An English Garden Education: 5 to Visit Outside London

From seaside sanctuaries to lavish estates, five storied properties create the ultimate weekend itinerary.

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OF 6

We Brits are a prurient lot. And while that term should relate strictly to sexual matters, I’d go as far as to stretch it to gardening. Is gardening the new sex? No. But we probably like the activity just as much. Especially when it comes to visiting the works of others.

English gardens are neither so ornate as Italian gardens nor as precisely structured as French nor as experimental as American. The best English specimens have about them an eclectic bohemianism, plus our unique landscape style mixed with the influence of the Orient (a geographic addiction from which we will never free ourselves) and the later influence of the wonderful Gertrude Jekyll, the queen of British gardening at the turn of the 20th century.

The touring of gardens is a great British pastime. One journeys out of London often for the day and returns at sundown, sated, stimulated, and full of admiration for our adventurous gardeners and the sort of joie de vivre that only the sight of a decent rosebush can engender.

I’ve visited scores of gardens around England through the years, and the following five are easy to do during any visit to London. (The first three can even be squeezed into one day.) They also exemplify the charm, variety, and quirk of our horticultural skills. Don’t forget a brolly.

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