4 of the best: Devon gardens

The summer’s arrived and the sun is shining, so we here at the Two Moors Festival are trying to spend as much time as possible outside – not always easy when you’re busy running a classical music festival! It seems like others are having more luck than us with getting some fresh air, with a new survey on behalf of the National Gardens Scheme revealing that 4.8 million people went to see some of the charming gardens we have down here in the south-west in the last year. Certainly can’t say we blame them – just take a look at these four Devon-based gardens and you’ll see just what the appeal is.

1) Dicot, Chardstock

If you’re looking for a secret garden, Dicot ticks all the boxes. It’s nestled in an East Devon valley, with three beautiful acres chock-full of exotic, unusual and rare plants for you to discover as you make your way through. Fans of rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas will be in their element, but there really are surprises every way you turn, with a charming little stream, greenhouse, vegetable garden, fruit cage and Japanese-style garden awaiting you. There’s a Woodland Walk, built in 1999, in the North Garden and a huge gunnera, ferns, astilbes and hostas in the East Garden.

Recommended as a garden to visit in Devon Country Gardener magazine, Dicot is open to the public on July 28th and 29th between 14:00 and 17:00. Admission fee: £3.

2) Cliffe, Ilfracombe

In need of a bit of sea air? Then you should definitely make your way to the garden of Cliffe in Ilfracombe, North Devon. Found just outside this little seaside town, this is a cliff-side terraced garden with some of the best views of the sea you’ll get in Devon. Summer is probably the best time to go and have a look – although it’s open from April to September and spring is always a lovely time to have an explore – since this is when the  herbaceous borders are at their best and most colourful. Keep your eyes peeled for salvias, canna and hedychiums in autumn and azaleas and camellias in springtime.

Featured in Devon Life, this lovely garden is open from 09:00 to 16:00 between April 1st and September 30th, with £3 admission. Visits can also be made by appointment.

3) Squirrels, Barton Road, Torquay

For a taste of the exotic, you really must make your way to Squirrels in Torquay, South Devon. Owned by Graham and Carol Starkie, this garden is home to a seven-foot waterfall, lots of small ponds and several interlinked areas, including tropical, Japanese and Italianate. If you like fruit, you’ll love it here – there are peaches, bananas, kiwi and figs, as well as tender plants including tree fern, brugmansia, oleanders and lantanas. Other plants include bougainvillea, abutilons and fuchsias and you should also keep a lookout for the many nesting boxes and ducks to be found. Squirrels also boasts disguised compost heaps, self-sufficient rain water storage and homemade solar hot water panels.

Winner of a Torbay in Bloom Superclass Gold medal, Squirrels is open on July 29th and August 4th and 5th, with admission costing £3. Visits can also be made by appointment.

4) Bickham Gardens, Kenn, North Devon

Located just six miles south of Exeter, Bickham Gardens has a lot to offer green-thumbed enthusiasts out there. The seven-acre grounds boast a formal parterre with a lily pond, a croquet lawn, beautiful trees including one giant tulip tree, a fernery and water garden, a one-acre walled garden with flowers and vegetables and a palm tree avenue leading to the summerhouse. And that’s all without even taking in Bickham Cottage, where you’ll find hedge banks, old stone walls, South African plants and bulbs, a stream garden, lawn with borders of eucomis and agapanthus and glasshouses with nerines and tulbaghias. There’s also a pond with koi carp in it and a print-making studio that’s open in September.

This garden was featured on BBC Spotlight and Radio Devon and is open on August 12th, 14th and 15th, September 2nd, 4th and 5th and October 145th between 14:00 and 17:00. Admission costs £4.50.

Which Devon garden would you recommend to visit?

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