Jonathan Denby - six gardens you must see this year

PUBLISHED: 11:30 03 May 2012 | UPDATED: 21:22 20 February 2013

The topiary at Leven is world class

The topiary at Leven is world class

We asked accomplished Lakeland horticulturalist Jonathan Denby to share his 'must see' gardens

Jonathan Denbys calm, measured tones disguise a strong competitive streak. Over the last ten years he has thrown open his glorious Grange-over-Sands garden, with its outstanding views over Morecambe Bay, to a highly appreciative audience.

The admission price to Yewbarrow has raised a magnificent 40,000 for the National Garden Scheme charities and that puts him at the top of the tree as far as fundraising is concerned. And he plans to stay there.

Jonathan, the owner of South Lakes Hotels and a passionate supporter of the Slow Food movement among many other things, is a highly experience horticulturalist and a garden designer.

His grounds at Yewbarrow in Grange-over-Sands continue to attract large numbers eager to see the changes he has made over the previous 12 months.

It was when a neighbour in Grange opened his garden that he first became interested in the scheme. He received well over 650 visitors in a single day, said Jonathan. I started to work on my garden and, to my amazement, they asked me to be involved in the Yellow Book scheme in the second year.

Since 2002 Jonathan has welcomed thousands to his garden while his wife has coped with the high demand for teas and their three daughters have been in charge of the entrance gate.

Does he ever tire of people tramping through his gardens? I love it, he declared. Newcomers to the scheme are always terribly worried that people will criticise their gardens or make unkind comments. Thats not the English way people are infinitely kind. And if they are not, they tend to do it behind your back!

Jonathan keeps his garden fresh by having a new section opened up each year. This year visitors will see a stunning new sculpture park in the grounds at Yewbarrow.

Jonathan helped us to compile a list of must visit gardens for 2012.

1. Gresgarth Hall gardens, Caton, near Lancaster, LA2 9NB
The spectacular gardens created by Arabella Lennox-Boyd include terraces, lakes, a small bog garden, a wild garden an extensive kitchen garden, a bluebell wood, the Rhododendron Hills, herbaceous borders and a serpentine walk. Jonathan describes them as the pinnacle of success.
They are not part of NGS but they are open on May 13, June 10, July 8 and August 12.

2. Windy Hall, Crook Road, Windermere, LA23 3JA
Another favourite of Jonathan. This four-acre fellside garden has rhododendrons, camellias, magnolias and hydrangeas. There is a Japanese influenced quarry garden, alpine gunneras, a wildflower meadow, bluebells and foxgloves in abundance. Wide variety of native birds, many nesting in the gardens.
It is part of the NGS, opening on May 6 and June 3.

3. Holker Hall, Cark-in-Cartmel, near Grange-over-Sands, LA11 7PL
More than 20 acres of romantic gardens, with peaceful arboretum, inspirational formal gardens, flowering meadow and a labyrinth. Spring sees thousands of bulbs and flowers. Summer brings voluptuous mixed borders and bedding.
Normal open during the season with August 31 reserved for the NGS.

4. Levens Hall, Levens Village, near Kendal, LA8 0PD
Jonathan describes this as a world-beater. The topiary garden laid out between 1690 and 1720 by Guillaume Beaumont is truly breathtaking. Colourful summer bedding, herbaceous borders, fountain garden, ornamental vegetable garden and herb garden are all a joy.
Normal opening until October but there is an evening opening for NGS on July 5.

5. Muncaster Castle, Ravenglass, CA18 1RQ
Jonathan rates the rhododendron display as among the best youll find anywhere. A haunted castle, set in 70 acres of stunning gardens against the back drop of the Lake District fells, and home to the World Owl Centre with a large collection of these amazing birds.
The gardens are open daily.

6. Yewbarrow, Hampsfell Road, Grange-over-Sands, LA11 6BE
We couldnt leave out Jonathans own garden in a location that wouldnt look out of place on the Amalfi coast. The four acre elevated site has jaw-dropping views over Morecambe Bay and it features a restored walled Victorian kitchen garden, Italianate terrace, exotic gravel garden, fern garden and a Japanese hot spring pool. There is an orangery, a sculpture garden and sensory gardens.
It will be open for NGS on June 3, July 1, August 5 and September 2.

You can find many more gardens in Lancashire and the Lake District by logging onto

The print version of this article appeared in the May 2012 issue of Lancashire Life
We can deliver a copy direct to your door order online here

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