One of the gifts I received for Christmas was a copy of Monty Don's Italian Gardens DVD. After watching it over a few nights (there are four one-hour episodes), it has made me even more determined to visit some of Italy's most beautiful gardens. So far I've only ticked one of the gardens that Monty visits in the DVD off my list - that of the quirky but stunning garden at Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore in Italy's north - but there are now plenty more that have been added!
Watching the DVD got me thinking about some of Europe's most well-known and most visited gardens, and the five below (in no particular order) are the ones that first came to mind. Of course there are hundreds of other delightful gardens throughout Europe (some of which I hope to visit in the future), but if you have even the slightest interest in gardens, these might be high on your list.
Monet's garden, Giverny, France
The former home and garden of French painter, Claude Monet, are situated in Giverny, just over an hour by car from Paris. The garden is famous as the setting for scenes from many of Monet's paintings including 'Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies'.
There are two parts to Monet's garden: a more formal flower garden called Clos Normand in front of the house and a Japanese inspired water garden on the other side of the road (accessed by an under-road walkway) which features the famous Japanese bridge and lily pond. My visit to Monet's garden in July 2014 did not disappoint.
Sissinghurst, near Cranbrook, England
Possibly one of England's most famous gardens, the iconic garden at Sissinghurst is a series of garden rooms created by hedges and walls that replicate the missing rooms of the ruined Elizabethan hunting lodge that once stood on the property.
Sissinghurst gained international fame in the 1930s when Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson created a garden there. The garden is a riot of colour throughout the year and is divided into small garden rooms, each being very distinctive from the others. The famous white garden and Sackville-West's beloved rose garden are highlights.
Villa d'Este, Tivoli, Italy
Featured on UNESCO's World Heritage list, Villa d'Este is regarded as a fine example of an Italian Renaissance garden. Built by the powerful Cardinal Ippolito Il d'Este in the 16th Century, Villa d'Este and its gardens were based on the nearby Hadrian's Villa (built in the 2nd Century).
Villa d'Este features a stunning array of formal hedges, pools, water troughs and over 500 fountains - it is truly gardening on an impressive scale.
Keukenhof Gardens - Lisse, Holland
As a tulip lover, the annual display at Keukenhof Gardens is top of my garden visiting wish list. Unfortunately I haven't yet visited Europe at the appropriate time of year but there will definitely be a trip in the future that has me in Holland between mid-March and mid-May.
With seven million bulbs planted in the 32 hectare garden, a riot of colour greets visitors to Keukenhof. Along with tulips, other bulbs also feature including hyacinths, freesias and irises. Mid-April is generally regarded as the best time to visit, depending on the weather.
Generalife Gardens, Alhambra, Andalucia, Spain
Generalife is a garden of paradise. The Palacio de Generalife (literally the Architect's Garden) was the 14th century summer residence of the kings of Granada and the gardens are one of the oldest surviving Moorish gardens in the world.
Popular features of the garden include many fountains and water features, flower beds and pavilions.
Are any of these famous European gardens on your bucket list, or have you visited one or more of them already? Please share your comments below.
You can also read about my visits to some of Europe's other beautiful gardens here
© Holidays to Europe