With vibrant displays of flowers and long, warm days to look forward to, it’s time to make the most of nature – with a healthy serving of early summer sunshine if we’re lucky. And while you enjoy the sights and scents, you can be certain that your visit helps the National Trust care for these gardens for many more summers to come.
Lawrence Johnston created the garden at Hidcote and was passionate about plants. He went to endless trouble and expense to find unusual varieties that would bring colour, scent and shape to the garden. Late summer is one of the best times to visit Hidcote, as the herbaceous borders are full of textured blooms.
Glendurgan Garden, Cornwall
Glendurgan Garden looks its best in early summer, with orchids and aquilegias out in full bloom. Take a walk along the three valleys to see blankets of bluebells out in all their vibrant glory, with beautiful views leading down to the Helford River. Stroll through the garden to see which butterflies and insects are buzzing their way around the wildflowers.
These stunning National Trust gardens in the heart of Cornwall look splendid all year round, but especially so in the summer. The fabulous formal parterre brings a real touch of grandeur to the gardens. Take a stroll through the neat, planted beds and the bright herbaceous borders, and check out the cheeky cherubs on the urns. You’re sure to find a peaceful spot in our higher gardens to enjoy your surroundings and take in the view.
Knightshayes Court, Devon
This National Trust garden, lovingly created by Sir John and Lady Amory, always looks it absolute finest in the early summer months. Awash with colour from azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons, the garden in the wood represents one of the finest plant collections in the Trust, housing some of the 1200 species of plant unique to Knightshayes. Explore the hidden glades and winding paths, and keep an eye out for unusual varieties of produce growing in the kitchen garden.
Dunster Castle, Somerset
A walk around Dunster Castle gardens will take you on a trip around the world from Mediterranean to sub-tropical micro-climates. The River Garden becomes a riot of colour in May with magnolias, camellias and rhododendrons all flowering just as the ferns finish unfurling their fronds. Early summer is full of colour in the South Terrace, with brightly coloured bedding plants blooming among exotic Chusan Palms.
London and South East
Standen House and Garden, West Sussex
After a five-year conservation project, Standen’s arts and crafts garden has been brought back to life. The discovery of some secret stone steps in an overgrown thicket of bamboo was the first moment that Head Gardener James Masters knew it was his vocation to make Standen’s lost garden shine again. See 10,000 rare tulips in bloom, stroll around the revived rock garden, rose garden and borders, and find out the story behind this epic revival in a new exhibition and tours.
Nymans, West Sussex
Nymans garden is known for its vibrant, flamboyant mixture of flowers, trees and shrubs. One of the highlights in early summer is the view of dramatic summer borders which have been around since the Edwardian period. The team of National Trust gardeners plant around 5000 annuals into the front of the border at the end of May each year. In June, the rose garden is the place to be, with over 600 rose bushes producing scents of lemony Turkish delight. Sit for a while on one of the benches, soak up the sunshine and enjoy the birdsong from the surrounding trees.
In summer this sheltered valley garden reveals eye-catching Mediterranean-style planting. Look out for sub-tropical plants such as tulip and mulberry trees, and a little olive grove. You’ll find exotic-looking red spider flowers and fragrant five-foot ginger lilies interspersed with feathery African grasses. The stars of the show are Mottistone’s double herbaceous borders, packed with African daisies in pale pinks, purples and creams leading to vibrant reds, oranges and blues.
Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
Take a stroll around the beautiful flower garden at Calke Abbey this summer, with a stunning floral display in the Auricula Theatre. The Vegetable and Soft Fruit garden will be packed with produce and in the Walled Garden you’ll find Calke’s rustic Orangery in all its abandoned glory. Wander through to the Peach House to see delicious peaches ripening in the early summer sun.
Hanbury Hall and Gardens, Worcestershire
The gardens at Hanbury Hall are at their peak in summer, full of colour and scents. Be sure to pause and take a look at the collection of citrus and exotic plants on display in the Great Garden, including pomegranates, oleanders and agaves. And enjoy a little seclusion among the flowers, fruits and vegetables in the peaceful Walled Garden.
Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire
Magnificent 400ft double herbaceous borders produce spectacular summer colour at Clumber Park. The glasshouse is full of horticultural treasures too, including grape vines, peaches, nectarines, figs, annual vegetables and decorative climbers. Take a stroll to see tulips of every colour, apple blossom on the trees and Clumber’s National Rhubarb Collection.
The summer colour of Belton’s garden is showcased in their herbaceous borders. Lush foliage and exotic blooms make the Orangery an inviting place to explore. Californian and Kentia Palms add texture and height. Not forgetting the timeless topiary and perfect symmetry make the Dutch Garden a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the delightful fragrance of lilac, orange blossom and lavender.
East of England
Blickling Estate, Norfolk
Blickling’s garden comes into its own in the early summer months, with planting as high as your waist and a colour palette moving from hot to cool. The double borders and the parterre are in full flower, providing quite a floral impact. Visit the Walled Garden, recently restored to its 1930s splendour and brimming with flowers, fruit, vegetables and salad plants at this time of year.
Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire
Over 180,000 bulbs will be blooming at Wimpole this summer. The Pleasure Grounds will be a delight for the eyes with swathes of purple, white and yellow blooms producing a spectacular show. With a huge variety of summer bulbs from alliums to camassia there is something to inspire the expert horticulturalist and amateur alike.
Felbrigg Hall, Gardens and Estate, Norfolk
The Walled Garden at Felbrigg is widely renowned as one of East Anglia’s finest. Explore the double borders and herb beds to enjoy the scent of lavender, sage and mint. Keep an eye out for the many weird and wonderful plants that grow here including the extra special Umbellularia Californica, also known as the “Headache Tree” or “Balm of Heaven,” a very rare species in the UK.
In the summer months, Ickworth really comes to life, with the vibrant wildflower meadow in the Walled Garden as well as pink, blue and white bluebells in the Italianate Garden. Don’t forget to visit the Stumpery, with shade-loving ferns and up-turned stumps, these unusual areas of the garden create a mysterious and atmospheric feeling. The Stumpery takes inspiration from Italian grottos and was fashionable garden feature in Victorian England.
In summer, the herbaceous border at Sizergh is full of interesting and unusual perennials, backed by clematis and roses, while the grapes developing on the Hot Wall provide a backdrop to the patchwork of stunning dahlia blooms. Splashes of texture and vibrant colour from annuals jostle among the edible produce in the Kitchen Garden. Look out for the fragrant sweet peas – when they’re flowering, you can often take home a small bunch in exchange for a donation.
Quarry Bank, Cheshire
These National Trust gardens look truly spectacular in May and June, as Quarry Bank’s famous rhododendrons, planted by the Greg family, come into bloom in the valley garden. Enjoy the sights and smells of the glasshouse in bloom for the first time in over 100 years. You can also explore the newly opened 1830s back sheds and discover the stories of the gardeners who worked in Quarry Bank’s garden 200 years ago. After a stroll, sit back and relax with a slice of homemade cake in the tranquil setting of the newly opened Garden Café.
In summer the 1000-acre estate at Cragside is transformed into a colourful wonderland. Between late May and late June, the rhododendrons and azaleas bloom, creating a riot of colour along the estate drive and filling the air with fragrant scents. In the Victorian Formal Garden, discover the herbaceous border display and beautifully scented roses. Look out for this year’s carpet bedding design – it is made up of approximately 20,000 plants and usually takes about six weeks to create. The design changes each year but you can expect whimsical, bright clashing colours, just how the Victorians liked their gardens to be.
A summer visit to the garden at Beningbrough is a treat for the senses with striking displays of colourful flowers and fruit trees bursting with blossom. Late bluebells will still be appearing in the parkland in May, while the herbaceous border is at its best in early summer. Enjoy swatches of pastel perennials, including geraniums, peonies and wisteria growing up obelisk frames and the heady scent of mock orange filling the air. In high summer the Italian border is filled with colourful Mediterranean blooms, which are suited to hot weather and periods of drought but still able to withstand the Yorkshire climate.
Powis Castle and Garden, Powys, Wales
Dating back 300 years, this bright limestone-red castle has world-class gardens that are steeped in history and boast stunning hillside views across the Severn Valley. During the summer months, the gardens will be blooming with roses, poppies, iris and delphinium, as well as wild flowers including common spotted orchids. Weave your way through richly planted herbaceous borders, enormous yew hedges, an ancient orangery and acres of peaceful woodland.
Bodnant Garden, Conwy
Visit Bodnant Garden from late May to early June to see its stunning showstopper, the famous Laburnum Arch. Another horticultural highlight of the garden in early summer is the rhododendron collection, which dates back more than a century. It’s said there’s a rhododendron in flower every month of the year at Bodnant Garden, but they are at their peak in May. In late summer, highlights include the rose beds and herbaceous borders lined with electric blue hydrangeas.
In June this year, Erddig celebrates its 40th anniversary in the care of the National Trust. To mark the ruby anniversary the gardeners will create a large, vibrant display of red tulips. Head to Erddig from late May to see the celebratory display and explore the impressive walled garden, which was restored to its 18th century formal design some 40 years ago ready for opening to the public.
Colby Woodland Garden, Pembrokeshire
Throughout early summer the walled garden and wildflower meadows are a kaleidoscope of colour. The magnolia in the walled garden is the star of the show, providing bright splashes of colour. In July and August the wildflowers taking centre stage in the meadow, while hydrangeas, azaleas and rhododendrons are also at their best. Make the most of the sun and enjoy family picnics, climbing trees and running through the meadow.
Mount Stewart, County Down
Mount Stewart is hailed as one of the most unusual gardens cared for by the National Trust due to its tapestry-like design. In early summer the formal displays of scented rhododendrons in the Italian, Spanish, Mairi and Shamrock Gardens are magniﬁcent, as is the bright carpet of bluebells in the demesne. Due to the mild micro-climate, summer also brings in fresh new growth of ferns, with a large collection of sub-tropical ferns. Take a peek at the ongoing work in the walled garden, where National Trust gardeners are working hard to bring the fabulous rose garden back to life.
Rowallane Garden, County Down
Rowallane Garden is a delight to explore in the early summer sunshine. Enjoy the sight of Himalayan blue poppies in the Walled Garden with their magnificent blue hue, as well as the delicate handkerchief tree and bright yellow, pink and red rhododendrons.
Crom, County Fermanagh
May is the perfect time to explore the Culliaghs – Crom’s woodland paradise. In spring it’s a riot of colour from the rhododendrons, camelia and magnolia to the carpet of bluebells. The woodland at Crom is dominated by oak which is known to support the greatest diversity of life in terms of lichens, mosses, invertebrates and even birds and mammals, so keep an eye out for wildlife as you go.
For more information, please visit National TrustLast modified: December 9, 2020