4. Somerset and Dorset Monday 12 June

The Old Rectory, Pulham – Mr and Mrs Nick Elliott

The Old Rectory is a delicious castellated gothick house standing across the fields from its church. The terrace, on the east side of the house, is liberally planted with Alchemilla, Doricnium and Verbena bonariensis. The garden extends past formal box beds and Portuguese laurel umbrellas, under-planted with Santolina, to a ha-ha and the expansive view of Bulbarrow Hill and the Dorset Downs. Yew hedges march away from the south side of the house, towards circular herbaceous borders crammed with Phlox, Persicaria, Lychnis, Veronicastrum and Anemonies, at their peak in July, but planted for a long flowering season. Further from the house the garden becomes less formal, with a bog garden and two woodland gardens where native trees are planted with exotics and flowering shrubs.

Forest Lodge, Penselwood – The Hon. Mr and Mrs James Nelson

The garden at Forest Lodge is comparatively young. It is only after admiring the design; the Lutyenesque terraces, descending in curves to a circular lawn, the pleached hornbeams framing a rill and the large pond, which seems to vanish into the surrounding woodland, that one begins to take in the quality of the planting. By the house rose and perennial-filled borders line the terraces and lead to the Malus orchard, where spring bulbs are followed by later-flowering perennials. The informal walks around the pond are planted with acid-loving plants that relish the underlying greensand. Here, among Hamamelis, Stranvesia, Halesia, Eucryphia and Cornus ‘Eddys White Wonder’, Lucy has planted rarities such as Emmenopteris henryi. Marginals surround the pond, including drifts of Primulas and later-flowering Crocosmia in profusion.

Stavordale Priory, Charlton Musgrove – Sir Cameron Mackintosh and Michael Le Poer Trench Esq

Home of Cameron and Michael for over twenty years, the gardens, laid out by previous owner and garden designer Georgia Langton, have now been developed and extended by Michael and his team. “Arts and Crafts” is an overused phrase, but if meaning a garden of outdoor rooms, topiary, stone walls and gorgeous “tapestry-style” planting it can apply to much of what we see at Stavordale. Beds overflow with richly-coloured perennials with structure provided by tightly clipped box shapes and topiary yews. The vegetable garden is more a potager with fruit and flowers in the mix. Michael’s birthday arboretum leads to the“Les Misérables” elephant and then through a woodland grove to a series of recently extended lakes surrounded by generous beds of moisture-loving Primulas and Iris. This is a garden of atmosphere and great horticultural passion.