Sara's Favourite Gardens Around the UK

Sara tells us her favourite spots and why they inspire her.

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Great Dixter

"Great Dixter is a garden I return to over and over. Nestled in the weald of East Sussex, it sits beautifully within the landscape and has never been afraid to take risks and experiment with different planting schemes and techniques. From ripping out a rose garden to make an exotic garden, to experimenting - some would say wildly - with textures and colours in the borders, there is always something to make the visitor gasp, generally with joy. The garden was owned by Christopher Lloyd, who inherited the Lutyens-designed house and garden from his parents, but since his death has been run by his head gardener, Fergus Garrett, who continues to push boundaries and experiment. Much of the recent work has been around the ecology of the garden, with the famous meadows being particularly of interest as the team work to bring horticulture and ecology together to support each other in the garden. However, for me, the true excitement is the way Great Dixter is a community. From the gardeners to the nursery staff, the woodworkers and the friends of the garden, Great Dixter has become like a family all working for one common aim and I find that extraordinarily inspiring."

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West Dean Gardens

"West Dean is probably best known for its productive kitchen gardens, and as someone deeply involved in food growing and the allotment movement, I find the walled gardens and greenhouses thrilling. Not only are there some amazing fruit training techniques shown, but the gardens exude good horticulture skills, and that is something often missing. Large, open gardens can fail to understand just how much time needs to be put into good kitchen gardens. West Dean is also famed for its chilli growing, and each year they fill greenhouses with productive chillies which is wonderful to see. I’ve often been heard to say that if I could grow one thing and one thing only, it would be chillies, so this is always inspiring to visit and find new varieties to try growing."

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Common Farm Flowers

"Whilst I am somewhat biased as the owners are friends, Common Farm Flowers is so much more than a flower farm. Side by side with the beds of seasonal, organically grown blooms is something that very few people know - that the land at Common Farm is, in fact, managed for biodiversity. Probably 10 years ago Fabrizio, the famed ecologist in the Common Farm team and husband of Georgie Newbery, flower grower and florist extraordinaire, said to me “look after the invertebrates and they will take care of you”, and this has been proven across the flower farm over and again. From wild areas, to extraordinary compost heaps and the stunning meadows that have been created, the whole place buzzes with life, there is birdsong everywhere and the entire farm is a joy. The meadows, which are without a doubt, Fabrizio’s life’s work and legacy, are second to none, filled with orchids, wild flowers and life!"

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Bryan's Ground

"Arts and Crafts gardens always speak to me, as do gardens which sit well within their landscape - and this is both. There are two parts to the garden in my mind, the first of which is a series of garden rooms, beautifully planted and evocative of the time the garden would have first been made, brought by the owners into the 21st century. Art jostles with planting, the tiny orchard buzzes with bees and the area in front of the house, with its canals and heritage fruit collection under planted with irises, is a sight to behold. The second part of the garden is an arboretum, and, I suspect, the life’s work of the owners. Avenues of trees lead through the arboretum, leading to a seating area by the river, and throughout are beautiful plantings of hydrangeas and other woodland plants. It’s a beautifully peaceful space and whilst garden historians will fawn over the traditional arts and crafts areas, the arboretum will be a space that becomes renowned as a garden for the future, showing well how trees and good woodland planting can be used in a relatively small space."

Bristol Botanic Gardens

"I am often heard to ask people “have you visited the Bristol Botanic Garden?”, and often even people who live in or close to the city have no idea it exists. Situated at the top end of the Downs, the Bristol Botanic Garden is a part of Bristol University and is a wonderful collection, or several collections, of plants, and a fabulous garden to visit and walk around for an afternoon. There are various collections, which include a renowned collection of Chinese medicinal plants, prehistoric species, herbs and plants that rely on different types of pollinators from bees to birds, and they have incredible glasshouses that have excellent collections of cacti and succulents as well as the famed Victoria Waterlily! It’s a fabulous space in the city and one everyone should visit."

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