Gardening is most definitely in vogue, which is why this summer will be awash with events, festivals, fairs and festivities, hosted in and around the nation’s gorgeous gardens. Here’s a selection of the best.
Holker Garden Festival, Cumbria, May 31-June 2
The marvellous Holker Hall is surrounded by no less than 25 acres of formal areas and woodland. What’s more, with the Garden Festival coming very soon, this year’s cold weather has been a blessing in disguise as the rhododendrons are late, which means they should give a display that’s simply dazzling. An all-new amphitheatre earthwork in the Pagan Grove is worth seeing, plus there will be lots of nursery stands for serious gardeners, as well as talks from experts, a gardeners’ question time and six show gardens. With craft stalls, a Victorian fairground with a carousel and a sheepdog demonstration, there’s plenty to keep non-gardeners occupied, too. That’s why 23,000 visitors head along every year.
Iford Festival, Wiltshire, June 8-August 10
If classical statues and terraced Italianate gardens float your boat, then Iford Manor’s Grade I listed gardens are the place to be. Wisterias – which are seemingly thriving this year – drape across the front of the house and up the steps to a terrace, while for this year’s festival Mozart, Offenbach and Handel, as well as jazz proms, are on the programme, meaning you can bombard the senses of sight, sound and scent. Don’t forget to pack a picnic.
Borders Book Festival, Scottish Borders, June 13-16
Up in border country, HarmonyGardens covers over two acres of land in the middle of Melrose, also home to the famous Rugby Sevens. However, not one cauliflower ear will be in sight, with wide lawns, herbaceous borders and a large kitchen garden surrounding a pretty Georgian villa on the menu this time. The festival has attracted some of the big names in contemporary literature including Hilary Mantel, Alexander McCall Smith and Kate Mosse, with plenty of talks and activities for children.
Gardens in the Wild, Herefordshire, June 22 and 23
This garden tour encourages you to get on your bike, or hire one locally, to explore the participating gardens in the village of Titley, which range from the formal at the Court of Noke to Noel Kingsbury’s naturalistic planting at Montpelier Cottage. Many aren’t usually open to the public. The appeal of this festival is that it champions local talent. There are talks by leading lights such as Nigel Dunnett, who created the wild meadows at the Olympic Park, and the writers Anna Pavord and Mirabel Osler, as well as nature walks and plant stalls.
A Friend, a Book and a Garden, Hertfordshire, June 29 and 30
Just a short distance from the smoke of London is the private paradise near Hemel Hempstead created by the designer Tom Stuart Smith and his wife, Sue, around a converted barn surrounded by open countryside. Wildflower meadows and a prairie area, established over the past three years, sit alongside formal gardens, while Chelsea regulars will recognise ghosts from Stuart-Smith’s previous gold-winning gardens there. This new festival of garden literature includes discussions between horticultural luminaries, celebrating great garden writing rather than the ins and outs of gardening techniques. Speakers include Katherine Swift, Adam Nicolson and Diana Athill.