The 7 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 Kent, 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 of 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 Kent, so you can have a blooming lovely day out.
Famously the much-loved home of Winston Churchill and his family, Chartwell has wonderful far-reaching views as well as beautiful blooms aplenty for up-close visual delights. Walk up to the house past magnolias, rhododendrons and azaleas which line the pathway and look out for the double-headed Winston Churchill daffodil in the Walled Garden. Plus in the surrounding woodland the forest floor is carpeted with bluebells.
There’s also a pretty Walled Garden, with the wonderfully named Step-Over apples growing down amongst the soft fruit and vegetables, all which also see blossom in the spring.
After moving to Chartwell, the orchard was one of the first areas that Churchill decided to renovate, having the trees planted down by the buildings which would later become his artist studio where he painted over 500 canvasses in total.
Muddy tip: My favourite spot is the Orchard where the apple trees (which flower from late April to mid-May) are covered with pink and white blossom – Lady Churchill’s chosen colour scheme, still evident today. One apple blossom to watch out for is the Malus ‘Arthur Turner’, with its bright pink blooms, known for its showy displays every year. So soak up this sight before a quick tour around the studio – the largest collection of Churchill’s paintings in existence.
SISSINGHURST CASTLE GARDEN, NR CRANBROOK
Heralded for its beauty and diversity, the garden at Sissinghurst Castle is among the most famous gardens in England and should be on your to-do list as one of the top places to Kent.
English poet, novelist and garden designer Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson, who were in the famous the Bloomsbury set, did much to create this English country garden dream – forming it into a series of ‘rooms’ filled with many of the various planting schemes we see today.
Before the summer roses bloom – for which they are world famous – there is much spring action to be had as daffodils and anemones pop up across the flower beds (they’re the ones that look a bit like poppies but come in all kinds of colours).
One of the more popular blossoms in the garden is magnolia. The first magnolia to flower (usually in April) – is in the Lower Courtyard – and boasts huge white flowers. Then a few weeks later come the dark pink ones.
Late April also sees the bluebells come into their own and in May, irises light up the garden for one brief but spectacular moment, blooming in rich, intense colours.
Head gardener’s tip: A walk through the nuttery (literally a collection of nut trees) and along the lime walk will showcase the full carpet of flowers from March to early May. End up in the orchard, brimming with daffodils and crocuses, as well as blossom on the fruit trees. Look out for the crab apple tree, nestled within the orchard, which always flowers with an abundence of frothy white blossom. And the cherry blossom trees that are toward the east end of the orchard are a must-see for visitors.
IGHTHAM MOTE, SEVENOAKS
For a place steeped in history, and described by David Starkey as ‘one of the most beautiful and interesting of English country houses’, put Ightham Mote on your radar as the place to go if you want to lose yourself in a romantic moated manor house, or take the family for a fun day out.
There’s a beautiful orchard here, which feels a little bit Secret Garden and here several varieties of apple and other fruit trees have been planted, all offering a stunning display of blossom if you time it right.
Muddy tip: Got little ones? New and renovated paths around the north pleasure grounds and around the south lake will make it easier for buggies and wheelchairs to enjoy stunning views back to the house, as well as the colours, sights, sounds and smells of spring.
SCOTNEY CASTLE, LAMBERHURST
As you amble through visitor reception and past the mansion, take a moment to see if the rhododendrons are in flower on the grass banks to the right, (usually mid-May onwards). In the beds and pots around the house, admire the brightly coloured bulbs and shrubs before heading through the blue gate into the garden.
The Judas tree sits just the other side of the blue gate as you enter the formal garden – showing off a glorious display of deep pink flowers against heart-shaped leaves. Take the steps down and follow the path to the Bastion, looking down over the Quarry and towards the Old Castle. Then follow the path to the right down into the garden.
As you turn the corner on this path, you can’t fail to be impressed by the early flowering cherries, that almost form a tunnel of pink blossom down the path and scatter their confetti at your feet.
On the bowling green on the far side of the Old Castle, the crab apple tree is another spectacular site. Whether you see it from across the moat or on the island, the blossom delivers a wonderful display every spring whilst the Walled Garden fruit trees – ranging from apple, pear, cherry, quince, fig and plum – are also covered in delicate blooms.
Head gardener’s tip: The Quarry Garden re-opens this spring for first time since 2020, just in time for azalea season. Capture the iconic view from the Bastion over the newly-landscaped rhododendrons to the Old Castle, and of the azaleas in the Quarry before winding your way inside. Clouds of cherry and amelanchier blossom guard the entrance to the Quarry Garden, forming a tunnel of pink blossom down the path.
SMALLHYTHE PLACE, NEAR TENTERDEN
The blossom season starts early with crab apple trees coming into flower from March into April. From April to May, cherry blossom – a term used for many different species of cherry tree – fills the garden. Later in April, over 30 different varieties of apple trees start to flower in the orchard, creating an idyllic springtime country cottage garden.
Amongst the many spring marvels here is the blossom. In their various shades of whites and pale pinks, six different varieties of blossom dominate Smallhythe’s surroundings, from apple, pear and plum to cherry, hawthorn and medlar. Across the month of April their soft petals fill out the bare branches and lightly scatter the grounds below, whilst aromas of sweet perfumes seep through the air.
Muddy tip: Keep a look out for the bug hotels, log piles and rockeries. They’re a great place to hunt for creepy crawlies and minibeasts. Plus, a family of swallows resides in the old tea room building. See if you can spot them swooping in and out across the bright spring skies.
EMMETTS GARDEN, SEVENOAKS
The rhododendrons and azaleas are unmissable at Emmetts Garden, with 130 different varieties (we hand counted them all obvs) providing a continuous kaleidoscope of colour throughout the spring season.
‘Lollipop’ shaped cherry trees are in blossom next to the wildflower meadow, surrounded by a sea of pink, red and black tulips that make for a stunning sight.
More unique specimens to be found are the handkerchief tree and the wedding cake tree, both distinct and unusual trees that look wonderful at this time of year. The ‘wow’ moment at Emmetts however, is always the English bluebells, with the whole woodland completely transformed.
Muddy tip: A local friend insists the best way to visit is to start with a walk in those bluebell carpeted woods. Click here for a walk that takes in National Trust site Toys Hill, lying on top of the Greensand Ridge where the views are unreal, you’ll continue onto Emmetts Garden to take in the spring blooms and stop in the tea-room because you’ve earned it.
AND JUST OVER THE BORDER…
At Bateman’s expect a riot of colour – new this year is a spring display around three sides of the stunning walled Mulberry Garden where a whopping 4,000 wallflowers in shades of purple, red and bronze have been interplanted with 2,800 tulips in complimentary colours.
Elsewhere the borders are the stars with Pulmonaria rubra, Brunnera macrophylla, primroses and hellebores mingling with the bright blue flowers of Scilla siberica. Look out for the unusual green and black flower of the widow iris, Hermodactyllus tuberosus.
In the Wild Garden, spring blooms including white snowdrops, yellow narcissi, blue scilla and checkerboard fritillaries carpet the ground under flowering cherries and the white peaks of Snowy Mespilus.
If bluebells are your bag, head to the woodland on three walks around the estate alongside the early purple orchids in May.
Head gardener’s tip: Created by Rudyard Kipling, the Pear Alley provides one of the best views towards the house. It’s clothed in white pear blossom in April, which is good for pollinators, and it is under-planted with spring-flowering bulbs and perennials such as Scilla litardierei, Symphytum ibericum, bluebells and tulips.
STANDEN, EAST GRINSTEAD
From new blooms to soft birdsong, Standen comes to life in springtime and you can enjoy bold displays of spring bulbs, heathers and tulips on the house’s terrace – and banks of daffodils and distinctive bell-shaped fritillaries around the garden.
Rhododendrons from Mrs Beale’s (the house’s original owner), collection can still be seen around the garden from mid May, followed by Muddy’s favourite wisteria which clothes the wall by the lavender lawn with it’s fragrant purple blooms. Enjoy a coffee and cake whilst you’re there and see the recently replanted borders by the café filled with a narcissus called Goose Green, plus wildflowers and over a thousand alliums.
Craving bluebells? You’re in the right place as around 20 of the 100 acres of the original Estate should be bluebell-tastic this spring with Rockinghill and Hollybush woods carpeted, (the latter hoping to reopen soon following storm damage). Purple orchids usually bloom in Hollybush too, adding to the magic.
As well as blossom aplenty, spring is also heralded by the emergence of lush fresh foliage – the Acers are well-known for their autumnal displays but they also produce wonderful colour in spring – the most spectacular being Acer corralinum with its salmon pink brilliance which you can see on the Croquet Lawn Border.
Head gardener’s tip: Don’t miss the clouds of fruit blossom in the orchard, green and kitchen garden – we have apple, pear, cherry, pear, quince and medlar at Standen. Pears are normally first in mid-March, apples usually through April and we have a couple of early cherries that can appear as soon as February in a warm year! The large espalier apples in the lower Kitchen Garden were planted in 1893 and are still producing fruit now. They are some of the most impressive trees we have in the garden.