The UK's Best Gardens

Summer is here (well, almost) and the Chelsea Flower Show is in full swing, so in honour of that – not to mention the fact that it's almost impossible to get a ticket – we thought we'd tell you about some of our favourite gardens around the country: all of them easily the match of what you might see at Chelsea, and all just coming into their best.

Compton Acres

These gardens spread across a beautiful hillside site above Poole Harbour, and have not only a great variety, including a magnificent Japanese Garden, but have the added the bonus of panoramic sea views too.

East Ruston Vicarage Garden

Created out of nothing in the 1970s, on a rather unpromising stretch of land near the northeast Norfolk coast, this place is everything should be – calming, inventive, and so cleverly planned that it easily swallows the visitors who come here. Endlessly varied, it's like  walking around in someone's horticultural imagination.

Fairhaven Water Garden

This wonderful and evocative mix of swampy woodland, dykes and creeks is a brilliant taster of the Broads landscape of which it forms a part – plus it runs down to the banks of beautiful South Walsham Broad, on which you can take boat and canoe trips. Lovingly tended and with lots of healthy plants for sale too. 

Hidcote Manor Gardens

A collection of 'garden rooms' set around a Tudor manor house – the turn-of-the-century creation of garden designer Lawrence Johnston. Fabulous borders, an outdoor theatre, and waterlilies to rival those at Giverny.

Glendurgan Gardens

This sub-tropical garden can feel like you've left England altogether, so lush are its three valleys, which tumble down to the edge of the Helford river in Falmouth. It's playful too: get lost in the maze and get the kids dizzy on the Giant's Stride.  

Lost Gardens of Heligan

They're rather famous now, but the 'lost' gardens of Heligan were only rediscovered in the 1990s, having fallen into disrepair after two centuries of care and planting. Wonderful variety, from kitchen gardens to a sub-tropical jungle and Victorian Pleasure Grounds. A whole day out, no question. 

Millgate House Garden

This diminutive private garden is actually the garden of a lovely B&B, whose owners have spent 3 decades bringing this Georgian walked garden back to life. Even if you're not staying, they invite visitors in during spring and summer to view their superb roses, clematis and other shrubs, and sitting among their scented arbours it's hard to believe you're bang in the centre of Richmond.

National Botanic Garden of Wales

Perhaps the newest garden here, created just over a decade ago for the Millennium celebrations, but what a place it is! Their collection of sub-tropical plants is the finest in Europe, and the building they're grown in – the gigantic Great Glasshouse  is the world's largest. But that's not all: there are native Welsh planst and trees, wonderful woodlands, Japanese gardens and much more. A sumptuous day out.