Discover world-famous horticultural havens and some well-hidden gems
Kent's inspiring, soothing gardens provide both ideas for your plot and balm for your soul. In a way, Kent is one giant garden; so full is it of apples and cherries, pears and plums, hops and vines. No coincidence then that Henry VIII dubbed the county the Garden of England after sampling a bowl of Kentish cherries.
Kent also has an impressive 180 gardens that are open to the public. Famously, Sissinghurst is where Vita-Sackville West created a series of scent- and flower-filled outdoor rooms, framed by warm, weathered walls and crowned by an iconic tower.
There's more exquisite, big-name design at the Secret Gardens of Sandwich. Devised by Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens, this English county garden features a Lutyens manor house, strong architectural lines and inventive planting.
Kent's blockbuster, historic estates excel outside as well as in. Hever Castle boasts 125 acres of stunning gardens that were voted the south east's most romantic by Gardener's World - they even have their own rose, launched by Dame Judi Dench.
The 500 acres of parkland at Leeds Castle include a swirling yew maze, the famous water cascade and the Wood Garden, vivid with daffodils and narcissi in the spring.
The grounds at Penshurst Place contain an 11-acre formal walled garden which keeps faithfully to its 1580 design. A 1-mile yew hedge adds to the appeal, creating a series of seasonal, al fresco rooms.
Jane Austen was a regular guest at idyllic Goodnestone Park Gardens. A treat year round, visit its 14 tranquil acres in early-Spring and delight in a profusion of snowdrops.
Brogdale, home to the National Fruit Collections, offers orchard tours and fresh apple and pear juice tastings. Synch your visit to the harvests: June cherries; August plums; apples and pears from August to October.
The horizon-wide expanses at Dungeness shelter a real horticultural rarity - playwright Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage. Here swathes of poppies, lavender and willow peep through sweeps of single.
Bedgebury Pinetum delivers a stunning collection of conifers and fine autumn colour; the perfect place for cold-weather walks. Other highlights include intimate Walmer Castle: the fiery winter dogwoods at Broadview Gardens; Hole Park for spring bluebells; the historic Victorian walled garden at Quex; and Riverhill Himalayan Gardens for more bluebells, and summer-time azaleas and rhododendrons.