Enjoy Being A Friend

We’re fortunate to benefit from so many beautiful, important, and historic gardens being open for us to enjoy in Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex.  We can be inspired by spectacular plant collections, see rare and exotic plants, enjoy beautiful landscapes and learn more about how amazing plants are, without travelling very far at all!

One of the ways in which you can support your favourite garden is to become a member or friend; this is such a lovely and special thing to do.  You can enjoy unlimited visits during opening times and save money, if you visit regularly, plus enjoy a host of other exclusive member only benefits.  We are lucky to have so many glorious gardens open to us; it’s important to support these gardens and charitable organisations, to ensure we protect these beautiful spaces of historical and horticultural importance, their plant collections, horticultural knowledge, and training opportunities, for future generations.

Giving the gift of Garden membership is a fantastic thing to be able to do, and makes for a very special and thoughtful present.  It’s wonderful to feel a part of your favourite garden, and know that you can visit and enjoy the gardens as often as you like, this is such a special gift to pass on to a loved one.

Visit Arundel Castle in West Sussex, during April and May to see one of the most impressive tulip displays in the country in the Castle Gardens, where over 15,000 tulips have been planted to delight visitors with their colour and opulence.  The spectacle continues in May and June, as 14 different varieties of tall flowered Alliums, will be flowering throughout the walled gardens.  With a Cut Flower Garden, a Stumpery, the White Garden, an Organic Kitchen Garden, Glasshouse, Rose Garden and the garden’s English herbaceous borders, which are planted in a natural, relaxed style; there’s lots for visitors to enjoy at Arundel Castle Gardens.  For details on purchasing a season ticket for the Garden and Grounds at Arundel Castle, please click here.
Information for disabled visitors can be found here.

Borde Hill Garden in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, has been planted with passion by four generations of the Stephenson Clarke family.  The garden nestles in 200 acres of English Heritage listed Parkland and Woodland, it’s home to over 70 Champion Trees, which have the largest girth or are the tallest of their species in Britain, as well as many rare and unusual plants.  For all the details of how to become a friend of Borde Hill Garden, please click here.
Information for disabled visitors can be found here.

Gilbert White’s House and Garden in Selborne, Hampshire, has been lovingly tended over the past 35 years by Head Gardener David Standing and his team of volunteer gardeners, who are affectionately know as The Wakes Weeders.  David undertook the ambitious project of re-creating Gilbert White’s Garden to its original design, studying diaries, correspondence, journals, and household accounts to establish the original garden’s layout.  Guests paying the full admission fee to Gilbert White’s House and Garden, receive free entry, during opening times (excluding special event days) for a whole year, for more details, please click here.
For information for disabled visitors, please click here.

Furzey Gardens, in Minstead, Lyndhurst, Hampshire, was first planted in 1922; it’s an informal, woodland garden that enjoys views over to the Isle of Wight, and features rare and exotic trees and shrubs from around the world.  Old, and now very rare, pre-hybridisation varieties of Rhododendron and Azalea can be found at Furzey, where they produce a colourful display each springtime.  This is a wonderful garden for children to visit, there are over 30 beautifully carved fairy doors hidden in the bases of some of the trees, as well as amazing tree houses, look out towers, and a boat on dry land for the younger visitors to play on, and much more besides!  I think this already sounds the perfect place for children to visit, but it’s lovely to know that there are plans to build on and expand the children’s areas in the future.

Furzey Gardens Charitable Trust, and its sister charity, The Minstead Training Trust, work together to provide residential care and horticultural training to adults with learning disabilities, enabling their students with horticultural training as well as life skills.  In 2012 a learning disability team from The Minstead Training Trust, together with their patron, Chris Beardshaw, created a Gold Medal winning show garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. This fantastic achievement was made all the more special, as it was the first time a learning disability team had been involved in a show garden at Chelsea.  This wonderful show garden, together with its intricate, hand-made features, has been re-created at Furzey Gardens, where it’s an important and permanent feature of the gardens and is open to visitors.

Furzey Gardens offer an Annual Membership, with options for families or individuals, for all the details, please click here.  As a registered charity, Furzey relies heavily on fundraising and donations to continue, if you would like to support Furzey gardens and make a donation, please click here.

Furzey is a woodland garden, the ground is uneven.  There is an easier route around the garden for disabled visitors and Furzey also have an electric wheelchair which can be reserved and used free of charge.  There’s a disabled toilet in the main coffee shop which is open from March to October.

Hampton Court Palace Gardens
Hampton Court Palace Gardens

Hampton Court Palace Gardens need no introduction, extending to 60 acres of gardens, with an additional 750 acres of parkland beyond, this is a truly wonderful and historic place.  Visit the Great Vine, planted in 1768 by Capability Brown, get lost in the maze which covers a third of an acre, spot the deer in Home Park, enjoy the delightful fragrance and flowers of the Rose Garden, or relax in the Contemporary Garden; there’s so much to take in and enjoy at Hampton Court Palace Gardens!
For accessibility information for disabled visitors to Hampton Court Palace, please click here.

Membership of the Historic Royal Palaces covers entry into the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle.  Members also enjoy free admission to palace exhibitions, a subscription to Inside Story, the members’ magazine, and other benefits at each of the palaces.  For all the details of the Membership of Historic Royal Palaces, please click here.

Hampton Court Palace Gardens
Hampton Court Palace Gardens

The Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, are set in 180 acres; the garden boasts the longest double border in the UK, at 250 meters long, it’s a deservedly popular feature of the gardens.  The 2011 Tree Register Handbook lists the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens as having the highest number of Champion Trees (Champion Trees are trees that are the tallest or have the widest girth of their species) in the British Isles.  This is a lovely garden to visit at any time of year, there are many different garden areas and plant collections to enjoy.

Members of the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens enjoy unlimited entry during opening hours to the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, Wakehurst Place in West Sussex, the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Batsford Arboretum in Gloucestershire and Birmingham Botanic Garden, as well as other benefits. For all the details of how to become a member of the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, and the benefits members receive, please click here.
For information on access for disabled visitors, please click here.

Kew Gardens is a wonderful garden to visit at any time of year
Kew Gardens, a wonderful garden to visit at any time of year

The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in Richmond, Surrey, is an inspiring garden to visit at any time of year.  Examples of one in eight of all the world’s flowering plants can be found either at Kew or Wakehurst Place, Kew’s country estate in West Sussex; together they have an unrivalled plant collection of 40,000 plants over 800 acres of grounds.  As well as being a popular visitor destination, Kew’s incredible plant collection is an invaluable reference source for all aspects of horticultural science, study and research.

An ancient sweet chestnut tree at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
An ancient sweet chestnut tree at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew

There’s so much to see at Kew, as well as many rare plants and ancient trees, there’s the Kew on a Plate Kitchen Garden, Henry Moore sculpture, the carnivorous plants and orchids in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, Kew Palace and the Royal Kitchens, the Treetop Walkway, where you can enjoy spectacular views above the treetops and gardens, and of course Kew’s iconic glasshouses and buildings; repeat visits are a must!  It’s impossible to see everything in a day.  Kew and Wakehurst are open every day of the year, except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The Princess of Wales Conservatory at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a fabulous place to visit. Inside this modern, energy efficient glasshouse, ten different climatic zones are recreated, so visitors can see plants from Asia, America and other countries.
The Princess of Wales Conservatory at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a fabulous place to visit. Inside this modern, energy efficient glasshouse, ten different climatic zones are recreated, so visitors can see plants from Asia, America and other countries.

If you’re in a wheelchair, due to the garden’s typography, Kew is an ideal garden to visit, the main visiting areas are fairly flat, and the paths around these areas have been designed to be both wide and smooth, purposely allowing easier access for disabled visitors.  Disabled visitors can easily enjoy a walk around the gardens alongside their friends, rather than having to be in front or behind, which is lovely!
Here’s a link to Kew’s guide for disabled visitors.

During the spring, summer and autumn, inside The Waterlily House at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, you'll find the Santa Cruz waterlily, also known by its botanical name of Victoria cruziana. You can see the beautiful pink flowers of Ipomoea mauritiana on the right hand side of this photograph, and in the hanging baskets, Nepanthes is flourishing.
During the spring, summer and autumn, inside The Waterlily House at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, you’ll find the Santa Cruz waterlily, also known by its botanical name of Victoria cruziana. You can see the beautiful pink flowers of Ipomoea mauritiana on the right hand side of this photograph, and in the hanging baskets, Nepanthes is flourishing.

Kew Gardens offer a special Friends membership scheme.  Friends enjoy unlimited entry to the gardens during opening times with a family guest, free entry to Wakehurst Place in West Sussex with a family guest, free entry to selected Partner Gardens, discounts in the gift shop and on courses.  Members also receive the Kew Magazine and enjoy other benefits, for all the details of Friends membership of Kew Gardens, please click here.

The Palm House at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
The Palm House at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
The lovingly tended Vegetable Garden at Loseley Park in September
The lovingly tended Organic Vegetable Garden at Loseley Park in September

The beautiful gardens at Loseley Park in Guildford have a lovely, warm, friendly feel; this is a beautiful place to visit, ideal for a relaxing and inspiring day out.  The typography of the gardens at Loseley is very flat, it’s a good place for disabled visitors, the paths are constructed of a hard surface with a very shallow layer of fine gravel over the top.

Loseley’s beautiful Rose Garden boasts over one thousand old English roses, framed by low, clipped box hedging.  In mid-June to early July the roses at Loseley are at their peak, visitors travel far and wide to enjoy the incredible fragrance of the old roses and take in the gardens.

The Kitchen Garden houses Loseley’s collection of Garden Organic Heritage Seed Library Plants; here gardeners can be inspired by Head Gardener Burney’s clever examples of companion planting, designed to reduce pests, as well as enhance the appearance of the garden.

Be inspired by the sights and scents of over 200 culinary, medicinal, household and decorative herbs in Loseley’s Herb Garden and take home one of Loseley’s herb booklets, produced to share the specialist knowledge of herbs at Loseley with their visitors.  Relax on a seat by the water feature in the White Garden, with its serene planting in shades of white, cream and silver.  In contrast, the bold planting in the colourful Flower Garden is vibrant, making this garden bright and cheery, even on the dullest of days, but the Flower Garden positively sings in the sunshine.

Colourful borders at Loseley Park
The colourful borders at Loseley Park bring cheer to even the dullest day

Loseley Park offer a special Friend Membership scheme.  Friends of Loseley enjoy free entry, with a guest of their choice, to the beautiful gardens at Loseley throughout the open season; friends also receive free entry to the Spring Garden Show at Loseley Park, they are invited to two exclusive Friends drinks evenings, as well as enjoying discounts in the shop, tea room and restaurant at Loseley, and other benefits.  You can find all the details of how to become a friend of Loseley, here.

The Alice in Wonderland Topiary Garden at West Green House Gardens
The Alice in Wonderland Topiary Garden at West Green House Gardens in Hampshire

The National Trust look after and protect some of the most important natural spaces in the country.  Historic houses, gardens, forests, farmlands, mills, fens, moorland, islands, villages, pubs, beaches and coastlines are all protected by this wonderful conservation charity.  National Trust members enjoy free unlimited entry to more than 300 historic houses, gardens, areas of countryside and coastlines across the country, plus a members’ magazine.  With West Green House Garden, Hinton Ampner and Mottisfont in Hampshire, Claremont Landscape Garden, Winkworth ArboretumHindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punch Bowl in Surrey and Nymans, Petworth House and Park and Woolbeding Gardens in West Sussex, to name but a few, there’s so many reasons to become a member of the National Trust.  Different membership options are available, for all the details, please click here.

Bluebells at Winkworth Arboretum in Godalming
Bluebells at Winkworth Arboretum in Godalming, Surrey

Painshill Landscape Garden in Cobham, Surrey, has been awarded full collection status for the John Bartram Heritage Collection of North American trees and shrubs by Plant Heritage (NCCPG).  You can find out more about the collection in the Walled Garden at Painshill.  Don’t forget to visit the newly restored crystal grotto, where you can marvel at the crystal covered stalactites; this special area is only open when stewards are present, usually between 1pm and 3pm at weekends – it’s worth checking before you visit.  Created in the naturalistic style between 1738 and 1773, Painshill’s 18th Century landscape garden is Grade 1 listed; it was designed by the Honourable Charles Hamilton, who had been inspired by Renaissance and contemporary art on his visits to Italy as part of the Grand Tour.  Using follies, shrubberies, a vineyard and water features, the Hon. Charles Hamilton created a romantic and tranquil setting, that visitors can still enjoy today.
Information for disabled visitors to Painshill Landscape Garden can be found here.

Painshill Landscape Garden offer various different types of membership.  All members enjoy visiting the gardens at Painshill as often as they like during opening times; members also enjoy a discount in the shop and tearoom as well as other benefits.  You can find all the details of the membership scheme at Painshill Landscape Garden, here.

Daffodils at Painshill Landscape Garden in Cobham.
Daffodils at Painshill Landscape Garden in Cobham.

Parham House and Gardens in Pulborough, West Sussex has an organic Walled Garden that originates from the 18th century; featuring vibrant colours, the mixed and herbaceous borders have a romantic feel.  Every week armfuls of flowers are picked from the gardens to be displayed and arranged in the house for visitors to enjoy.  Visit the Pleasure Gardens with their lake and specimen trees and don’t miss Veronica’s Maze, the swirling design of which was inspired by the 16th century embroidery displayed at Parham House. For details of purchasing a season ticket for Parham House and Gardens, please click here.
Information for disabled visitors can be found here.

Ramster Hall in Chiddingfold, Surrey, is a peaceful garden set in 20 acres of woodland.  In May the bluebells are truly stunning; this is a colourful garden, filled with interest.  There are rare and unusual trees and shrubs, as well as mature plantings of rhododenrons and azaleas and ancient magnolias and camellias, underplanted with daffodils and primrose. There’s a pretty woodland walk, where you might spot some wildlife by the lake and a bog garden. Wild orchids, meadow grasses and wild flowers flourish in this serene and peaceful garden. Ramster offer season tickets for individuals or couples, with children under 16 visiting the gardens free of charge.  For all the details, please click here.

St Mary’s House and Gardens in Bramber, West Sussex, has a Victorian Secret Garden. The pretty gardens extend to 5 acres and feature roses, a pond, a viewing point and amusing animal topiary.  Members and Friends of the Historic Houses Association (HHA) enjoy free entry during opening times, for all the details of HHA membership, please click here.

The Savill Garden, near Englefield Green, Windsor, as pictured in December.
The Savill Garden, near Englefield Green, Windsor, as pictured in December.

The Savill Garden near Englefield Green, Windsor, is described as Britain’s finest ornamental garden; with 35 acres of interconnecting gardens and exotic woodland, there’s much for visitors to enjoy.  In the 1930’s Sir Eric Savill created the woodland garden, since then other garden designers have added to the garden, the Rose Garden, was designed by Andrew Wilson and opened by H. M. the Queen in 2010.

Visitors can explore the Hidden Gardens, The Summer Gardens, The New Zealand Garden, The Spring Wood, The Summer Wood, The Autumn Wood, The Glades, and the Azalea Walks.  The National Collection of all the Betula utilis varieties are grown across the Royal Landscape of the Savill and Valley Gardens.  With meandering streams and ponds, trees and shrubs planted to provide interest all year round, visitors can make the most of this, as The Savill Garden is open every day of the year, except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
For information for disabled visitors, please click here.

The Savill Garden offers members unlimited access to the gardens accompanied by a guest and up to 2 children, free parking and other benefits.  For all the details of the Membership Scheme at The Savill Garden, please click here.  

Staunton Country Park in Havant, Hampshire, has a lot to offer its visitors, there’s the Golden Jubilee Maze, an accessible Sensory Garden, The Walled Garden where vegetables, fruit and herbs are grown, and not forgetting The Victorian Glasshouse where exotic plants, including the giant Amazon water lily, with its gigantic leaves that grow to up to 3m in diameter will delight visitors during the summer months.  There’s also a farm, where visitors can feed the animals, a children’s play barn, where children can play, whatever the weather, acres of ancient woodland to explore in the park and kids trails for Staunton’s younger visitors.
Information for disabled visitors can be found by clicking here.

Staunton Country Park offer a variety of different membership options, members enjoy unlimited visits during opening times, free parking, discounts in the shop and other benefits.  For all the details, please click here.  

West Dean Gardens, Chichester in West Sussex has a truly inspiring and beautiful vegetable garden
West Dean Gardens, Chichester in West Sussex has a truly inspiring, beautifully kept Walled Kitchen Garden

Visitors to West Dean Gardens in Chichester, West Sussex, have 90 acres of gardens and arboretum to explore!  The Edwardian pergola, designed by Howard Peto, is beautifully and intrinsically wrapped in Wisteria, roses and clematis; extending out to 300 feet long, the pergola and its surrounding sunken garden is an absolute joy to behold.

I love the Walled Kitchen Gardens at West Dean; each year I am delighted by the beautifully grown vegetables, grown in the neatest of rows, enchanted by the pear tunnel arching over the pathway and thrilled by the array of vegetables, grown to sheer perfection in this garden.

Specimen trees can be enjoyed throughout the gardens and arboretum; West Dean hold large collections of Liriodendron (Tulip Tree) and Aesculus (Horse Chestnut Tree).

West Dean is a truly inspiring garden to visit, you can’t help but be enthused by the beautifully grown plants, lovingly trained fruit trees and the attention to detail throughout the gardens, from the Victorian footplates used to keep soil off the paths, to the carefully restored and beautifully maintained glasshouses.  Sarah Wain and Jim Buckland have worked their socks off at West Dean, to restore the gardens and glasshouses and create an inspiring and uplifting, beautiful place that’s open to all.  This is a garden with a large heart, it’s a truly wonderful place to visit.

The wonderful Fig House at West Dean Gardens in 2010

Some of the glasshouses at West Dean are in need of urgent repairs, these beautiful Victorian structures have been lovingly looked after and carefully maintained by the staff at West Dean for many years, but being so old, many of the timbers are now rotten and urgently need replacing.  The glasshouses at West Dean are an integral part of the gardens, so many gardeners and visitors have been inspired by these inspirational structures and the interesting and varied plants grown so beautifully within them.  The fig tree growing in the Fig House at West Dean is thought to be about 120 years old, it’s a rather charming, knobbly old fellow, which is beautifully looked after and has delighted West Dean’s visitors for many years.

I hope that West Dean receive the funds they need to restore these beautiful glasshouses, so future gardeners can be inspired by this old, traditional Fig House and the other glasshouses at West Dean and learn more of the wonderful tradition of gardening, and see the many and varied growing techniques demonstrated so beautifully in the West Dean Glasshouses.  To donate to West Dean’s Urgent Glasshouse Appeal, please click here. If you’d like to watch a video of West Dean’s Garden Supervisor, Sarah Wain in the Fig House at West Dean, please click here.

The Edwardian Pergola and Sunken Garden at West Dean Gardens
The Edwardian Pergola and Sunken Garden at West Dean Gardens

West Dean Gardens offer different memberships for families, individuals, or couples, as part of their Friends Membership.  Friends enjoy free entry to the gardens during opening times, free express entry for some of the events at West Dean Gardens, as well as invitations to special friends only events, where you can see what happens behind the scenes at West Dean.  For all the details of how to become a friend of West Dean Gardens, please click here.
For information on disabled access to West Dean Gardens, please click here.

The Hippeastrum Trial at RHS Garden Wisley February 2015
The Hippeastrum Trial at RHS Garden Wisley February 2015

The Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden Wisley is open every day of the year, except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, visitors can make the most of this, as there’s interesting plants flowering throughout the year at Wisley Gardens.  The glasshouse at Wisley covers an area equal in size to 10 tennis courts, it’s 12 meters tall and features three climatic zones.  Visitors can experience plants that are difficult to grow, rare and endangered, as well as hundreds of orchid species, and other tender plants growing in tropical, moist temperate, and dry temperate conditions, designed to replicate the plants’ natural habitats.

Outside, Wisley’s iconic mixed borders, stretching out 128 meters into the gardens are a wonderful sight.  There’s always something to enjoy at Wisley, in winter take time to explore the newly created Winter Walk, in spring the Alpine Display Houses are filled with pretty, jewel coloured, alpine flowers, the Bowes-Lyon Rose Garden with it’s sloping terraces and gentle planting mix of roses and perennials looks amazing in the summertime, and in autumn the changing colours of the leaves of trees and shrubs delight visitors.

The Laboratory at RHS Garden Wisley
The Laboratory at RHS Garden Wisley

The Royal Horticultural Society has a membership scheme, allowing you to visit their gardens at Wisley in Surrey, Harlow Carr in North Yorkshire, Hyde Hall in Essex, Rosemoor in Devon, and Bridgewater in Salford, with a family member, as many times as you wish throughout the year.  RHS members enjoy free entry to 150 Partner Gardens across the UK, during selected periods.  RHS members receive the lovely Garden magazine each month, and receive free advice from the RHS Advisory Centre, as well as other benefits and offers.  For all the details on RHS membership, please click here.
Information for disabled visitors to RHS Garden Wisley can be found here.
Information for disabled visitors to RHS Garden Harlow Carr can be found here.
Information for disabled visitors to RHS Garden Hyde Hall can be found here.
Information for disabled visitors to RHS Garden Rosemoor can be found here. 

Other articles that may interest you……...

For a calendar of 2017 Specialist Plant Fairs, Festivals, Sales, and Swaps, please click here.

To see the results of my Slug and Snail Trial and discover the most effective methods to protect your plants from slugs and snails, please click here.

To read the results of my 2016 Peat Free Compost Trial, please click here.

To see the top 20 shortlisted plants, including the finalists, and the winner of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year 2016, please click here.

To read about the Rose of the Year Competition and The Festival of Roses, at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2016, please click here.

To read about buying British-grown, seasonal cut flowers, please click here.

For information about buying Snowdrops ‘in the green’, please click here.

For information on special offers and discounts for gardeners, please click here.

To read about carnivorous plants, please click here.

To read about terrariums and bottle gardens, please click here.

To read about the results of my 2015 Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.

For information on plants that have a greater resistance to slugs and snails, please click here.

For information on woods, gardens and places to see beautiful carpets of bluebells, please click here.

To read about the largest orchid in the world, Grammatophyllum speciosum, which started flowering for the first time at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in August 2015, please click here.

For tips and advice on gardening on a budget, please click here.

For tips on protecting your plants from slugs and snails, without using slug pellets, please click here.

For information about bottle gardens and terrariums, please click here.

To read about Daffodils, please click here.

For information on places to buy Daffodils, please click here.

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