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An Art Lover’s Guide to British Gardens

Image © The Hepworth Wakefield via Facebook

Nature and the artist have always been familiar bedfellows. From the waterlily paintings of Monet to Matisse’s infamous 19th century paper cut-outs, gardens have borne the seeds of inspiration for centuries. We turn our attention towards British horticulture par excellance: Britain’s best gardens as told through the artists who resided in them.

Barbara Hepworth’s Sculpture Garden
British-born artist and sculpture Barbara Hepworth’s St Ives studio and gardens houses the largest collection of the late artist’s works that are on permanent display.  The works featured in the garden are some of her favourites, and include Hepworth’s notable Festival of Britain commission, the Contrapuntual Forms.
The garden, designed by Hepworth herself, displays over 30 sculptures in bronze, stone and wood, which together with the Trewyn studio, her indoor workshop, sets an intimate and secluded stage that offers a remarkable insight into the work of one of Britain’s most important twentieth century artists.

Image credits: St Ives Tourism Association

Barbara Hepworth Museum, Barnoon Hill, St Ives, Cornwall, UK, TR26 1AD
Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage
Late painter, filmmaker and author Derek Jarman’s work has always sat finely on the line between beauty and scarcity. Prospect Cottage was, in fact, the inspiration behind his acclaimed, aptly named novel, 'Derek Jarman’s Garden'.  His garden, located against the bleak landscape of Dungeness, Kent, was established in 1986, around an old fisherman’s cottage, and besides a nuclear power station. Wild red poppies and blue cornflowers punctuate the space against the decay, while extracts from 'The Sun Rising', a poem written by English poet John Donne, is printed across one of the cottage walls. 

The garden feels like its sat on edge of the world. Like his films, avant-garde masterpieces like his beautifully composed Caravaggio, a fictionised retelling of the renown painter, Jarman's garden is more o a theatre set than a traditional plot of land. Dramatic shifs in wind, sun and rain inspire narratives of turmoil and chaos, while flora and fauna coexist wonderfully to an artscape of metal rods - rubbish that Jarman has manipulated into sculptures.

Image Credits: Howard Sooley

Derek Jarman's Prospect Cottage is located on Dungeness Rd, Romney Marsh TN29 9NE

Christopher Lloyd's Great Dixter

Dubbed as the 'imperial wizard' of English horticulture, Christopher Lloyd's Great Dixter, co-designed by celebrated writer Edwyn Lutyens, is an archetypal example of organised imperfection. Located in England's East Sussex countryside, the garden features a range of topiaries, as well as an orchard and wild flower meadow.

Image credits: Great Dixter

Christopher Lloyd's Great Dixter can be found in Northiam, Rye TN31 6PH


A meeting place for the infamous Bloomsbury group, that included the writers, artists and intellectuals Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry, John Maynard Keynes and E.M. Forster, Charleston was the brainchild of artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, who moved to the resident in 1916. The gardens, once described by Bell as "a dithering blaze or flowers and butterflies and apples", set the scene for many of the painter's still life pieces.

Following the First World War, Roger Fry made designs for a lawn, pool and flower beds, while a piazza was built by Quentin Bell.  Mosaics made from broken croquery can also be seen on the floors and walls.

Image credits: Laura Ashley

Charleston can be found in Firle, East Sussex, BN8 6LL, UK