Gardens in Wiltshire are often within the grounds of historic houses and though these houses may too be open to the public it is not always the case.
Broadleas Garden, just outside Devizes, and Heale House in the rural Avon Valley just to the west of the city of Salisbury are private homes but the gardens are open to the public. Similarly, Abbey House Gardens, the 5 acre garden in Malmesbury North Wilts but the privately owned historic Corsham Court opens both the house and garden to the public.
Although of course the most popular times for viewing gardens is through late spring and summer there may be particular themes at other times. For example the stunning display of Spring snowdrops through the Snowdrop Walk of Heale House Gardens near Salisbury in the south of the county. Then, a little later and not to be missed is the April display of over 2000 tulips of every imaginable hue at Abbey House Gardens, Malmesbury in the north of the county. For six weeks the Bowood House rhododendrons are in flower and a separate woodland walk, over two miles in total, is open to visitors.
Many of the larger gardens offer refreshment facilities and are accessible for wheelchair users but access may be restricted where steeper gradients occur. It is well to check this before setting out. Dogs are usually (but not always) discouraged for obvious reasons unless they are guide dogs. Extensive off-road parking facilities are available at the larger gardens, particularly in rural areas and discounted admission charges for students, pensioners and coach parties often available.
The National Trust has many gardens open to the public and these usually include access to the historic buildings. These vary from the large and impressive Stourhead House and Gardens with its magnificent lake and Capability Brown garden landscape in the west of Wiltshire to smaller properties like Mompesson House in the heart of Salisbury City, located in the Cathedral Close. Mompesson makes an interesting visit as not only can you visit the walled garden surrounding the house but you can also view the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral with its spectacular spire from the front entrance.
Along with the large and more well-known gardens open to the public there are gardens (mostly privately owned) that open their gates to the public on selected days of the year to raise money for charity. These may be locally or nationally organised as is the case of the National Gardens Scheme, which over the last 10 years has raised £22 million for nursing, gardening and caring charities. There are around 3,500 gardens nationwide in the National Gardens Scheme and you can find those for Wiltshire from the famous and informative Yellow Book. This excellent publication is available annually in February and can be purchased from all major booksellers or through the website of the NGS at www.ngs.org.uk at the price of £7.99 (2008). In 2008 there were 65 gardens listed for Wiltshire. In addition to the dates given some of these gardens are also open to the public by appointment and prior arrangement. The NGS Yellow Book also lists these. You can usually find a garden within easy reach of wherever you may be staying in Wiltshire that is open to visitors for a few days. One of the lovely aspects of this scheme is that you are likely to meet the owners of the gardens who are often only too happy to ‘talk gardens’ with like minded folk. At a modest charge it is a most relaxed and informal way of seeing a large variety of gardens you would never normally have the opportunity to visit.
Although not within the county of Wiltshire visitors may find a singular and most interesting garden just across the border in Gloucestershire, a few miles north of Malmesbury in the north of the county on the edge of the Cotswold National Park. This is the National Arboretum of Westonbirt. This tree garden is one of the most spectacular and remarkable tree gardens in the world with a collection of over 3000 different tree and shrub species, many of which are now threatened in their native countries. Covering 600 acres in all this gem will provide the visitor with an absorbing and interesting day out. There are workshops, events and exhibitions held at various times throughout the year many, of which are organised around the family, details of which can be found at the website www.forestry.gov.uk website.
Most Wiltshire towns and many villages have public parks with gardens. Trowbridge has the largest urban park in Wiltshire established in 1886 as the Peoples Park which is the location for many major musical and community events, the most well-known being the bi-annual West Wilts Show. Of particular interest is the Trowbridge Community Sensory Garden behind the Town Hall which was created as a permanent Millenium Memorial. This award winning garden, created and staffed by volunteers, forms a tranquil oasis in the middle of the busy town. The Sensory Garden is open from 9.00 a.m to 4 p.m. The village of Downton, just south of Salisbury City, has an interesting Moot Garden which was originally created within the 12th century earthenwork castle in the early 18th century. Now owned and maintained by a charity it is open to the public free of charge and is a delightful place to visit.
One of the most interesting and unique gardens in Wiltshire is the display of wildflowers to be seen at the Flower Farm in the village of Shalbourne. This pretty Wiltshire village lies at the Wiltshire border with Hampshire a couple of miles southeast of Great Bedwyn and the Kennet Avon Canal and not far from Marlborough, an area full of interesting and historic places.
Flower Farms was founded by Charles Flower to grow and supply wild flower seed and plants from Carvers Hill Farm. Workshops were first introduced in 1993 to give step by step guidance on wild flower meadow creation and habitat restoration. Today these popular courses have been expanded to meet the demands of farmers, landowners and managers and gardeners. The Show Garden and Visitor Centre has a collection of more than 150 native wild flowers and is open daily from May to August. Gardens in Wiltshire