11 beautiful gardens you have to see this summer
- Credit: Paul Geater
East Anglia is full of amazing gardens. Here are 11 to visit this summer.
All these gardens are in Suffolk and Essex, with one just over the border in Norfolk. They have Covid-19 safety measures in place, and you are advised to check before travelling, as opening hours and booking arrangements may change at short notice.
In addition to gardens which are open regularly, many are opening on particular dates over the summer for charity.
Helmingham Hall Gardens, near Stowmarket
These historic, Grade I listed gardens, surrounding the ancestral home of the Tollemache family, must be some of the most breathtakingly beautiful in Suffolk.
Although the house isn't open to the public, you can walk around it and admire the moat, where you might spot one or two huge fish.
The mixed gardens' most striking features include a classic parterre flanked by hybrid musk roses, which was redesigned in 1987, and a rose garden and knot and herb garden, which all show the influence of garden designer Xa Tollemache.
A walled kitchen garden surrounded by herbaceous borders is another of Helmingham's glories, while children will enjoy the wildflower orchard, and the topiary garden with a number of surprising animal creations, from a snail to a laced boot.
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Beyond the gardens is the park, with red and fallow deer and Soay sheep. The site also includes a tearoom.
When to visit: The gardens are open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays and bank holidays from 11am to 4.30pm. There is no need to book in advance, except for some special events.
Beth Chatto Gardens, Elmstead Market, near Colchester
These famous gardens were founded by the late Beth Chatto, took over an overgrown wasteland in 1960 and turned it into an inspirational series of gardens.
Beth famously believed in working with nature and finding the right plants for the right place.
One of the most famous areas is a gravel garden, which is never irrigated, and the seven acres also includes a Mediterranean-style scree garden, water garden, reservoir garden and woodland garden.
The site includes a nursery and a tearoom.
When to visit: The gardens are open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am to 5pm. Tickets need to be prebooked.
Bressingham, near Diss
Just over the Suffolk border into Norfolk, the Bressingham gardens cover 17 acres and are full of spectacular colours.
The site is of course also known for its Steam Museum and many other attractions, including the Gallopers roundabout.
Founded by Alan Bloom in the 1950s, the site includes six different gardens, each with its own theme.
These include Adrian Bloom’s Foggy Bottom Garden, with hundreds of different conifers and heathers, and the Summer Garden, which has the National Collection of Miscanthus, a Japanese ornamental grass, and a "river" of geraniums. The Winter Garden is also very well-known.
Refreshments are available or you can take a picnic.
When to visit: The gardens are open from 10.30am to 5.30pm daily until August, and then until 5pm until October. Tickets need to be prebooked.
Somerleyton, near Lowestoft
Set over 12 acres in north Suffolk, the stately home's gardens are a must-see for fans of TV's The Crown, since the estate stood in for Sandringham in the Netflix series.
The many striking gardens include the Arboretum, where My Lady's Rose Garden is found - currently being renovated, with new beds, arches and obelisks.
At the West Front, the views include the Nesfield Parterre, restored by landscape architect and historian George Carter, with a great equatorial sundial encircled by the signs of the zodiac.
Somerleyton's yew hedge maze is one of its most famous features, where you can enjoy getting lost. Children will also enjoy the garden trail and play area, which are both now open.
The hall and tearoom are currently closed, but you can take a picnic, and takeaway drinks and ice creams are available.
When to visit: The gardens are open from 10am to 5pm on Thursdays, Sundays and bank holidays only. There is no need to prebook.
The Place for Plants, East Bergholt
This family- run specialist plant centre and garden is based at East Bergholt, in the heart of Constable Country.
The 20-acre garden, which was originally laid out at the turn of the 20th century, is known as a beautiful and peaceful setting with many unusual flowering trees and shrubs.
It is especially known for its magnolias, camellias and rhododendrons, and there are some fine examples of yew topiary to admire.
The cafe has reopened and is currently open daily.
When to visit: The gardens and arboretum are open from 10am to 5pm daily until September. Groups are advised to book in advance.
Wyken Hall Gardens & Vineyard, Stanton, near Bury St Edmunds
The gardens of this Elizabethan manor house have been described by the Royal Horticultural Society as "one of the best modern private gardens in the country."
Created by Kenneth and Carla Carlisle over the past 40 years, the grounds include a herb and knot garden, rose garden and woodland garden, as well as wildflower meadows, a beech maze and gazebo.
The gardens have been designed for year-round interest, with the rose garden reaching its peak from mid June and the "Red Hot borders", including dahlias and zinnias, at their best from July until autumn.
As well as the gardens and vineyard, the site includes a country store, and regularly stages a range of events, including farmers' markets.
There is a cafe and the well-known Leaping Hare restaurant, where lunches and dinners need to be booked.
When to visit: The gardens are open from 1-5.30pm on Wednesday to Friday and Sunday each week, with no need to book.
Ickworth, near Bury St Edmunds
One of East Anglia's most popular National Trust properties, Ickworth has gardens inspired by classical Italy.
The grounds include many evergreens, meaning there is plenty to see at all seasons.
The Temple Garden includes a classical summerhouse and mixture of Mediterranean herbs, grasses, and perennials.
Another unusual feature is a Victorian-style stumpery.
Two cafes are now open, with both outdoor and indoor seating, while the Walled Garden is ideal for picnics.
When to visit: The gardens, house and parkland are all currently open daily. Opening times for the gardens are from 10am to 4pm. Pre-booking is recommended at busy times, including weekends and school holidays.
RSPB Wildlife Garden, Flatford
Looking for a less formal garden to visit? This family-friendly wildlife garden, designed to give you ideas to incorporate in your own garden, could be the answer.
The garden includes a trail featuring giant carved wooden creatures and a living willow tunnel.
There is also a wildlife pond, a log-pile house and a small orchard, while the mini-meadow area is designed as a haven for bugs.
The visitor centre and play area are currently closed, but there is a picnic area. Refreshments are available at the nearby National Trust Flatford site.
When to visit: The garden is open from 10.30am to 4.30pm daily until November 1. You do not need to book.
Melford Hall, Long Melford
These National Trust gardens include an octagonal Tudor gazebo, as well as topiary, a pond and fountain.
One of the most striking features is the old moat, which has been turned into a sunken garden.
As well as exploring the gardens, you can also take a walk through the surrounding deer park.
When to visit: The gardens, historic hall and tea room are currently open from 12 to 4.30pm from Wednesday to Sunday.
Pre-booking is recommended at busy times such as weekends and school holidays.
Otley Hall Gardens, near Ipswich
This 10-acre garden, surrounding the Tudor moated hall, is reopening to visitors from June 22.
The grounds are known for their colourful floral borders, wooded areas and water features.
Unusual features include a, H-shaped Canal and Mount, Elizabethan-style Knot Garden, traditional Herber and Orchard and a Labyrinth.
You may also come across one of the hall's impressive peacocks strolling the grounds, as well as scores of other bird species.
You can combine your visit with a meal from the new artisan cafe.
When to visit: From June 22 onwards, the gardens are open from 9am to 4pm from Tuesday to Friday, with no need to book. Groups can book guided tours.
Kentwell Hall Gardens, Long Melford
The gardens and grounds of this romantic moated Tudor hall cover 30 acres, with rolling lawns, walled gardens, massive clipped yews and giant cedars.
Kentwell's Walled Garden boasts more than 60 varieties of apples and the same for pears, while there are also impressive colourful displays of wild flowers over the summer.
There is also a working farm to visit, with rare breed animals including pigs, sheep, cows, horses and goats, as well as the very popular miniature Shetland ponies Sylvie and Saffy.
Take-away refreshments and light lunches are available to eat in the gardens.
When to visit: Booking your visit in advance is essential. You can either visit the gardens on their own or book a joint visit to the house and gardens.
Kentwell's gardens are open from 11am to 3pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays until September 30 (except for special event days), and daily during school holidays.
Fullers Mill Garden, West Stow
A seven-acre garden on the banks of the River Lark, this site includes a fine collection of shrubs, perennials, lilies and marginal plants, as well as shady woodland.
It was created by the late Bernard Tickner over a period of more than 50 years, and includes a Mill Pond, Low Garden and The Strip, planted with sun-loving foliage plants mainly obtained from Beth Chatto’s gardens.
The gardens are owned and managed by Perennial, a charity looking after people in horticulture and their families.
Refreshments are available in the bothy and there is also a pop-up shop and plants for sale.
When to visit: The garden is open from 2-5pm on Wednesdays and Fridays and 11am-5pm on Saturdays and Sundays until October 31. You will need to book your visit in advance.