Tulips are bursting into bloom, so it’s time to get your walking boots on to admire the huge varieties, forms and array of colours in gardens.
Add to the feelgood factor by visiting one of the many tulip gardens which open across the country on selected dates for the National Garden Scheme (ngs.org.uk), which gives visitors unique access to 3,500 private gardens, raising money for nursing and health charities through entrance fees, tea and cake.
Here are 7 of the best…
1. Yeo Valley Organic Garden (yeovalley.co.uk), Holt Farm, Blagdon, Somerset
Feast your eyes on the red tulips at the Yeo Valley (yes, the yogurt-related one) organic garden at its six-and-a-half acre family farm, where last year staff planted 35,000 bulbs. Attractions include camassias in the meadow, imaginative sculptures and modern planting, as well as an impressive vegetable garden and a glasshouse.
Open for NGS on Sunday, April 28, 2-5pm.
2. Blackland House, Calne, Wiltshire
A series of walled gardens jam-packed with top notch plants and specialist displays of historic tulips has proved invaluable to the owner of the 18th century house and flower grower, Polly Nicholson. She’s opening her four-and-a-half acre garden adjacent to the River Marden. As well as seeing breathtaking clouds of blossom, visitors can also admire the contrasting tones of the pink and green tulip ‘Virichic’ and the deep, dark ‘Black Hero’, among others.
Open for NGS on Wednesday, May 1, 2-5pm. Visit ngs.org.uk/find-a-garden/garden/36158
3. Great Dixter House, Gardens & Nursery (greatdixter.co.uk), Northiam, East Sussex
Spring bulb displays are spectacular in the family home of the late, great gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd, who made the garden one of the most experimental and constantly changing gardens of our time. The garden is awash with tulips in bloom in April and May in a variety of situations. Some pop up between bedding including polyanthus, lupins and wallflowers, others make their mark in bold sweeps in the borders. More still are visible in pots around the front door.
If you miss the NGS opening on Friday, April 19, 2-5pm, you can still visit the house and gardens throughout the year.
4. Abbotsford (scottsabbotsford.com), Melrose, Roxburghshire, Scottish Borders
Famous for being the home of historical novelist Sir Walter Scott, who designed the garden with advice from artists, architects and friends, each year visitors are invited to its tulip festival (April 19-May 26).
More than 8,000 tulips have been planted to create the spectacular display in Abbotsford’s walled garden, featuring more than 20 varieties ranging from subtle pastel colours to a rainbow of rich tones. The garden at Abbotsford is distinct in character, with a layout that forms three outdoor ‘rooms’ designed to offer picturesque settings for the main house.
5. Ulting Wick (ultingwickgarden.co.uk), Maldon, Essex
Listed black barns provide an authentic backdrop to more than 5,000 tulips planted in this eight acre plot. The bulbs are renewed each year to ensure a great display and are planted six inches below soil level as late as possible in November and December, to avoid tulip fire – a fungal disease. Among the favourite varieties are ‘Ballerina’, a bright orange, the dramatic pink ‘Barcelona’ and ‘Queen of Night’, with deep burgundy flowers.
Open for NGS on Sunday, April 28, 11am-5pm, and Friday, May 3, 2-5pm. Also open to private groups by appointment.
6. Gorsty House, Powys
This once neglected two-and-a-quarter acre garden, an acre of which is wildflower meadow, has been renovated over the last five years and now features hundreds of bulbs, significant planting to attract wildlife and amazing views to Long Mynd.
Open for NGS on May 11 and 12, 1.30-5.30pm and by arrangement. Visit ngs.org.uk/find-a-garden/garden/33060
7. The Old Vicarage, Whixley, Yorkshire
Overlooking a deer park in Whixley Village, this beautiful walled flower garden features a wealth of tulips and hellebores, while further on in the season the structures and walls are covered with beautiful climbers. The style of a romantic English garden is created by old roses, which provide rich scent and colour, while gravel and old brick paths wend their way through mixed borders to out-of-the way seating areas.
Opens for the NGS on May 6, 1.30-5pm, and May 8, 1-5pm and by arrangement. Visit ngs.org.uk/find-a-garden/garden/14907.