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Rosie’s Ultimate Garden Guide

29th July 2019

Rosie is our wonderful Head of Guiding, she is also a garden enthusiast and always on hand with advice and updates for the team. As well as loving the larger, more classic gardens, she also relishes in the hidden gems. Here is her pick of smaller favourites from each country.


Scotland –Arduaine Garden, Argyll; This was started in 1897 by James Arthur Campbell, a tea planter, and a friend of Osgood MacKenzie, the creator of Inverewe Garden.  Located on a beautiful peninsula, full of the most magnificent plants, my favourite spots are the Heron Pond and a tiny path that leads to a spectacular coastal viewpoint overlooking the Sound of Jura and the Slate Islands.

England – Poison Garden, The Alnwick Garden; Due to my previous medical background anything related to this topic has always fascinated me and no garden more so than this, one of the deadliest gardens in the world! Behind a locked gate emblazoned with a skull and crossbones a warning is given: “Don’t touch, don’t smell, don’t taste”. Fascinating anecdotes behind 100 of the world’s most deadly plants! Follow this with afternoon tea in The Treehouse – after washing hands of course!

Ireland – Illnacullin, Garnish Island; I particularly love the boat ride to the island through the crystal clear water, passing seals on the rocks and relishing the peace and quiet away from the mainland. The variety of types of gardens and plants appeals to me and I particularly enjoy the spectacular viewpoints from the Italian Garden and the Grecian Temple looking over Bantry Bay to Sugarloaf Mountain on the Beara Peninsula.

Northern Ireland – Mount Stewart Garden, Co. Down; A fabulous private tour with the Head Gardener, reveals the inspiration behind the garden’s design and the stories associated with the beautiful topiary and plants showing the unique personality of their creator, the eclectic Edith, Lady Londonderry. My favourite areas are the Shamrock and the Mairi Gardens



“Our popular gardening programmes feature many of the renowned and well-known gardens of the UK and Ireland. We do however love introducing our gardening enthusiast clients to the lesser known weird and wonderful gardens which make the British Isles such a special place”

Read more about our unusual and intriguing garden picks below.


Alnwick Castle Poison Garden

This famous Poison Garden brings together some of the world’s most deadly plants and the gruesome stories behind them. Kept behind black iron gates, it is a place where visitors are explicitly told not to stop and smell the flowers! The Poison Garden is home to 100 infamous killers. The duchess who set about collecting poisonous plants had only one steadfast requirement: the plants had to tell a good story.

“Most plants that kill are quite interesting,”


Cawdor Castle Gardens

Discover the three magnificent gardens at Cawdor, the historic Walled Garden, the untamed Wild Garden and the exceptional Flower Garden. Explore with the Head Gardener who will provide fascinating insights into the workings of the gardens. The gardens contain a number of commissioned contemporary sculptures which all have an interesting story and meaning behind them.  Especially of note is the Minotaur which stands proudly at the centre of the labyrinth in the walled gardens.


Chelsea Physic Garden

Chelsea Physic Garden is nestled behind high walls and positioned close to the River Thames; it is easy to understand why it has become known as ‘London’s Secret Garden’. Founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, the garden was intended as a teaching tool for the Society’s apprentices who were required to identify and understand the medicinal uses to plants. Today, the garden is organised schematically, and is more a horticultural reference library than a traditional garden.


Christchurch College Private Gardens Oxford

Experience the fascinating college gardens in one of England’s famous university cities, hear great stories of college life from the custodian and see the unusual sundial and the resting place of one of the city’s most famous literary residents Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll. Not open to the general public, this is a real treat for garden enthusiasts.


Highgrove Royal Gardens

The private gardens of their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are a very special visit. A keen gardener himself, His Royal Highness has devoted much energy to transforming the gardens around the house since his arrival in 1980 and it is now one of the most creatively inspired gardens of its time. With the house always visible in the distance, a series of interlinked areas, each with their own character and purpose, weave magically around the space.


Ilnacullin Garinish (Garnish island)

Take a boat from Bantry Bay to Garnish Island, known as the “Garden Island”. Explore the Italian Arts and Crafts garden on this beautiful 37-acre island, a result of the creative partnership of Annan Bryce and Harold Peto. See the charming Italian gardens, pool, miniature temple and towers – a delightful and peaceful place to reflect and wander.


Isle of Gigha

Three miles west of Kintyre visit the green and fertile Gogha, ‘God’s’ or ‘Good Island’. As well as breath-taking scenery and white sandy beaches it is the site of Achamore House and it’s impressive gardens, planted by Sir James Horlick. Flourishing in Gighas’ warm microclimate, the gardens host many notable and unusual plants and trees from around the world.


Outlander Garden Culross

This garden was designed by Claire Mackay, who advised Diana Gabaldon on all things herbal for her Outlander series of book. It is situated in the nearest thing to a 17th century village anywhere in Scotland. A model period garden has been recreated behind Culross Palace to show the range of plants available and includes vegetables, culinary and medicinal herbs, soft fruits and ornamental shrubs.

The Gardens of June and Jimi Blake.

Brother and sister Jimi and June Blake are both proud owners of highly acclaimed gardens, situated just minutes from one another in Co. Wicklow. 

Hunting Brook Gardens – Created by Jimi Blake, a fresh approach and new ideas have resulted in a captivating contemporary garden. Surrounding his modest timber home are the fiercely colourful and theatrical large-scale planting combinations for which Jimi is renowned.

June Blake’s Garden – June’s keen attention to detail and deep appreciation of colour and form is clear for all to see in her refreshingly modern country garden. Spread over three acres, and wrapping around June’s beautiful Victorian cottage, the gardens are a joy to behold, from the intricately planted borders to the flower meadow.


Discover our delightful Garden programmes below:


England’s Glorious Gardens


Great Gardens of Ireland



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