Inspirational gardens to visit in Dorset during 2017

PUBLISHED: 16:40 18 January 2017 | UPDATED: 16:40 18 January 2017

Peony border beside the pergola in the walled gardenat Beaminster Manor  includes 'Duchesse de Nemours', 'Sarah Bernhardt', 'Dancing Butterflies' and 'Kansas' © Carole Drake 2012

Peony border beside the pergola in the walled gardenat Beaminster Manor includes 'Duchesse de Nemours', 'Sarah Bernhardt', 'Dancing Butterflies' and 'Kansas' © Carole Drake 2012

© Carole Drake 2012

From English cottage garden to tropical paradise Alison Wright and Gillian Ford of the National Gardens Scheme in Dorset select some inspirational gardens to visit in 2017

In the depths of January it is easy to imagine that everything is dormant in the garden, but deep in the soil are the first stirrings of the green shoots of spring. Snowdrops and celandines come first along with catkins on the willow, then the magic of hellebores and the first daffodils. And so the garden year gets underway.

As you read this, National Gardens Scheme (NGS) gardeners across the county are already getting ready to welcome visitors to their gardens great and small. Throughout the year there will always be an NGS venue near you where you can enjoy seeing what magic other people have managed to coax from their soil and hopefully inspire you. Follow this with a cup of tea and a slice of homemade cake, and what more enjoyable way could there be of making a very valuable contribution to the NGS charities?

Last year the NGS shared £2.6million between its charities, which include Macmillan, Marie Curie, The Carers Trust and Hospice UK. This was only made possible because of the generosity and hard work of all the people who opened their gardens to the public in a good cause. Why not make your own contribution by visiting one of Dorset’s 80 NGS gardens this year? Here is just a small selection to show you what a dazzling range of gardens we have opening this year. 

The first snowdrops

Snowy drifts of these delicate flowers, catching the low sunlight of a February day, always lift the spirit as they are the harbingers of spring. Gardens where you will find snowdrops in abundance include Lawsbrook in Shillingstone with two acres of these wonderful plants (children and dogs welcome), Edwardstowe near Shaftesbury and Mapperton near Beaminster. So wrap up warm and make this your first garden visit of the year.

A springtime garden

If you love hellebores then a visit to Kitemoor Cottage at Manswood, near Wimborne and Manor Farm in Hampreston is a must. Both open in early March to show off their impressive collections of hellebores. Also pop on your spring visits list Ivy House garden in Piddletrenthide. This unusual garden covering ½ acre on a steep hill side, offers wonderful views and glorious displays of daffodils, tulips and hellebores in spring.

Gardens with great views

Go north to Donhead Hall, Donhead St. Mary, near Shaftesbury for a walled garden overlooking a deer park, with uninterrupted views to Cranborne Chase. Go west to Harcombe House at Morcombelake for views over Lyme Bay and the nearby Well Cottage at Ryall, for wonderful views across the Marshwood Vale. And go south to Marren at Holworth for a garden that overlooks Weymouth Bay and Portland.

A garden for wildlife

The garden at the Visitors Centre at Hengistbury Head has been designed to inspire you to try wildlife friendly things in your own garden. It features a wildflower meadow, woodland section, raised beds, bug hotels and vegetable plot, together with bird boxes with cameras, log pile and a gateway for hedgehogs. With interactive exhibitions about the history, geology and wildlife of Hengistbury Head too it is a great day out for all the family.

Arty & quirky

Annalals Gallery in Christchurch is home to two Royal Academy artists, and their walled garden is filled with delicious arty surprises. The garden at Lower Abbott Wootton Farm features sculptures reflecting the creative flair of the owner. For sculpture of international renown framed by award-winning garden design that wowed Chelsea visit the splendid Sculpture by the Lakes at Pallington near Dorchester. And finally you must visit the Secret Garden and Serles House in Wimborne, surely the most unusual and intriguing garden in Dorset – a must if you like the unexpected.

A fabulous town garden

The Manor House, Beaminster is set in the heart of this little West Dorset town. Step through the gates and you are in 16 acres of glorious parkland with a river, lake and waterfall, woods, wildflower meadow and a beautifully restored walled garden. 

A quintessential English country garden

Mappercombe Manor at Nettlecombe, near Bridport is a four acre south facing garden on an ancient monastic route, with a Monk’s Rest House, a dovecote and ‘stew pond’. In the Middle Ages these ponds were often attached to monasteries to supply fish over the winter.

Small and beautiful

Herons Mead, East Burton is a small but enchanting garden established from farmland through back-breaking labour. The result is a garden that is a delight at all times of year, from spring bulbs through to the abundant perennials and roses of summer and magnificent swathes of tall grasses in autumn. 

Big and beautiful

New this year for the NGS is The Old Rectory at Litton Cheney. Steep paths lead to a beguiling four acres of woodland, with a natural swimming pool planted with native plants. The front garden features an unusual pleached crabtree border, topiary and soft planting including tulips, peonies, roses and verbascums.

A garden for children by children

A visit to Hanford School at Child Okeford or Holy Trinity Primary School in Weymouth to see what the next generation has been growing in their school garden. Hanford is one of only a handful of schools in England with a working kitchen garden growing quantities of seasonable vegetables, fruit and flowers for the table. While Holy Trinity took over an award-winning wildlife garden from the RHS, and have also built a lush Jurassic garden in which they hold a dinosaur hunt for children to try.

Totally tropical

Take a trip to the warmer climes when you visit 44 Lower Blandford Road. Here you will find lush tropical planting, rare exotics, ferns and Colonial summerhouse. It is a true plantaholic’s paradise.

New for 2017

Look out for these new Dorset gardens opening for the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) for the first time this year:

• 10 Brookdale Close, Broadstone, Poole

• 57 Dorchester Road, Lytchett Minster, Near Wimborne

• Hanford School, Child Okeford

• Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre, Southbourne

• The Hollow, Iwerne Minster

• Knowle Cottage, Beaminster

• 44 Lower Blandford Road, Broadstone

• The Old Rectory, Litton Cheney

• Priest’s House Museum and Garden, Wimborne

• Well Cottage, Ryall, Bridport

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