Kent may be known as the garden of England, but neighbouring counties Sussex and Surrey make a great case for the label to be applied to the entirety of south east England. With perfectly mown lawns, colourful flower displays and rare, preserved plant species, each of these gardens perfectly captures the best of English horticulture.
Despite its relatively small size, Arundel packs a lot of must-visit attractions, including a cathedral and a nature reserve, but Arundel Castle and Gardens should be your first priority. Housed next to Arundel Cathedral, the gardens feature several distinctive sections, including a vinery and a walled kitchen garden.
Handily located just off the A23 (one of the main routes from London to Brighton), Nymans is an expansive National Trust garden, featuring a variety of exotic flowers from around the world. There’s also a section of woodland on the property, which is ideal for spring and autumnal walks.
One of the more unique offerings in south east England (or any part of the country, for that matter), the Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden has been exhibiting contemporary sculpture for over 35 years. Set in a beautiful section of woodland, the garden combines bright, colourful flowers, shrubbery and trees with intriguing artworks from over 50 artists.
Since the early 1900s, the grounds of Hever Castle (known as the childhood home of Henry VIII’s second wife Anne Boleyn) have housed a constantly expanding set of attractions, including two mazes and a variety of picturesque gardens. Venture into the Italian Garden for a series of plants and sculptures inspired by Italian culture, or celebrate the quintessential English rose in the Rose Garden.
Located on the border of Kent and East Sussex, Pashley Manor Gardens is home to classic Romantic era English landscapes, complete with sculptures, fountains and ponds. Opened to the public in 1992, the rose gardens and woodland paths of Pashley Manor are constantly being refreshed, ensuring visitors can enjoy spectacular displays every year.
Wakehurst offers over 500 acres of gardens and woodland, making it one of the largest botanic gardens in the UK. Operated by Kew, Wakehurst’s collection is constantly being updated, and important preservation work is being undertaken at the site’s Millennium Seed Bank too. Go for a ramble in the country and learn more about the local flora too!
Beautiful from early spring, when the first colours appear, until autumn, when the trees turn red and golden, Sheffield Park and Garden houses acres of landscape gardens and historic woodland. From various points, you can enjoy spectacular views across the countryside, although with the immense range of colourful plants and trees in the garden, great views can be found just about anywhere.
Recognised as a National Collection due to its wide variety of rare trees and plants, Highdown Gardens is something of a hidden gem in Sussex. Celebrate one of southern England’s most iconic features in the Chalk Pit Garden (uniquely walled by a chalk cliff) or venture through the Beech Wood to discover stunning bluebells hidden amongst the tall trees.
Set around an Elizabethan mansion, Borde Hill Garden will delight visitors with its series of ‘living garden rooms’. From the Italian Garden to the exotic Round Dell (featuring banana and palm trees), there’s something for everyone at Borde Hill, and it’s all maintained to a high standard throughout the year.
With 27 acres of woodland, water gardens and exotic flowers, High Beeches is bright and lively all year round. This is an ideal spot for a relaxing walk, giving you the opportunity to spot bluebells in their natural environment, along with many other types of flowers from across the globe.