New book celebrates finest gardens of South West


An inspirational celebration of the finest gardens in the West Country has been written by BBC garden writer and broadcaster Tony Russell, encompassing some of the great gardens in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset. (pictured above Kilver Court)

In ‘The Finest Gardens of the South West‘, Tony features fifty gardens, providing a wealth of information on their design, plants, history, architecture and personalities.

Tony starts at the southern-most tip of the British Isles with the exotic Tresco Abbey Gardens on the Isles of Scilly, then working eastwards to pick up world-famous garden restorations such as The Lost Gardens of Heligan and ground-breaking icons including The Eden Project and Compton Acres.

The influential masterpieces at Llanhydrock and Hestercombe, pre-eminent landscape gardens at Castle Hill and award-winning plant collections at Marwood Hill and Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, are all included.

side-book-coverAs the author points out in the Introduction, the West Country of England is probably one of the best regions in the UK for growing plants that are native to other parts of the world, in particular tender and sub-tropical plants.

The result of the favourable Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift, over the past two and a half centuries, has been the astonishing collection of plants and indeed gardens established there. While Cornwall has always been associated with these favourable growing conditions, it is not always appreciated that other West Country counties, namely Devon, Dorset and Somerset, also benefit from kinder climates with some astonishing results.

The area is so prolific with gardens that the author had no problem in finding 50 gardens to include but in deciding what to leave out! Each garden carries a concise description including notable planting; accompanied by superb photography to set the visual scene.

While some of the gardens were instantly known to me I was delighted to find several of which I was not familiar such as Athelhampton House Gardens, near Dorchester, Castle Hill Gardens, the estate of the Earl and Countess of Arran and Glendurgan, positioned in a collection of four verdant valleys, which flow down to the Helford River.

The mixture of gardens I already knew about with gardens with which I was barely acquainted or totally unaware, made this book for me all the more interesting. It gives one the impetus to revisit old favourites while at the same time arousing the interest to go out and visit those as yet unseen vistas and discover new gardens.

There is a good mix of garden styles from botanic gardens, walled gardens and enchanting gardens with river and sea views to formal gardens with garden rooms and jewels such as RHS Garden Rosemoor. One of the strengths of this type of book is the ability to focus the mind on particular styles of garden planting making the planning of visits much easier and giving a taste of what is to come.

Apart from its value as a garden guide book ‘The Finest Gardens of the South West‘ is also a beautiful coffee table book and will bring pleasure to the reader just by leafing through its pages. The photography really is stunning and will instantly bring back pleasant memories of past visits and the excitement of those to come.


Tony (pictured above) studied forestry and horticulture before commencing a career with plants that has taken him from Snowdonia to the New Forest, then to Westonbirt Arboretum – where he was head forester for 13 years – and recently back to Snowdonia. He is a familiar voice on TV and radio, presenting a number of TV series such as Garden Trail and Britain’s Great Trees. He is also a regular contributor to the gardening pages of national newspapers and magazines.

The Finest Gardens of the South West‘ by Tony Russell is published by Amberley Books – – at £15.99.You can purchase the book from: