Top 10 Norfolk gardens

Alan Gray on Norfolk gardens

Norfolk has a huge collection of gardens, from small higgledy-piggledy cottage gardens to wonderfully relaxing water gardens and magnificent stately home gardens. Laze around on the grass listening to bird song and gazing up at the sky. Feast your eyes on a riot of glorious colour - tumbling wisteria, clambering sweet peas, rambling roses and delicate hellebores. Rub your fingers over the lavender and mint or stoop to smell the parsley and sage. You can't beat wandering around someone else's garden and enjoying the rewards of all their hard work!

1 Pensthorpe is home to three delightful wildlife-rich gardens by award-winning designers, stunning meadow and a lakeside environment with year-round interest and growth. There's the Wildlife Habitat Garden, the innovative Wave Line Garden, structural beauty of the acclaimed Millennium Garden or you can take a relaxing stroll through the Norfolk countryside in the tranquil Wildflower Meadow.

2 One of the county's best-kept gardens has to be the East Ruston Old Vicarage. A privately owned garden, it is open for public viewing so visitors can see the love and attention that has been put into a wonder collection of gardens from exotic to woodland and plants from desert cacti to prehistoric tree ferns.

Norfolk gardensSandringham is worth a visit - and not just for the royal connection.

3 Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden is a secret hideaway in the heart of the Norfolk Broads. Wonderful woodland walks, gardens rich in wildlife with an eclectic mix of native and cultivated plantings plus a private broad.

4 Raveningham Gardens, like many great gardens, is the work of one person, the late Priscilla Bacon. Working on it for over fifty years, she created magnificent borders and rosebeds. More recent additions include a herb garden, a refurbished Victorian conservatory in the walled garden, an arboretum, magnificent lake and contemporary sculpture.

5 Sandringham House, The Queen's country residence, is set in 24 hectares of glorious gardens, and is perhaps the finest of all the Royal gardens. Every generation of the Royal Family which has lived here has added something of their own times and tastes, from the peace of the woodland walks to the drama of the carrstone rockeries, from the formality of the North Garden with its pleached lime avenues to the intimacy of the Stream Walk. In the 1960s The Queen invited Sir Eric Savill, famous for his gardens at Windsor, to re-landscape the Woodland Walk and the Bog Gardens, and in 1996 the-then Head Gardener created the beautiful Stream Walk.

6 The National Trust's Blickling Hall has 55 acres of topiary, sweeping lawns, herbaceous borders, temple and lake. There's something to see in the garden all year round. Don't miss the fragrant beds of the parterre and inspiring double borders. You'll find hellebores and primroses, daffodils and bluebells, azaleas and rhododendron, wisteria and peonies as well as quiet places to sit and enjoy the view.

7 The Gooderstone Water Gardens, close to Swaffham (pictured top), is a chance to immerse yourself in six acres of gardens with a natural trout stream, four ponds, waterways, thirteen bridges, grass paths and nature trails, mature trees and shrubs.

8 Hindringham Hall Gardens has been described in Country Life as being 'perfect in every detail'. One of only a few complete moats in the county, Hindringham has a walled vegetable and fruit garden with herb parterre, an iris and delphinium walk, daffodil area, a bog area with walkways, water garden, Victorian nut walk, wild garden and tearoom by the East Lawn.

9 The National Trust's Oxburgh Hall has four main garden areas dating from Oxburgh's Victorian era, including an impressive French parterre, with its colourful pattern of flowers, a herbaceous border which is a glorious mix of colour and form, woodland trails and kitchen garden.

10 The gardens at the medieval moated manor house of Mannington feature a wide variety of plants, around 50 varieties of trees and shrubs in many different settings. Throughout the gardens are thousands of roses especially classic varieties. In the Heritage and Modern Rose Gardens are roses in areas with designs reflecting their date of origin from the fifteenth century to the present-day. The Contemporary Garden features more roses, shrubs and herbaceous borders with brighter colours and modern varieties.

Norfolk gardens in the National Garden Scheme.

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