10 Beautiful European Gardens
What could be more uplifting then a visit to a truly inspiring garden? Whether it is highly formal, parterre style or gloriously natural with random planting and wild flowers, being outside, in a beautiful place can not only give you some great ideas for your patch at home, but also really boost your spirits and help give a new lease of life.
Claude Monet's delightful garden in Normandy is very well looked after. The main garden is set out on a grid with herbaceous plants - roses, delphiniums, nasturtiums, foxgloves - and vegetables growing and flowering without restraint. Visitors must then pass beneath a railway line, coming out into the water garden where the artist painted his beautiful picture of waterlilies. The green bridge, covered with trailing wisteria, is a glory to behold. Read more.
La Bagatelle, France
A charming Parisian park created due to a bet in the 1770s, allegedly, between Marie-Antoinette and the Comte d'Artois, to build and plant a garden in two months. And it was done, by the Scottish gardener Thomas Blaikie who made a picturesque English-style garden, with the design still in place today. However, the true, oh so beautiful centre is the rose garden established in 1905, with many spectacular old French shrub roses, in a back drop of clipped yew cones. Read more
Isola Bella, Italy
Right in the middle of Lake Maggiore and reached only by boat, this is a garden that looks like a ship. Built by Count Carlo Borromeo in the 1630s on this oddly shaped island, the formal layout of the gardens appear random, however they are a direct result of the lie of the land. Rather splendid too is the series of six connecting grottoes beneath the palace and the commanding stone "theatre" overseen by the statue of a unicorn.
Giardino Giusti, Italy
This urban garden in Verona catches the imagination of all who visit it. The garden was originally laid out in the 1570s, with fountains, statues, grottoes and a labyrinth, which, astonishingly, remain. It is said that those finding each other in the labyrinth remain lovers for life. Later a French-style parterre was added, a woodland area and a belvedere with romantic city views.
Originally a small town from Roman times, with very old remnants of paths and bridges still apparent for those uncovering the dilapidated ruins. It was a wreck, after being destroyed due to a fallout with the Pope, until the early 20th century, when the owners returned, restoring much of its former glory. It has always been famous for its wildflowers, and now, overlooked by a fortified tower, there are swathes of cyclamens in spring, followed by hydrangeas, roses, clematis and numerous delicate or rare species later in the season. Read more
Villa Lante, Italy
This garden, just east of Viterbo, is, for many, simply the ultimate Renaissance garden experience. A stunning hillside water garden of the 1560s, where the water first emerges from the rough Grotto of the Deluge at the top of the garden, with Palladian loggias on either side. Then at the bottom of the garden, is the impressive fountain parterre. Perhaps the most memorable moment is the Fountain of the Table on the third level of four, which consists of a long stone table with a central runnel down its length. Read more
The Moorish fortress/palace in Granada, built between 9th and 14th centuries, does not have gardens in the traditional sense, with plants and so on. Take the Court of the Lions, where the sparkling, musical water, the shadows, the dappled light and the intricate, lacy carvings and stucco-work turn outdoor spaces into living art. The second palace, Generalife, has more vegetation and is less formal and structured. Its real joy is the deservedly feted, long, languid pool with its arching fountains in the Patio de la Acequia. Read more
Het Loo, Netherlands
Near Apeldoorn, this grand 17th-century European Baroque garden, which is on a relatively small-scale with gorgeous parterres, was created in the 1680s as a forest hunting lodge for the future King William III of England. There are "King's" and "Queen's" gardens on opposite sides of the house and pretty tree-shaded canals, adding a particularly Dutch feel to the generally formal landscape, which has been thoroughly renovated in the last 30 years. Read more
Prince Anhalt-Dessau created this 300-acre garden near Dessau in the late 18th century, which was undoubtedly a tribute to the English landscape garden. The absolute magnificence of the garden must be the way the lakes (covering almost a third of the gardens), landscape and woodland have been purposefully designed to bring about changing views and different atmospheres. There are also various industrial-style monuments throughout the gardens too. Read more
This splendid, gigantic potager garden (vegetables by any other name) was designed and planted, somewhat surprisingly, in the early 20th century in a relaxed, non-traditional style. It is quite extraordinary, with appearance being as important as taste in the nine squares of the formal potager garden. Large, rose-covered wooden pergolas stand at each corner of the potager, and further on are formal parterre gardens with clipped evergreen hedges, fountains and fulsome herbaceous borders. Read more
You might also be interested in:
- Information on gardens and gardening in the UK and beyond see The Royal Horticultural Society
- Gardens and villas of the Italian Lakes
- Garden Tours
- Silver Travel Advisor mini guide to Great British Gardens
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Brightwater Holidays.