by Dan Shone
Day Out Guides
Devon boasts a number of beautiful gardens: some containing plants and trees that you would expect to find in the UK, and others, thanks to the rich, fertile soil and temperate climate of the region, featuring wonderfully rare and exotic species. From privately maintained spaces to National Trust owned estates, these are 9 of the best gardens in Devon to visit.
Explore over 60 acres of formal gardens, landscaped lawns, historic glasshouses and woodland. The Grade I listed gardens are almost 300 years old and contain a vast collection of plants. The stunning glass Palm House, built in the 1820’s, is older than the Palm House at Kew Gardens and contains many rare palms. In the Tropical House you will find exotic foliage and The Arid House is home to a large assortment of weird and wonerful succulents.
A great way to explore the whole of the estate is to take a ride on the Woodland Railway. Now almost 60 years old, the railway takes you on a scenic ride through woodland and alongside the Great Lake. There are also a number of other attractions including a garden centre, the Countryside Museum, children’s play areas and the Orangery Restaurant, where you can enjoy magnificent views across the gardens.
More information and opening times: Bicton Park Gardens
Designed by Edwin Lutyens, this twentieth century castle is the last castle to be built in England. The formal garden retains the original design by Lutyens and George Dillistone: lawn sections and granite terraces are surrounded by rose and herbaceous borders. Residing in each corner of the garden is an arbour constructed of Persian Ironwood trees, which are at their most impressive during the autumn months.
More information and opening times: Castle Drogo gardens
Located on the edge of Exmoor, this 18th Palladian century house is surrounded by 50 acres of garden and parkland. The gardens contain water features, a number of temples and statues and a tranquil walled garden with vegetable plots and sweet pea covered walls. The garden is constantly changing in appearance throughout the seasons: spring brings deep hues of red, violet and white from camellias and magnolias, whilst in autumn the woodland leaves turn golden yellow and red. Be sure to walk to the top of Castle Hill, where you will be rewarded with sweeping views of Exmoor and Dartmoor.
More information and opening times: Castle Hill
The history of this Grade I manor house dates back to the 14th century and is situated on a 1,000 acre estate. In 1925, it was purchased by Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst, who did a huge amount of work restoring the house and altering the gardens and landscape. A number of garden designers and advisors oversaw elements of this work, including Henry Avray Tipping and Beatrix Farrand. Today, the Grade II listed gardens feature the tiered lawn ‘Tiltyard’, terrace borders bursting with colours from achillea, agapanthus and hemerocallis, and a yew tree believed to be almost 2000 years old. You can also enjoy woodland walks around the vast estate, where you may spot the deer who roam within the park.
More information and opening times: Dartington gardens
Lukesland is a family run garden set within 24 acres of the valley of Addicombe Brook, which flows down from Dartmoor. The soil in this area is ideal for acid loving plants and trees and has certainly contributed to Lukesland having a wonderful collection of camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas. Babbling streams and turquoise ponds provide a calm serenity and also reflect the changing colours of the flowers and trees throughout spring, summer and autumn.
More information and opening times: Lukesland Gardens
Located in North Devon, this 20 acre private garden is set within a secluded valley and boasts three lakes and a magnificent collection of plants, shrubs and trees. In spring and summer, the garden is awash with bright pinks and purples from the National Collection of Astilbes, camellias and rhododendrons. The garden is a haven for wildlife: butterflies, moths and sometimes kingfishers can be seen around the lakes and nearby banks. On sunny days, there is nothing better than tucking into a sandwich at the Garden Tea Room and admiring the views.
More information and opening times: Marwood Hill Gardens
Set high on the cliffs above Salcombe, this sub-tropical garden and house was once the home of British chemist and inventor, Otto Overbeck. Now managed by the National Trust, the garden features a collection of rare and exotic plants and trees that have flourished in Devon’s warm micro-climate. Discover palm trees, grasses, banana plants and a collection of magnolias that date back to original trees brought back from the Himalayas in 1849.
More information and opening times: Overbecks
Nestled in the Torridge Valley, RHS Rosemoor occupies 65 acres of land, consisting of a number of magnificent themed gardens, woodland, nursery and tearoom. The Rose Garden contains over 2,000 roses and is split in to two areas: the Shrub Rose Garden, made up of traditional varieties of rose, and The Queen Mother’s Rose Garden, featuring modern roses. The Hot Garden, largely made up of plants from North America’s grassland, bursts with vivid blocks of red, yellows and purples. For anyone wanting to learn more about gardening, RHS Rosemoor holds a number of events throughout the year including demonstrations and talks.
More information and opening times: RHS Rosemoor
Saltram is a National Trust owned mansion house and garden, set within 20 acres rolling landscape park, overlooking the River Plym. Originally a landscape garden, the 3rd Earl of Morley transformed the grounds into a plantsman’s garden in the 19th century. Discover many unusual and rare species of plants and trees, walk the quarter of a mile long lime avenue and absorb the delightful citrus smells of the orangery, which dates back to the 18th century.
More information and opening times: Saltram
Fancy taking a trip to visit some of these stunning gardens? These self-catering cottages in Devon provide an ideal base to explore the counties beautiful gardens and countryside.
Image credit: Christine Matthews – (CC BY-SA 2.0); James Stringer – (CC BY-NC 2.0); Chris – (CC BY-SA 2.0); Tom Jolliffe – (CC BY-SA 2.0); Adrian Platt – (CC BY-SA 2.0); David – (CC BY-SA 2.0); Derek Voller – (CC BY-SA 2.0); David Gearing – (CC BY-SA 2.0)
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