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!
East Ruston Old Vicarage
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.
Look out for framed views of Happisburgh lighthouse and church.
Holkham Walled Garden
Holkham is putting the finishing touches to the rejuvenation of 6 acres of walled garden which was originally laid out by Samuel Wyatt during the late 1700s.
Head through Italian iron-work gates which were brought from Venice in 1908 and into one of the seven sections, known as ‘squares’ and ‘slips’. The walls within the garden act as a windbreak and reflect the sun to create a gentle microclimate.
In Victorian times the garden would have provided a constant and varied supply of food and decoration to the hall, ranging from vegetables and flowers to a wide variety of both common and exotic fruits.
At Bressingham there are six distinct gardens across 17 acres, including Alan Bloom’s Dell Garden, 48 beds of hardy perennials with 5000 different species and varieties. There’s also Adrian Bloom’s Foggy Bottom Garden with 500 different conifers and 100 heathers, The Summer Garden, The Fragrant Garden and Winter Garden.
Pensthorpe Nature Reserve
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.
Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden
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 from where you can take boat trips.
Sandringham House, The Royal Family’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 Queen Elizabeth II 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.
Sheringham Park was the personal favourite of its designer, Humphry Repton. Take a wander and you’ll soon realise why. Visit the Repton exhibition to see the story of his 1812 design during a turbulent period of history. Famous for its vast collection of rhododendrons and azaleas, the last owner, before the National Trust took it on, would hold rhododendron champagne parties in the 1950s to show them off.
Blickling Hall Gardens
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.
Afterwards, take a longer walk around the magnificent estate… and try to find the county’s only pyramid.
A hidden gem in the middle of Norwich, behind the Roman Catholic Cathedral, the Plantation Gardens has architectural features that include a 30ft Gothic fountain, an Italianate terrace, rustic bridge and woodland paths. Mature trees and superb planting schemes provide year round colour. Just 10 minutes’ walk from the city centre, this Grade II English Heritage Listed garden has lots of special events.
Gooderstone Water Gardens
The Gooderstone Water Gardens, close to Swaffham, 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.
Priory Maze and Gardens
Priory Maze and Gardens are set within 10 acres, consisting of various themed gardens, and the hedge maze, based on the ruins of the adjacent Beeston Priory. The natural feel of the gardens, and the diverse plant habitat it provides, in turn creates a perfect habitat for a wide range of mammals, birds, and insects, including resident pheasants, woodcock, snipe, kingfisher and goldcrests, along with many other regulars. You might also see waxwings, firecrest, crossbills and tree creepers. The wildflower meadow provides habitat for countless moths and other insects during mid-summer, and in the early summer there are bee orchids and the common marsh orchid in abundance.
Oxburgh Hall Gardens
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.
Felbrigg Hall Gardens
The gardens at Felbrigg are a delight, with visitors returning seasonally to see how things have changed. Discover Felbrigg’s widely renowned Walled Garden, as well as the West Garden, home to our orangery, built in the 18th century.
Get up close to the double borders and herb beds in the Walled Garden and breathe in the scent of lavender, sage and mint. You can find a good many modern surprises within this traditionally laid out garden, including one of the few octagonal working dovecotes in the country, dating back to the early 1750s.
Mannington Hall Gardens
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.
Two more to enjoy….
Hindringham Hall Gardens has been described in Country Life as being ‘perfect in every details’. 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 walkwayed bog area, water garden, Victorian nut walk, wild garden, and tearoom by the East Lawn.
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.