A private tour of Somerset’s secret gardens

THINK of gardens and Somerset and you probably picture the multi-period gardens of Hestercombe near Taunton or the Elizabethan glories of Montacute or Lytes Cary. But this beautiful and varied county also has a host of hidden private gardens, and these are the subject  of Abigail Willis’s new book Secret Gardens of Somerset: A Private Tour.

Published by Frances Lincoln with photographs by Clive Boursnell, the book reflects the history and landscape of the county, with its landscapes that range from a Jurassic coastline to picturesque hills and the low lying Levels.

Somerset is a horticultural hotspot that is home to famous historic gardens, trend-setting contemporary designs, pioneering organic gardens – and is the birthplace of modern cottage gardening.

Secret Gardens of Somerset takes the reader on a tour of the county, offering privileged access to 20 inspirational gardens, revealing their history, design and plant collections, in the company of their devoted owners, custodians and head gardeners.

Each garden has a unique story and personality, reflective of a moment in time and of the talented gardeners who created them. They include Harold Peto’s sublime Iford Manor on the eastern edge of the county, Margery Fish’s East Lambrook Manor garden, Joan Loraine’s organic coastal garden at Greencombe in the far west, the American Gardens at Claverton Manor near Bath and the new gardens at The Newt (formerly Hadspen House) near Castle Cary.

Other featured gardens include Yeo Valley Organic Garden, The Piet Oudolf garden at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, and the gardens beneath the old Somerset & Dorset railway viaduct at Kilver Court, Shepton Mallet.

Abigail Willis, who lives in Somerset, worked in the art world before turning to writing and gardening. She is the author of Bloomsbury Ceramics, Museums & Galleries of London and The London Garden Book A-Z. The Remarkable Case of Dr Ward and other Amazing Gardening Innovations looks at how gardens, and the way we garden in them, have been changed by 50 ideas and innovations.

Photographer Clive Boursnell specialises in architecture, gardens, landscapes and, above all, people.