Six of the finest gardens in Britain, but only one can be the winner

The Historic Houses Garden of the Year competition is once again underway — we take a quick glance at the six shortlisted entries.

It’s now 40 years since Historic Houses launched its Garden of the Year Award. The shortlist for 2024 has just been announced, chosen from the hundreds of gardens, parks and grounds that offer free entry to members of the not-for-profit association, and the public (that’s you) is invited to vote for a winner. See below for the list of potential winners. Voting closes on August 31 and the winner will be announced on November 12.

Inveraray Castle & Gardens, Argyll

Credit: Inveraray Castle/Historic Houses

Home to the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, this 16 acre garden is enjoyed by some 85,000 visitors each year. Two acres are formal lawns and flowerbeds, with the remainder being parkland and woodland, all set against the dramatic backdrop of the castle and the surrounding Scottish wilderness.

Picton Castle Gardens, Pembrokeshire

Credit: Picton Castle Gardens/Historic Houses

50 acres of gardens, two ice houses, 18th century cascades, and a dew pond — at Picton Castle, there’s plenty of variety. A plant-lovers paradise, much of the garden was laid down in the mid-18th century and is a mix of formal and woodland gardens, with a range of eclectic plants (see: banana trees) and vistas.

Recommended videos for you

Hever Castle, Kent

The Loggia at Hever Castle. Credit: Hever Castle/Historic Houses

Come for the giant topiary chess set, stay for the 5,000 roses. At Hever Castle, Faith Guthrie has created a veritable wonderland, with plenty to intrigue all visitors. There is a Pompeiian Wall, William Waldorf Astor’s classical statuary collection in the Italian garden, a 38-acre lake and a Trevi-esque fountain.

Chelsea Physic Garden, London SW3

Credit: Chelsea Physic Garden/Historic Houses

One of the oldest and botanic gardens in Europe, Chelsea Physic was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries so that its apprentices could study plants and their uses. Yes, basically it was a garden for making potions. Thankfully, modern medicine prevailed, but the immense collection of medicinal and herbal plants is still world-leading, and is an oasis of green situated on the Thames Embankment.

Holker Hall & Gardens, Cumbria

Credit: Holker Hall/Historic Houses

In the 23 acres that surrounds the historic 16th century home of the Cavendish family, beauty, history and art have been combined to create a garden of the ages, for all ages. Formal areas such as the Summer Garden mix tradition with innovation, while the wildflower meadow offers seasonal changes and views of the surrounding parkland. Water features such as the Cascade, Fountain and Lily Pool add an auditory element.

Ushaw Historic House, Chapel & Gardens, Co Durham

Credit: Ushaw Gardens/Historic Houses

What was once a Catholic seminary is now 38 acres of formal gardens, woodland, walled gardens and sports fields. Ushaw re-opened for tourism and the community in 2014, with volunteers working on restoring the gardens since 2017 — using no ‘decent’ machinery, everything was moved by hand. The results are a garden full of comfortable green space for all ages and abilities.