen terraces and a potager leading to a wildflower orchard as well as a contemporary amphitheatre with herbaceous borders, interesting trees and shrubs. Cream teas. Sat 10 Sept, 2pm–6pm.
Yews Farm, Martock
Dramatic planting in a walled garden, with pots, cracked concrete garden (sounds intriguing), kitchen garden, greenhouses – and organic cider orchard and cider barn (with tasting!). Homemade teas, too. Sun 11 Sept, 1pm–5pm.
For more gardens taking part in the scheme see the National Garden Scheme’s website.