Nature has always been one of the great inspirations of the arts. The smell of a rose sending many a poet, painter or playwright into a creative fervour. With Britain’s richness in gardening heritage, there’s no shortage of lawns, flower beds and water features to fill your head with wonder.
So we propose packing a blanket, loading up a hamper with an empty notebook and some newly sharpened pencils, and heading to the below gardens to let some well-tended natural beauty set your inner artistic tinders alight. (Or, to just have a nice picnic and enjoy looking at some lovely horticulture.)
©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey
The poetic gardens of Sissinghurst Castle blossom with a romance sowed by the foliage loving hands of Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicholson. Landscaped by Harold and planted by the poet and garden writer Vita when the couple bought the crumbling ancient property in 1930, the gardens soon gained world renown, and remain iconic to this day. The playful openings and entrances that reveal a design of separate garden ‘rooms’, each with its own theme and mood, whisper memories of the couples’ many bohemian love stories. Here was the place that Vita spent much time with her lover, fellow writer Virginia Wolf. A place planted with passion that is sure to feed the sprouts of your own creative endeavours.
©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols
A wondrous landscape garden with architectural delights that will set your imagination soaring to an Arcadian dreamland. Dotted around the centrepiece lake, emerging from the trees, plants and flora, you’ll find temples, a gothic cottage, a grotto, and the grass covered Palladian bridge. A sight which may trigger some to recall a tearful Keira Knightley running over it in the film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. The garden and its associated little landmarks are so visually stunning they were even used in silver screen visionary Stanley Kubrick’s lavish adaptation of Barry Lyndon.
View of Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden in summer © Bowness
Image: © Tate. Photo Ian Kingsnorth
Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden, St Ives
This corner of the British Isles may be more familiar these days as a school holidays hot-spot but in the middle of the last century it was home to an enclave of some of the country’s greatest living artists who gathered there to take inspiration from the emotional swings of the sea and the natural drama of the coastal rock-faces. None more so than leading sculptor Barbara Hepworth. Her Trewyn Studio and Garden is now run by the Tate (who also have an outpost in the town) and is open to the public. Her modernist, bronze sculptures were placed by the artist herself and much of the garden’s landscape was designed by her as well.
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
A grand old garden for a grand old manor house, and seat of the Duke of Devonshire. Two of Britain’s greatest landscape designers, Capability Brown and Joseph Paxton, made their marks on the garden from the mid-18th to mid-19th century, and it has continued to evolve and innovate to this day. Its design and various architectural elements and water features have got many film location scouts quivering down the years (including those for our two old faves Pride and Prejudice and Barry Lyndon) and the house has long been home to a vast and impressive art collection. For the last ten years, Chatsworth has partnered with Sotheby’s to host Beyond Limits, an exhibition which sets contemporary sculpture amongst the garden's artistic landscaping and horticulture.
View of the Piet Oudolf garden at Scampston
Another Capability Brown hit on this rundown (there are many, many great gardens of his up and down the country) but this has the contemporary twist of the walled garden by modern-day landscape artist and plantsman master, Piet Oudolf, located within the Capability designed park. This is the largest British commission by the designer who transformed New York’s discarded High Line into one of the city's biggest tourist spots, and his postmodern, perennial and naturalistic planting is a magnet for insects. Which means a trip to Scampston will leave you marvelling at the innovation as well as the plentiful butterflies.
If you take a trip to one of the above gardens, pack one of our green and floral notebooks for when inspiration strikes.