10 enchanted gardens: beautiful and unusual spaces | Gardens
According to its co-creator, Sir Roy Colin Strong: “A garden is an ever-changing creation – like a painting that is never finished.” Strong and his wife, Julia Trevelyan Oman, began working on what was a bare four-acre field in the mid-1970s. They were both steeped in the art world at the time: Strong as as director of the National Portrait Gallery and later of the Victoria and Albert Museum; Oman as a production designer for film, theatre, ballet and opera. Their lifelong appreciation for art and showmanship is evident throughout this scintillating autobiographical garden. There are over 20 distinct areas for visitors to explore, including a crumpled lime walkway, a nymphaeum, a boxed parterre and a crumpled crank parade dedicated to their cat.
The Duchess of Northumberland made headlines in 2004 when the Home Office granted her permission to grow drugs in Alnwick Garden. Now, in addition to a high-tech waterfall, a huge treehouse and the world’s largest Taihaku cherry orchard, visitors can book a guided tour of The Poison Garden, where magic mushrooms , cannabis, the opium poppy and the coca plant are among the 100 or so poisonous, intoxicating and narcotic plants that flourish behind bars.
Forty years ago, meditation master Maitreya began transforming flat Nottinghamshire land into a miniature Japanese landscape. Without any gardening experience and with a miniature JCB, he began to reshape the land, creating ponds and mounds and winding paths for visitors to enjoy and explore. Over the years friends and locals have contributed to the creation and the garden now has a pagoda, a minimalist chipped marble Zen garden and a Japanese teahouse. The ponds teem with Koi carp and maple and cherry trees complete the picture. Maitreya’s latest addition to the program is a crystal garden – a shimmering space for ‘spiritual inspiration’.
Charles Jencks, cultural theorist, architectural historian, landscape architect and writer, was a renowned proponent of postmodernism. Only one day a year, visitors are allowed to explore his astonishing masterpiece, The Garden of Cosmic Speculation. Started in 1989 on the grounds of the house he shared with his wife, Maggie Keswick, it is divided into 40 areas and covers 30 acres. According to Jencks, who died in 2019, the garden “uses nature to celebrate nature, both intellectually and through the senses.” There are visual references to black holes, dark matter, and fractal geometry. Otherworldly landforms rise and ripple out of mysterious pools of water, while scientific sculptures appear as immersive optional illusions.
Date and ticket information for 2022 to be confirmed
This ancient shrine is a designated World Peace Garden that revolves around the Chalice Well – a source of water that has flowed steadily for over 2,000 years. The surrounding land was purchased by the spiritualist Wellesley Tudor Pole and preserved to “encourage the individual spiritual evolution… of members of the public, of whatever faith or none, for pilgrimage, silent contemplation and healing”. The flowing waters gushing from the well were directed through the ‘numinous’ space, funneled into waterfalls, curved swales and cleansing pools before disappearing underground and heading towards Glastonbury Abbey.
This unfettered oasis – London’s second largest conservatory – offers a leafy, creative space for gallery-goers and residents alike. It was built in the early 80s to conceal the concrete stump of the brutalist fly tower used by the theater below. (Original unrealized plans show a giant glass pyramid floating on the lake.) Inside, tree ferns, date palms, coffee and ginger plants form a real concrete jungle. There’s even an arid house for cacti, succulents, and orchids. Koi carp and terrapin moved from Hampstead Heath in slow motion into shaded ponds.
This mysterious underground garden was buried in rubble after World War II and rediscovered in 2000. It was originally designed by ‘Squire Oakley’, director of the Great Western Railway and fern enthusiast. He created a garden “that no one else knew existed” in the late 1800s. Above ground, rockeries, greenhouses and an array of plants, shrubs and trees from around the world delighted visitors. Oakley’s enthusiasm for landscaping continued underground, where he created an underground maze of tunnels, caves and ferns, all of which have been fully restored.
Less a garden, more a site-specific work of art, Little Sparta is spread over seven acres of open moorland in the Pentland Hills. Ian Hamilton Finlay began working here in the late 1960s, using local stone carvers, artists and poets to realize his vision. There are more than 270 works to discover. An interactive map on the website gives visitors an idea of the scope and variety of the work, which ranges from carved tablets scattered across a rolling lawn, to the enormous golden head of Marsyas, a musical character from Greek mythology. which seems half buried underground. As stimulating as it is contemplative.
Plans for The World Garden came about under traumatic circumstances. Horticulturalist Tom Hart Dyke was on a plant-hunting expedition in the Panamanian jungle when he was kidnapped and held hostage for nine months. During this time he sketched plans for the garden. After his release in 2000, he began creating a garden of rare and important botanicals in the grounds of Lullingstone Castle – one of England’s oldest family estates, to which he is heir.
Plant enthusiasts can explore the world in Le Jardin des Nuages, La Maison des Cactus, La Chambre Orchidée and the Moroccan Blue Room (inspired by his visits to the Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech). Rarities include an example of the world’s oldest tree, Australia’s dinosaur tree and the world’s most dangerous plant, queensland darter.
An enchanting garden with curious beginnings. Acres of formal gardens flourished in Heligan until the late 19th century when brambles and ferns gradually began to reclaim the site. At the start of the First World War lives were taken from the estate and it fell into decades of neglect until 30 years ago when the gardens were ‘rediscovered’. At that time, Heligan was fully restored and now offers the public a second chance to explore a landscape laid out over two centuries ago. Highlights include the UK’s only outdoor subtropical jungle planted with bamboo tunnels, tree ferns, giant rhubarb and bananas and a scented peach house.