13 Glorious Dorset gardens open now
PUBLISHED: 17:20 09 July 2020 | UPDATED: 16:23 13 July 2020
Meet Alice on The Wonderland Trail at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens and explore the Capability Brown landscape at Sherborne Castle
This Grade I listed garden was one of Capability Brown’s first commissions and the design is laid out around a 50-acre lake. Walks round the lake to the garden feature the Fossil House, Raleigh’s seat, the Cascade, Earl Henry’s Bridge and the Folly. Shorter walks lead to the sunken garden, the Ginkgo Lawn and the Orangery. In summer the herbaceous borders are bursting with colour from interesting perennials and shrubs. The garden is home to many champion trees including a famous ginkgo, cedar of Lebanon, Highclere holly and holly oak. With 42 acres of Gardens and Pleasure Grounds commanding spectacular views of more than 1,000 acres of parkland, there is plenty of room to safely meet with family and friends and enjoy a picnic. Dogs are welcome on leads. Open daily, no need to book in advance, but check website for latest information. Contactless payments only.
sherbornecastle.com 01935 813182
Landscaped in the manner of Capability Brown, these gardens are laid out in a horseshoe shape below Minterne House, home of the Churchill and Digby Families since 1620. Diaries from their archives reveal that that every time Capability Brown was working on the gardens at Sherborne Castle, Robert Digby would ride over from Minterne Magna and pick his brains! Minterne is famous for its Himalayan Garden filled with specimens gathered by plant-hunters of the 18th and 19th centuries, including rhododendrons, azaleas, cherries and maples. Highlights for July and August include marvelling at the Brazilian giant-rhubarb with its huge leaves, and mophead and lace-cap hydrangeas in blue, pink, purple and white. The garden route is one-way with social distancing in place. The Café on the Terrace is open for takeaway. Dogs welcome on leads. Open daily, no need to book in advance.
minterne.co.uk 01300 341370
Athelhampton’s Grade 1 listed gardens were designed by Francis Inigo Thomas for Mr Alfred Cart de Lafontaine who purchased Athelhampton in 1891.Over 40,000 tons of Ham stone was used to create the architectural ‘rooms’ of these gardens which are located near to Dorchester. There are seven ponds and fountains throughout the gardens, with the River Piddle forming a natural boundary. The 12 yew pyramids, were once the corners of flower beds in 1901. The gardens encircle the house, with a lawn in front of the historic East Wing, with sunken lawn leading around to more natural areas to the rose-covered Medieval dovecote. The kitchen garden has undergone major restoration over the last decade and its fruit and vegetables supply the onsite tea room and restaurant. The gardens, a former winner of the Historic House/Christie’s Gaden of the Year award, reopens on 13 July and the Grade 1 listed Tudor house on 27 July. One-way routes through the gardens and house, as well as hand-sanatising stations, ensure your visit is safe.
Book your tickets at athelhampton.com/visit or call 01305 848363.
A visit to the gardens at this National Trust property near Wimborne is always a treat. Though the formal beds may not be as well-groomed as usual it is still a glorious location for a summer stroll or picnic. Entry is strictly by pre-booked timed tickets to ensure safe social distancing. The parkland, part of the garden (not the Acer Glade or Kitchen Garden), takeaway cafe and toilets are all open. Book your tickets online (children 5 and under go free) by 3pm on the day before your visit and select a time slot for your arrival. All visitors must book a ticket in advance, including members.
This beautiful privately owned 10-acre garden in Canford Cliffs has a magnificent collection of more than 3000 species of trees, shrubs, bulbs and herbaceous plant from around the world. These are showcased in a series of five classical themed gardens. Following a circular route, you visit each garden in turn: The Italian Garden, The Wooded Valley, The Rock and Water Garden, The Heather Garden, and an authentic Japanese Garden with many ornaments imported from Japan. In high summer these gardens, particularly the Italian Gardens, are further enhanced with thousands of bedding plants. The on-site café is currently open for takeaways (10am – 3pm). Dogs on leads are welcome. A one-way system around the gardens and strict social distancing is in place. Open daily, no need to book in advance.
comptonacres.co.uk 01202 700778
Bennett’s Water Gardens
Re-opening around the 11 July, Bennetts Water Garden in Chickerell near Weymouth is a hidden gem of a garden well worth visiting in high summer. Set over 8-acres it is home to the National Plant Collection of Water Lilies which includes over 200 different varieties which are in flower throughout the summer. These are complimented by a Claude Monet style Japanese bridge, a tropical plant house, woodland walks and, new for 2020, an indoor display of lotus plants, similar in appearance to water lilies. To limit numbers and ensure social distancing, entry is by timed tickets only, bookable in advance online.
bennettswatergardens.com 01305 785150
Located in the Tarrant Valley near Blandford Forum, Keyneston Mill is the creative and experimental home of Parterre Fragrances and is dedicated solely to aromatic and scented plants. Within the 50-acres pf grounds they grow, harvest and distil the key ingredients for their luxury perfumes. The gardens are divided up into fragrance families including: The Padua Garden, based on florals such as roses, jasmine, sweet peas and lilies; Fougere Garden, with plants such as lavender, rosemary, ferns and mint; Spice Garden featuring classic spices such as fennel and bay alongside Vietnamese coriander. As well as the scented gardens there walks to the River Meadow, and the Lost Orchard. The Scented Botanist bistro-café serves alfresco lunches and picnics (pre-order required, vegan option available) to enjoy in one of their secluded picnic spots. Dogs on leads welcome. Other activities for summer include Outdoor Cinema evenings, Perfume Blending Workshops and Wellness Sessions. Numbers for each event will be limited for comfort and safety.
Home to the Earl and Countess of Sandwich, Mapperton’s gardens are set out on four levels, sloping down the valley from the formal croquet lawn, through the 1920s Italianate gardens, past the ponds and finally to an arboretum. The gardens have fine specimen trees and shrubs, and the roses and herbaceous borders are at their best in summer. The Italianate gardens and Orangery, as well as parts of the Tudor/Jacobean manor house, were used as the location for the upcoming Netflix production of Rebecca, starring Lily James. It’s no surprise to discover that these gardens near Beaminster have been shortlisted for the 2020 Christies and Historic Houses Garden of the Year. Open Saturday to Thursday, the onsite Coach House Cafe offers takeaway refreshments and light lunches. Tickets must be purchased in advance onine and will be for a specified time-slot. Tickets cannot be bought on the gate. You can watch a video tour of the gardens at Mapperton on their website.
Forde Abbey Gardens
These award-winning gardens on the Dorset/Somerset border include topiary-lined vistas, colourful herbaceous borders, an extensive Victorian walled garden, an arboretum, a bog garden and a fountain that shoots water 160-foot into the air. Sir Francis Gwyn created the beginnings of the garden you see today during the early 18th-century. He used water from the Great Pond to create the connecting three lower ponds, and laid out the lawns and drives incorporating yews and limes to lead the eye along significant views and vistas. No need to book in advance or adhere to a time slot, with plenty of grounds to explore their only request is that you maintain social distancing. Gardens open daily.
fordeabbey.co.uk 01460 220231
Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens
Located on the West Dorset coast, these 20 acres are home to a fabulous range of exotic and unusual plants thanks to its mild microclimate. The garden is a mixture of formal and informal planting, and it is famous for its Hydrangea collections which are in bloom in high summer. New for 2020, in collaboration with Robert James Workshop, is The Wonderland Sculpture Trail featuring enchanting characters from classic children’s literature, faithfully modelled from the original illustrations and cast in bronze – so look out for characters from Alice in Wonderland, Flower Fairies and Beatrix Potter characters frolicking around the grounds. The gardens are open daily but tickets must be booked in advance online and you choose an arrival time.
Sculpture by the Lakes
At this multi-award-winning venue near Dorchester, art and nature combines with garden and landscape. Works created by renowned sculptor Simon Gudgeon are set in, on and by the lakes at this tranquil location. Simon’s wife Monique has created the most beautiful backdrop of plants and trees within these 26 acres for these sculptures. Planting for pollinators and wildlife is a priority and in summer the beds, borders and banks are a-buzz and a flutter with butterflies and bees. Two stunning new sculptures for 2020 are: ‘Swallows’ which Simon started working on at the beginning of lockdown, and ‘Butterfly’, a delicate symmetrical sculpture hewn from sheet metal. Both have now been installed in the lakes, casting their beautiful reflections in the water. Open Wednesday – Sunday, tickets must be booked online in advance. No children under 14 (including babies) and no dogs. The onsite Gallery Café has a takeaway service, contactless payment, and there are picnic areas around the park. Watch video tours of the park at their website.
sculpturebythelakes.co.uk 07720 637808
Headed up by Chelsea gold medal winning grasses expert Neil Lucas, these stunning wildlife friendly gardens at Hampreston, near Wimborne are a stunning showcase for grasses great and small and perennials in naturalistic planting. From 7 July the nursery and gardens are open for pre-booked visitors via two-hour time slots ensuring that social distancing is easily achieved for a stroll through these gardens which include a newly established Dry Meadow, a Gravel Garden and a Rain Garden. Pre-booked customers can access both the nursery and gardens, with time slots available on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings (10am-12 noon) or afternoons (2pm-4pm) or on Friday afternoons (2pm-4pm).
Time slots can be booked online at knollgardens.co.uk 01202 873931.
Cranborne Manor Garden
Laid out in 17th century by John Tradescant and enlarged in the 20th century, Cranborne Manor features several gardens which are surrounded by walls and yew hedges: these include the blue and white garden, cottage style and mount gardens, water and wild garden. It is open every Wednesday from 10am – 4pm (also Sunday 26 July and Bank Holiday Monday 31 August). Tickets available from Cranborne Garden Centre, which is situated in the walled garden where you will find a magnificent collection of roses (for sale) and a café. Cranbornegardencentre.co.uk 01725 517248