Two Favorite Gardens in Wiltshire

To garden lovers, England is a candy store – you’d be hard-pressed to find another country in Europe with a higher density of exceptional gardens. So it follows that on the way to exploring one region, your path leads to marvels that are too tempting not to stop and discover as well.


So it happened that, on a recent scouting trip to the Cotswolds, we drove through neighboring Wiltshire and admired a few gems there too.


Here are my two favorites:

Charlton Farm, Charlton

When Sarah Rivett-Carnac and her husband bought the house in 2010, there was no garden—just a flat field.



Fourteen years later, the house is anchored within a series of articulated garden rooms. A front garden makes a colorful, welcoming statement, while the patio at the back feels like the extension of a sitting room, a transition between the cozy house and the wider garden and landscape beyond.




Though there is a proper English lawn (Sarah’s late husband liked all manner of sports, including croquet), with proper yew hedges serving as the backdrop for proper English borders, the plantings are far from traditional, a testimony to Sara’s love of plants.

There are secret spaces in this garden: places to sit and contemplate the stars, places to shelter from the wind, places to cool off when it’s hot, and places to reflect. This is the garden of a plantswoman, yes, but also a garden to be in, a place where the gardener finds peace while working the soil, a place very much in balance with nature.

There is a nod to the conventional dimensions of gardening (structure, interesting plants, perfectly cultivated specimens) but also a strong dialogue with nature. Sarah experiments; she plants, watches and listens.


The overall effect is contained exuberance—a place where it feels good to be alive.




Ridley's Cheer, Chippenham

Ridley’s Cheer is tucked away at the bottom of a narrow lane. More than fifty years ago, plantsman Anthony Young and his wife Sue settled here. Back then, there was a cottage and a piece of field, sloping upwards with not much more than a few trees.

Anthony is that rare mix of plant lover and botanist, plant propagator, hands-in-the-dirt gardener, and landscape designer.


Ridley’s Cheer is his lab, where he experiments with plants and grows trees from seed. Watching his charges closely, he only keeps those that come true, patiently building up his stock.


Close to the house, the garden is formal with traditional box hedges and a lawn, but every plant is unusual, special and has a story.


Walking through the garden with Anthony is a lesson in botany.


As I listened to Anton talking about his plants very much like he would talk about old friends by name, it was hard not to succumb to the charm of the soft and expert design, where each plant is placed so as to not only stand to advantage but make its companions stand out too.


Perhaps the most unusual feature in the hedged vegetable garden is the bonsai hedge of Fagus Asplenifolia, according to Anthony the only one in the world.

Of course, he grew each plant from seed himself.


Over the years, Anthony and his wife acquired more land and planted some woods. Beyond the woodland is an orchard, also dotted with specimen trees such as Hungarian Oak (Quercus Frainetto) and the wonderful late-flowering Linden (Tilia Henryana).


A dreamy and exquisitely refined creation.



In both gardens, I felt a strong sense of place. The owners are passionate gardeners, plantspeople and keen observers of nature. They cultivate their corner of paradise in tune with nature and its demands. The result is a harmonious creation, at ease with the landscape it sits in, which brings joy to both the gardener and the visitor.


Ready to explore the gardens of England? Let’s start a conversation!

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