It’s Open Gardens season and a magical moment to discover some of Norfolk’s gorgeous green spaces in all their glory. Nature has a wonderful way of creating beauty all by itself, from Walsingham Abbey’s spring display of snowdrops to the Blickling Estate’s beautiful bluebell woods, catch the right moment and you are in for a sensory treat.
Yet there’s something special about visiting a superbly designed garden where you can reconnect with nature and enjoy a fantastic vista, all without having to lift so much as a trowel. June is the peak month for catching blooms in their prime, so book a stay at Heacham Manor and enjoy a North Norfolk break to see some of the county's best gardens
There are a number of local open garden events taking place this month. The Old Hunstanton Open Gardens takes place on 10-11 June with 14 gardens, from formal to cottage style, to tour along with a scarecrow trail, stalls and refreshments at the village church.
Come the following weekend and enjoy a Norfolk afternoon tea and Pimm’s at the Stanhoe Gardens Open Day where eight gardens will be open on 17 June, and next day at Ringstead when villagers will open their gates to 14 gardens on 18 June, alongside a Flower Festival at the local church.
Even if your stay at Heacham Manor doesn’t coincide with an organised open garden event, there are still plenty of places to see some heavenly horticulture. Norfolk has no shortage of stately homes where the formal gardens have been expertly designed and cultivated for centuries.
Dating back to the late 1700s, Holkham’s walled garden has been restored in recent years and, beyond its grand Venetian gates, you will discover ornamental, exotic, cutting and kitchen gardens, along with a vineyard which last year yielded its first commercially bottled wine. Renovation of the garden’s vast glasshouses and Samuel Wyatt Vinery has seen these beautiful structures brought back to life, and a tour of the Walled Garden, which includes access to the estate’s Holkham Stories Experience, is well worth a visit.
On a slightly smaller, yet no less impressive scale, Houghton Hall’s walled garden blends ornamental and working gardens, a rustic temple, antique statues and – in keeping with the estate’s reputation for showcasing modern art – a number of contemporary sculptures. In June, the wisteria covered pergola is typically in full bloom and the laburnum garden, cherry walk and rose garden are exquisite.
Just ten minutes’ drive from Heacham Manor Hotel, Sandringham is a 20,000-acre country estate and the royal’s rural home. Once described as ‘The most comfortable house in England,’ the gardens are as impressive as the much-loved Jacobean residence.
Covering more than 60 acres, the gardens are famed for their spring rhododendrons and magnolias, which were introduced by Queen Elizabeth II, but take time to enjoy the beautiful cottage gardens that were established under King George VI and are a haven for butterflies and bees. Each monarch has added their own touch to the gardens and, with King Charles III’s passion for organic gardening, we can surely anticipate even greater majestic magic in the flower beds.
Best known as one of North Norfolk’s favourite family attractions, Pensthorpe Natural Park near Fakenham, just 30 minutes’ drive from Heacham Manor, is a wildlife nature reserve set over 700-acres, yet the site is also home to a series of lesser-known, fabulous gardens.
The most recent of these, the Corten Infinity Garden, has been designed around a vast curve of steel which is softened by a rich planting of exotics and native species. With other gardens designed by Chelsea gold medalist Julie Toll and Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf, this creative cluster of green spaces are often surprising, but always inspiring. Chief among these is the Wildlife Habitat Garden, located by the water, which is a haven for bees, dragonflies, and amphibians – discover a few ideas to turn your own patch of green into a luxury hotel for native species!
They say there’s a story behind every great garden and it’s certainly true of East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens. In 1973, Alan Gray and Graham Robeson bought the property as a second home, travelling from London each Friday evening to enjoy their weekends in Norfolk. While the garden originally consisted of 3ft high grass, the couple began to tend the two acres, acquiring further land in 1989 and reinstating hedges, banks and ponds which had been lost over the years.
Over the ensuing 50 years, 32 acres have been transformed into an exotic, modern garden designed into a series of rooms featuring woodland, Mediterranean and Dutch influences. Open from March to October, June is a superb month to visit, before the crowds and heat of summer to experience a truly amazing green space.