Best flower gardens to visit in the Thames Valley

A bench in Hughenden's walled garden

There’s nothing like an English garden on a summer’s day. Small flowers tumble in tangled profusion in herbaceous borders, bright spikes thrust for attention in bedding displays and intrepid climbers splash walls with their colour.

Walking around a garden, drinking in the sight and scent of those full blooms hanging heavy in the languid air of a warm afternoon is an experience that shouldn’t be missed. The National Trust cares for some of the biggest and most beguiling gardens in the area.

Hughenden Manor’s parterre is a sight to behold in July. This year, the High Wycombe manor’s garden team have recreated Mary-Anne Disraeli’s display from 1958. Heliotropes, Nicotiana and Salvias have been planted as a striking blue backdrop for taller flaming orange Calendulas and Cosmos.

Also, don’t miss the head gardener’s favourite tree in July. The Crimean Lime flowers for just one week but has an incredible fragrance that reaches the terrace at the other end of the garden.

Greys Court’s garden near Henley-on-Thames was virtually derelict when Lady Brunner took it on in 1937. She transformed it into a series of peaceful, room-like walled gardens, each with its own planting scheme.

In August, there’s a profusion of kitchen garden produce which is used in the café and kitchens and the surplus is available for visitors. In the Rose Garden, the hydrangeas are coming into their own. The award-winning Rosalba and Preziosa open white then gradually age through pink to rich reddish purple. 

You can while away a whole day at Cliveden, near Maidenhead. The historic estate is 350 years old this year and its gardens are grade 1 listed.

The Rose Garden is based on former Cliveden resident, Lord Astor’s vision to draw visitors in and envelop them in colour and scent. A phasing of colour takes visitors on a journey from pale yellows in the east through bright oranges to deep velvety reds in the west.

The Long Garden is aptly named. Long, narrow box-edged beds are filled with flowers to create rich blocks of colour that stretch far into the distance. Flowering climbers creep along the boundary walls as a backdrop to the herbaceous borders.

The parterre is the showstopper, though. It was created in 1849 by Head Gardener John Fleming, a pioneer of ribbon and carpet bedding. To this day they’re full to bursting with bright colour from July through to September.