Open Gardens in Essex

Open Gardens in Essex

Essex is a county in size of over 1,500 square miles, so it’s no surprise to find that it is packed full of areas of outstanding natural beauty which, luckily for us, are cared for by some of the best organisations and gardeners in the country. The variety of Open Gardens in Essex available to be viewed and enjoyed by the public is vast and varies from Elizabethan knot gardens to woodland and gravel gardens.

Within easy reach of Colchester, about 6 miles to the east near the town of Elmstead Market, is The Beth Chatto Gardens. These ecological gardens were created by famous author, garden designer and plants woman, Beth Chatto OBE. Beth was awarded this honour in 2002. The gardens were built on the site of her husbands disused fruit farm in the early 1960’s which bordered the family home.

The whole area was considered unsuitable for farming and left to grow wild into an overgrown wasteland covered with willow and brambles. Today the gardens comprise of around five acres of land separated into a variety of different planting sites including dry, sun baked gravel, water and marginal planting, woodland, shady, heavy clay and alpine areas. Beth Chatto OBE continues to work within the gardens and writes for national and international press.

Exhibits by The Beth Chatto Gardens can be seen at The Tendring Hundred Show in Essex. The gardens have won many gold medals for exhibits at the Chelsea Flower Show. All this expertise helps to make The Beth Chatto Gardens one of the most spectacular Open Gardens in Essex to visit.

Just a short journey south of Colchester, down the A12 and situated at Rettendon near Chelmsford, is Hyde Hall Garden. Owned by the United Kingdoms leading garden charity, The Royal Horticultural Society, Hyde Hall is around twenty acres in size and is a delightful hilltop garden with an extensive variety of flowering and ornamental trees, shrubs, and coloured-themed herbaceous borders.


A huge visitor attraction at Hyde Hall is the Farmhouse Garden with two ornamental ponds which contain a wide selection of water lilies, bog plants and fish. Formed in September 1982 is the National Collections of viburnums, this genus offers all year round interest, with flowers and scent from winter through to early summer, followed by bright berries from late summer through to winter, as well as colourful leaves in autumn.

Follow the A130 north from Rettendon and you will come to the historic market town of Great Dunmow. Situated here are the Gardens of Easton Lodge. The Gardens are one of the most important gardens by the Edwardian architect and garden designer, Harold Anisworth Peto, who was commissioned to redesign them in 1902.

The Gardens are noted for there Italian garden, glade, Peto Pavilion and courtyard with fountain. Also contained within the gardens are an extra ordinary collection of artworks from various contemporary artists from Essex, such as Anne Schwegmann-Fielding and Elaine Tribley.

At the very edge of the county of Essex, at its most northwestern point, bordering Cambridgeshire is the house and gardens of Audley End House. This is a garden not to be missed when visiting the county. The site is owned and restored by English Heritage and the house is one of the finest Jacobean examples in England.

In 1762 the then owner of Audley End House, Sir John Griffin, commissioned “England’s greatest gardener”, landscape architect, Capability Brown, to redesign and landscape the parkland surrounding the house. The gardens are a fine example of Brown’s English style; they contain a circular temple, mock-classical monuments and several ornate bridges which cross the River Cam that divides the grounds.

Walled within the grounds is a restored Victorian Kitchen Garden. This was restored in 1999 by the leading organic growing charity, Garden Organic, and is now a fine example of a kitchen garden full of a large selection of herbs, fruits, vegetables and flowers.

Throughout the rural county of Essex there are many smaller privately owned gardens that open their doors to the public, some on a regular basis and others for only a short amount of time, once or maybe twice a year.

Saling Hall Gardens, located between Great Dunmow and Braintree, is a 12 acre country garden most famous for its collection of rare trees. The Hall itself is not open to be viewed, but with six ponds, the Temple of Pisces and many other surprises, the garden itself is well worth the small entrance fee.

The small village estate garden, 60 Mill Lane, is open to the public from Tuesday 9th June until Sunday 12th July. It is situated at Cressing, approximately 15 miles west of Colchester and is a plantaholic’s paradise, very colourful with potted and hanging baskets.

A Quintessential English cottage garden, Newland Cottage, is a 1 acre garden designed and created by its owners. The garden contains a wealth of shrubs, trees and plants, a pond, vegetable patch, fruit trees and formal garden with rotunda. Newland Cottage is located at Wrabness near Manningtree and is part of the National Garden Scheme. The NGS is a registered charity which opens gardens of quality, character and interest to the public.

Please check the Events in Essex page for any Open Gardens in Essex holding special events or open days. The ‘related links’ section at the bottom this article will help you locate further information on the NGS and their open gardens.

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