The 8 best places to see blossom this spring
Spring has sprung and it’s time to get outdoors! Read on for our guide on which local National Trust gardens to visit with friends and family to enjoy this season’s most spectacular blooms.
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
Have you looked outside lately? Nature’s been giving herself a glow-up after the cold winter months and Spring is shaping up nicely across Bucks & Oxon, thanks very much!
Most of us will be planning time outside with friends and family in the next month and with that in mind, the National Trust has just launched a nationwide #BlossomWatch campaign to celebrate the blossom and blooms of the new season, and to encourage us to enjoy them while they’re here. Happily this means your walks will be eminently instagrammable, so do your grid a favour and post your images on social using #BlossomWatch.
So how do you make the most the the National Trust’s gardens near you? Easy peasy! I’ve channelled my inner Charlie Dimmock (don’t worry, I’m wearing a bra) and rounded up where to catch the apple and cherry blossom, wisteria, bluebells and tulips across Bucks & Oxon, so you can have blooming lovely day out.
STOWE LANDSCAPE GARDENS, NR BUCKINGHAM
If you’re going to walk any National Trust gardens this spring, let it be this one! The iconic temples dotted the stunning, Capability Brown-designed Stowe Landscape Gardens (all 250 acres of them) create a stunning backdrop to the white and pink blossoms that flutter about the parkland in spring. Head to the statue of Queen Caroline for the most magnificent specimen of cherry blossom, or wander the orchard along Laurel Terrace to sport ancient apple trees in bloom.
Stowe also has magical pockets that are carpeted in daffs, gorgeous blue anemones, Turks head tulips, crocuses, and Snakes Head and Imperial fritillaries in the spring. The Grecian Valley is ideal for a family circular walk, with lots of benches along the way where the eagle eyed can spot cuckoo flowers, wood anenomes and orchids in April and May.
Head gardener’s tip: For something unusual, head to the coral root plants in Lamport Garden – these delicate lilac pink flowers are very rare in the wild and only found in the Chilterns and the Weald. We’re also hoping for a beautiful bluebell display in Bellgate Drive – we’ve planted 126,000 bulbs for this spring so fingers crossed.
GREYS COURT, HENLEY
Elizabethan estate Greys Court on the outskirts of Henley is an absolute gem, especially if you have kids in tow. The walled gardens are magical, linked by winding paths and edged with neatly clipped topiary and espalier fruit trees. The cherry garden is being restored this spring with a new accessible path and new cherry trees planted to create a tunnel of blossom trees for next spring.
The orchard’s miniature pear and apple trees blossom in late spring whilst the scented crab apple tunnel flowers, creating a sensory delight. Alongside these, the beds are stuffed full of daffodils and tulips popping up between the emerging perennials.
A big draw for Greys Court is its ‘wisteria room’, an intimate courtyard containing a vast gnarly wisteria that is over 100 years old, so famous it has its own hashtag #wisteriawatch on social media. Catch it flowering around May and prepare to be wowed.
Muddy’s tip: Make sure you see the bluebells in the Spinney Woods that surround the property – it’s an easy flat walk for kids and totally magical, my children still talk about it and we went pre-Covid! (Be careful to stick to the paths, though, so that eager feet don’t trample the flowers). Oh, and don’t forget you can encourage reluctant walkers with a reward of a hot chocolate at the Cowshed café.
HUGHENDEN MANOR, HIGH WYCOMBE
Hughenden, once home to former Prime Minister Disraeli, gets less media attention than its more blinging Buckinghamshire cousins Stowe and Waddesdon, but the gardens here are absolutely stunning with the trees are as much the show as the flowers. The Manna ash was one of Disraeli’s favourites and is at its best in May, bedecked with frothy bunches of creamy white blossom. Naturalised bulbs also pop up in the ground around the trees so watch where you step!
The horse chestnut trees are in flower in late spring, with spikes of white or pink flowers, and also make sure you amble around the orchard and walled garden – 50 varieties of old English apple and pear trees will be having their moment in April and May. In a sheltered corner against a sunny wall you’ll also find apricot, morello cherry, fig and a traditional English damson plum, the Aylesbury prune.
Head gardener’s tip: The woodlands of the Chilterns have the perfect growing conditions for bluebells and the German Forest Walk is the best way to see them, especially the swathes across Manor Wood. Our four colour-coded walks range from 1 to 4 miles (be warned.Hughenden’s codename during the war was Hillside for good reason!) but the higher you climb, the better the view. Look out for our vast ancient cherry trees while you’re wandering in the woods too.
WADDESDON MANOR, WADDESDON
The National Trust’s ‘jewel in the crown’ when it comes to spring colour, it all starts at Waddesdon when the first daffodils wave their yellow heads across the high banks to the right of the house and around the rose garden. Head towards the Aviary and you might catch the last of the snowdrops in March just before the tidal wave of yellows that is Daffodil Valley hits you. In a back-breaking planting session back in 2019, 350,000 spring bulbs were dug into the grounds, and it’s paid off!
In March the formal bedding in the Parterre by the house really looks its best with hyacinths and crocus in a white and blue pattern and on either side wallflowers. And later on in spring, it’s tulip time – all 30,000 of them! There’s the classic cup-shaped varieties but also smaller ‘species tulips’, which have several flowers on one stem.
Head down past the parterre to do roley polies with your kids on the steep slopes (or just watch them with a coffee – I won’t judge!), and admire the daffies and wild flowers in the woodland vista, below.
Muddy tip: Not all days out are dog friendly but Waddesdon has aced it – there’s a dog map showing where your four-legged friends can and cannot go – and for the all important post-walk treat, you can grab a coffee and muffin outside at the Stables courtyard, Manor Terrace or Manor Shop courtyard. The best walk in spring is, ironically, the Winter Garden Walk, which takes in Daffodil Valley but also Tay Bridge, where you can spot primroses and cowslips over the coming months.
ASCOTT HOUSE & GARDENS, WING
Ascott House & Gardens, a 17th century Rothschild estate near Wing in North Buckinghamshire, is one of the lesser-known NT properties but it’s worth a trip. The gardens are a mix of formal and blousy, traditional and modern, and have surprises around every turn, including some gorgeous sculptures that entranced my children I took them here a few years back.
In spring, the Dutch Garden is the place to head for the classic formal bedding and, as you’d expect, tulip displays. Romantics should check out the Monet-esque Lily Pond Garden, where you can spot tadpoles at this time of year, and the yews near the Sunken Garden, which have been clipped to spell the phrase: ‘Light and shade by turn, but love always’, with a heart at each end.
Blossom trees are enclosed by the clean edges of the striking water feature in the Lynn Garden, designed by renowned landscape gardeners Jacques and Peter Wirtz, meanwhile beyond there’s naturalised daffodils and fritillaria growing in amongst the oaks, cedars and large horse chestnuts. This map show the extent of the grounds, which open again to the public on 22 March (book ahead to visit).
Head gardener’s tip: We recently found some pretty hand-painted postcard style watercolours of Ascott in Spring, dating back to Leopold de Rothschild in the 1880s. While quite a bit has changed in the gardens since then you can still see this kind of planting around the western side of the gardens.
WEST WYCOMBE PARK
When the park reopens on 3 April the later-flowering daffs will still be holding their own, especially around the lake and at the foot of the Music Temple (above). The joy of West Wycombe is its simplicity and scale – it’s one of the finest surviving 18th-century landscape gardens, created by Capability Brown. Paths lead you from one eccentric ornamental building to another, which in spring are framed by trees in glorious blossom.
The family home of the Dashwoods (the park is overlooked by the family’s mausoleum) this is a place to find a quiet corner across its 45 acres and enjoy the sights and sounds of an English spring day.
Head gardener’s tip: If it’s a picnic kind of day, head up West Wycombe Hill. It’s worth the steep climb for the epic views of the park. At this time of year, the hedgerows are covered in white blackthorn blossom, a vital source of food for early bees and butterflies, and the flora of this rare chalk grassland will begin to emerge like early forget-me-not and tiny white saxifrage.
There’s nothing prettier than Cliveden during the blooming gorgeous months of spring and summer. The carpets of daffodils are everywhere, but they look particularly lush around the Blenheim Pavilion at the end of the Long Garden.
Away from the formality of the Cliveden House is the mid-19th century ornamental Round Garden orchard – a series of arches, forming tunnels off blossom in spring. The white blossom of the pears comes out first in March, followed by the apples, with white flowers and pink centres. The woods are also a wonderland of cowslips, snowy wood anemones and dog violets. I love the perfection of the gardens, but it’s the unbuttoned wilder parts that deliver the magic here.
No visit to Cliveden is complete without seeing the show-stopping six acre south parterre. Do it for the gardening team who have planted 30,000 spring bedding plants and bulbs of pansies, wallflowers and heirloom daffodils. It’s a tradition in our house to roll down the slope of the parterre, so give it a go (it’ll take years off you).
Head gardener’s tip: It’s hard to match the glamour of Cliveden House, but we try. The oriental inspired Water Garden comes alive in the spring with clouds of dusky pink blossom and creamy-white magnolias. This year we’ve planted 2,000 pale blue Camassia to make this garden even more gorgeous. With a bit of luck they should bloom in May.
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