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Garden season! Our top UK gardens and garden shows

Mud Maid at Heligan. Pic © Lost Gardens of Heligan. Plant a smile on your visage – garden season is upon us! We’re very fond of the gardens of the land, mainly because visiting them is our thyme to lapse into fantasy, dream about winning the lottery and mutter under our breath that someday an estate this size could be ours, all ours. (It’s an improvement on our current gardening pursuits of having a few chillies and a limp basil plant from Tesco straggling on the kitchen windowsill.)

Gardens are a fave pastime with our overseas guests too: a VisitBritain study last year found that 36%, or 11.1 million, of overseas visitors visited a garden or park, more than went to museums, castles or art galleries. If you too are frond of the greenery, we've cultivated our top UK gardens and garden shows, with accommodation options to bed down at nearby:

Lost Gardens of Heligan

We’d put down roots if we tried to explain our many favourite things about this award-winning garden at Mevagissey near St Austell , Cornwall , created in the mid-eighteenth century, neglected for decades and restored to blooming glory in the 1990s. We think you'll dig sub-tropical The Jungle, Europe’s last remaining pineapple pit (follow your nose) and the hauls of the Northern Gardens, which supply around two hundred varieties of fruit, veg and herbs to the Heligan tearoom. We bet even green-fingered cook Jack Monroe doesn't have that much room on her windowsill...

Bookable sites within 30 miles

Other gardens in Cornwall

Trebah Garden and Glendurgan Garden , Falmouth

Lanhydrock , Bodmin

RHS Garden Wisley

Fish on a bicycle at RHS Wisley. Pic by Basher Eyre. Voted Britain’s Favourite Garden in the BBC Countryfile Magazine 2013 Awards, Wisley in Surrey is the flagship garden of the Royal Horticultural Society and has rose gardens, trial fields experimenting with new cultivation techniques, world plants in its famous glasshouse and a library covering all things horticultural. One of the garden’s most popular events, Butterflies in the Glasshouse , flutters around until 9 March.

Bookable sites within 30 miles

Other gardens in Surrey

Winkworth Arboretum , Godalming

Claremont Landscape Garden , Esher

Painshill , Cobham

Levens Hall

Anyone who’s been a bit nervous around topiary since reading The Shining should find a cure at this cutting edge Cumbrian estate, although it might not be a good idea to then read about the ghosts wandering this estate’s Elizabethan hall. A winner of the Cumbria Tourism Awards 2013, Levens Hall has  highlights galore as well as the topiary (look out for the chess pieces): rose and herb gardens, an orchard, a seventeenth century garden and free entry for children throughout the 2014 season (6 April – 9 October). For more info, there’s even a Leven's Hall app .

Bookable sites within 30 miles

Topiary at Levens Hall. Pic ©Levens Hall.

Other gardens in Cumbria and the Lake District

Dalemain Garden , Penrith

Holker Hall Garden , Grange-over-Sands

Holehird Gardens , Windermere

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden

A World Heritage Site and with a medieval deer park with five hundred deer? We already don’t want to leave this vast National Trust estate near Ripon in North Yorkshire , and that’s before getting to the Georgian water garden with statues, follies and Hermit’s Grotto, the ruins of twelfth-century Fountains Abbey and 800 acres of wildlife-filled countryside. The National Trust also runs events and activities here including guided tours, cycling , running, photography workshops, geocaching and birdwatching for beginners.

Bookable sites within 30 miles

Water garden at Studley. Pic by Chris Gunns. Other gardens in N Yorkshire

Helmsley Walled Garden , Helmsley, nr York

RHS Garden Harlow Carr , Harrogate

Newby Hall and Gardens , nr Ripon

Threave Estate

One of Scotland’s most visited attractions, the National Trust of Scotland’s Threave Estate in Dumfries and Galloway covers 1600 acres and has Threave House (book in advance for a guided tour), the landscaped and themed areas of Threave Garden, a sculpture garden and a nature reserve covering wetland and woodland.

Go in spring to declaim at the acclaimed displays of daffodils, or turn up at any time of year for bat and wildlife spotting, programmes and events: if you’re truly keen, you can even sign up for a one year gardening course.

Bookable sites within 30 miles

Other gardens in Dumfries and Galloway

Dunskey Estate , Stranraer

Logan Botanic Garden , Port Logan

Broughton House and Garden , Kirkcudbright

See also:

Waterfall in Threave Gardens. Pic by Duncan McNaughton.

Sissinghurst Castle , Kent : one of the most famous gardens in Kent, around Sittinghurst Castle

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens , Dorset : plants from around the world, a children’s farm and the Abbotsbury Swannery (farm and swannery reopening 22 March 2014)

Beth Chatto Gardens , Essex: designed by garden expert and writer Beth Chatto OBE, who still works in the gardens daily

Bodnant Garden , Conwy : views over Snowdonia and a famed collection of world plants started in Victorian times

Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden , Cornwall: part of Tate St Ives

Hestercombe Gardens , Somerset : eighteenth century park alongside early twentieth century formal gardens

Chelsea Physic Garden , London: apothecary’s garden developed in the seventeenth century and where we think you should visit after the Chelsea Flower Show.

How does your garden grow…

Tis daft to stay in a hotel if going to a garden show, we think: get into the Great Outdoors and save some dosh by staying at a nearby campsite instead. Our pick of the top garden shows for this spring and where to stay nearby:

Harrogate Spring Flower Show , N Yorkshire, 20 – 27 April

Voted Britain's best gardening event by readers of Which? 2014 highlights include the cookery theatre, Kitchen Garden Live and many events for little sprouts such as gardening, quizzes and wildlife activities.

Bed down: The Alders Caravan Park is 13 miles from Harrogate and has peaceful pods on Wharfedale Bay from £37, sleeping two adults and two children. There are also pods for two adults and two children available over the week at nearby Hillcrest Park , Richmond, from £40 and pods sleeping four adults from £50.

RHS Spring Gardening Show , Worcestershire, 8 – 11 May

Celebrity gardening guests and over 600 exhibitors at the Malvern garden show.

Sinister topiary Bed down: Out to Grass is six miles away from the Three Counties Showground and has furnished yurts for two or four people at the time of the show from £75.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show , London, 20 – 24 May

‘The world’s greatest flower show’. And in 2014, with a herb garden inspired by the Beatrix Potter books: we’re good to go.

Bed down: Book a furnished bell tent 20 miles’ drive from Chelsea at Southern Bells in Lingfield, Surrey, available every night of the garden show from £120 a night sleeping up to four. Old Thorns Manor Hotel is over the border in Hampshire , just over an hour from London by train and has pods in the grounds of a luxury hotel with champagne bar, pool and sauna. Twin or double pods are available over the show and start from £75.

Gardening Scotland , Edinburgh, 30 May – 1 June

Over 400 exhibitors due at ‘Scotland's biggest gardening and outdoor living annual event’.

Bed down: Nydie Caravan and Camping Site 28 miles away at St Andrews has ‘woodwams’ with a double bed and two single beds, available both nights of the show from £75 a night. Alternatively, if you fancy a day at the show and a day or two sightseeing in Edinburgh, Harvieston Huts outside the city has wooden and weatherproof Kokoons from £40 a night, available from 1 June.

See also:

RHS Flower Show Cardiff , Glamorgan , 11 – 13 April

Blenheim Palace Flower Show , Oxfordshire , 20 – 22 June

RHS Flower Show Tatton Park , Cheshire , 23 – 27 July

Sandringham Flower Show , Norfolk , 30 July

Taunton Flower Show , Somerset, 1 – 2 August

More gardens and green-fingered info

RHS gardens

National Trust gardens

English Gardens Guide A—Z

National Gardens Society – details of 3700 gardens open for charity

The Great Gardens of Cornwall

RHS flower shows and events 2014

Flower shows calendar 2014

Online horticultural courses , including how to build a treehouse