Spring has returned. The jobs in your own garden multiply, but it’s also time to look for inspiration. Jane Moore finds some uplifting gardens for visiting this spring – many of them also offer a tempting selection of tea and cake-based treats
Tis the season for the sap to rise, the garden to flourish and the gardener to skip forth among the primroses and lushly growing new grass. April is the month when it all happens – it’s a job but also a joy to keep up with everything.
It’s also the season to get out there and visit other people’s gardens and to savour their take on spring, gleaning hints and tips as you sip tea and sample cake. Luckily there are plenty of good ones to choose from within a stone’s throw of home.
While my selection includes some quite sizeable grand gardens, others are of a more intimate scale and nature and many number great cakes among their attributes. I’m happy to say that The Bath Priory and John the Pastry’s carrot cake make a very worthwhile contribution to this.
Saturday 7 April and Sunday 8 April, 1 – 5pm
Church Lane, Bishop Sutton, Bristol BS39 5UP
Admission £4.50, children free
Delicious homemade refreshments I can’t speak from experience but this sounds like a treasure of a garden. Unexpected, impressive and with views over Chew Valley Lake – what’s not to like? The garden extends over two acres with a wooded valley, a stream and wildlife pond, lots of spring bulbs and wildflower meadows after a stroll around, after which you will have earned the delicious homemade refreshments on offer. For the self-sufficiency enthusiast there’s an interesting large kitchen garden with high raised beds and plenty of hens clucking contentedly, which adds to the ambience. There is also an original restored privy which doubtless deserves a look.
The Yeo Valley Organic Garden
Sunday 15 April, 2 – 5pm
Holt Farm, Bath Road, Blagdon, Somerset BS40 7SQ
Admission £5, children free, light refreshments
This is one of only a handful of ornamental gardens that is Soil Association accredited due to its organic practices. With six and a half acres of contemporary planting, quirky sculptures, bulbs in their thousands and a glorious meadow, there is much to see. The garden is made up of lots of smaller spaces with formal planting, hedges and pleached crab apple trees as well as informal areas such as the birch grove, the streamside garden and the woodland with its carpet of spring bulbs. There’s a posh vegetable patch and a greenhouse to boot.
The Bath Priory Hotel
Thursday 19 April, 2 – 5pm
Weston Road, Bath BA1 2XT
Admission £3, children free, homemade teas in aid of Dorothy House Hospice
I know I’m biased, but we do put on a good spring show. Dotted about our three acres there are lots of bulbs and spring flowers and the meandering borders and paths make for a pleasant stroll around our, ahem, award-winning gardens. For those of you that know The Priory, thanks for your support year after year. New visitors are hopefully in for a treat. I can’t guarantee the weather but I can promise tea and plenty of cake courtesy of John, our pastry chef.
Charlton Down House
Sunday 22 April, 12 – 6pm
Charlton Down, Tetbury, Gloucestershire GL8 8TZ
Admission £5, children free, homemade teas
If the April weather is amenable then a little drive out into the charming Cotswold countryside to visit a garden is just what spring is all about. Charlton Down House has quintessentially country house gardens complete with formal terraces, perennial borders and a walled topiary garden, all set within an equestrian estate complete with rescue animals too.
Hazelbury Manor Gardens
Wednesday 25 April, 11am – 3pm
Wadswick, Box, Wiltshire, SN13 8HX
Admission £5, children free, sadly no teas
This is one of my favourite local gardens. It’s a real treat of a place, even if there is no tea on offer. If you simply must have tea, then you can wait until Sunday 3 June to visit. But for the early birds of the season there are eight acres of loveliness originally created by the famous ‘Naked Gardeners’ Barbara and Ian Pollard who went on to put the Abbey Gardens at Malmesbury on the map.
The owners have developed native and herbal plantings throughout the garden which must complement the broad range of existing planting. Favourite highlights for me include the megalithic circle and the wonderful topiary and hedges, as well as, of course, the laburnum tunnel.The laburnum tunnel at Hazelbury Manor Gardens
Sunday 29 April, 11am – 4pm
Bradford-on-Avon BA15 2BA
Admission £6, child £5.20, homemade teas.
Romantic, historic, Italianate, award-winning, Iford is a gem of a garden created by architect Harold Peto. Lovingly restored over decades by the Hignett family, it has deservedly won many accolades including the Historic Houses Association Garden of the Year.
Despite its fame Iford continues to be a charmingly intimate garden which holds strong appeal to even non-gardeners. It also rejoices in glorious planting and has recently undergone a huge renovation and re-planting programme. There are plenty of homemade cakes and cream teas available for visitors on NGS days, complete with a wide range of loose leaf teas from Iford Manor Teas. Thank goodness for that.The Italianate garden at Iford Manor
Jane Moore is an award-winning gardening columnist and head gardener at The Bath Priory Hotel. Twitter: @janethegardener