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UK gardens you must visit in Summer 2013

by Hazel Sillver

Hazel Sillver gives her pick of the UK's 10 most gorgeous eco-gardens and garden events to stroll around this summer....

*Sticky Wicket, Dorset, 21 June – 21 July

One of the most beautiful and charming eco gardens in the world, Sticky Wicket is opening its doors to groups (by appointment) until 21 July. Owner Pam Lewis describes her wonderland as: “a romantic paradise where a lightly-managed, happy chaos reigns and a phenomenal volume of wildflowers, and associated wildlife, continue to flourish.” As well as meadows, there is a white garden, nectar garden, ponds and a bog garden. Pam is running Meadow Courses on 28 & 29 June.

01300 345476, stickywicketgarden.com 

*Lavender Festival, Surrey, 6 & 7 July

Gaze over a sea of purple and inhale the calming balsam scent of lavender. Mayfield is a family-run, Soil Association-certified, 25-acre lavender farm on the North Downs. The festival is a family event that includes activities for youngsters (such as a Mini Beast Hunt and face painting) and adults (who can relax in one of the Pilates classes or, even better, in the hands of one of masseuses who will be applying relaxing lavender oil).

07503 877707, mayfieldlavender.com 

*RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, London, 9-14 July

If you’re going to go to just one of the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual shows, this is the one. Unlike Chelsea, the site is vast, so there is room to move! As well as Show Gardens and Floral Marquees, Hampton Court always has a great Grow Your Own area. This year, there will also be an emphasis on sustainability and gardening for wildlife – don’t miss the bee and butterfly gardens and the nectar-rich Downderry Lavender stand.  

0844 338 7506, rhs.org.uk/Shows-Events 

*The Yeo Valley Organic Garden, Somerset

Sarah Mead’s 6½-acre paradise at Holt Farm in the Yeo Valley has gorgeous views to the Mendips and Blagdon Lake. She has created a Soil Association-certified contemporary garden that includes annual and perennial flower meadows, a colourful gravel garden, a streamside garden and a vegetable plot. Vitally, Holt also has a wonderful tearoom, for brunch, lunch and afternoon tea. The garden is open on Thursdays and Fridays until 25 October.

01761 461650, theorganicgardens.co.uk 

*Highgrove, Gloucestershire

The Prince of Wales’ fabulous garden is managed using sustainable and organic principles. There is a walled kitchen garden, meadow, cottage garden and Mediterranean garden; a reed-bed sewage system filters all the wastewater from the house and restaurant. Visits must be pre-booked and encompass a two-hour guided garden tour; you can also enjoy the Highgrove restaurant and shop. There will be no screaming babies or raucousness, as children under 12 are not allowed in!

0845 521 4342, highgrovegardens.com 

*Butterfly World, Hertfordshire

7 out of 10 of our native butterfly species are in decline. Hoping to reverse this trend, the lovely people at Butterfly World have built a nectar-rich utopia for our fluttering friends. The 26-acre site is just off the M25 and includes wildflower meadow areas and a series of smaller ornamental gardens. In just five years they have managed to reintroduce some of the butterflies that had disappeared from the area. The garden is open daily and there is also a shop and a restaurant.

01727 869203, butterflyworldproject.com 

*Flowers of Hatch Pick-Your-Own Flower Farm, Wiltshire

This adorable pick-your-own flower farm has something of the Darling Buds of May about it and makes you feel glad to be alive. Go armed with a pair of scissors or secateurs and snip yourself a bunch of whatever is in bloom – this year you can choose from sweet peas, achillea, eryngium (sea holly), echinops (globe thistle), rudbeckia, cosmos, larkspur and scabious. The farm has lovely views over the Nadder Valley and you are welcome to take a picnic and drink in the surrounds. Open from 1 July to the first frost.

01747 852498, flowersofhatch.co.uk 

*Ryton Gardens, Warwickshire

This 10-acre organic garden, just outside Coventry, is one of the world’s benchmark eco-gardens and home to the Garden Organic charity, which encourages environmentally sound horticulture. Don’t miss the fabulous bee garden (which is foraged by Ryton’s resident honeybees), the rose garden (which is planted with rust and black spot-resistant cultivars) and the Cook’s Garden (which is jam-packed with unusual edibles).

024 76303517, rytongardens.co.uk 

*Waltham Place Gardens, Berkshire

The owners of Waltham’s farm and garden do things using biodynamic and organic principles and passionately encourage visitors to adopt a ‘natural gardening’ technique (of being less tidy and working with the environment). As well as a Kitchen Garden, Waltham boasts a series of ornamental areas, including a butterfly garden and a Japanese garden. Visitors are welcome by appointment on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays until 27 September; there is a shop and a tearoom.

01628 825517, walthamplace.com 

*The Pines Garden, Kent

This 6-acre organically managed garden boasts a sensory garden, a lake and a kitchen garden within which over 40 types of fruit and vegetables flourish. Children will love the sustainability trail, the storytelling shelter and the grass labyrinth. Disabled access is very good and there is a tearoom serving homemade cakes and sandwiches. The Pines garden is open daily, all year!

01304 851737, pinesgarden.co.uk 

Hazel Sillver is a freelance journalist and a contributor to the Ecologist Green Living section; email: hazel@theecologist.org

Image courtesy of www.shutterstock.com 

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