When the editor of Cheshire Life asked me to write about my nine favourite gardens as part of the 90th anniversary edition of the magazine, I was delighted. What a fabulous idea, I said. This will be so easy to write, I thought to myself. It’ll take no time at all, and I have a whole archive of photos from the past few years to choose from. Then reality set in, and I found myself faced with the daunting task of selecting just nine from the multitude of wonderful gardens we have in Cheshire. So, with sincere apologies to those gardens that are not included, here we go.


Arley Hall

In recent years, TV series such as Peaky Blinders have been filmed in the hall and grounds of Arley Hall, and it was fascinating to watch the recent global success Netflix series Fool Me Once and see many familiar places in the gardens. Arley is perhaps best known for its iconic double herbaceous borders, believed to be the oldest in England, and in summer they are truly spectacular. Packed with drifts of beautiful perennials that carry on blooming well into autumn, it is one of the must-see sights of the garden visiting season. Also not to be missed is the delightful little Tea Cottage in the Rose Garden, which was originally used for garden tea parties.


Great British Life: The Moongate at Bluebell Cottage Gardens. The Moongate at Bluebell Cottage Gardens. (Image: Alison Moore)

Bluebell Cottage Gardens

May is perhaps my favourite time to visit Bluebell Cottage Gardens. As tulips and narcissi gracefully mingle with early summer blooms, the adjacent woodland bursts into life with a breathtaking carpet of bluebells. The gardens are continually evolving, which means there is always something different to see, including the new walled garden, complete with its moon gate linking to the peaceful shade garden. Bluebell is open between April and October, with lots of inspirational ideas and fabulous plants to buy in the nursery. Refreshments are available in the nursery tearoom, and new for this year is the coffee hut, appropriately named Belle, serving savoury snacks.

Great British Life: There are many places to wander and wonder at RHS Bridgewater. There are many places to wander and wonder at RHS Bridgewater. (Image: Alison Moore)

RHS Bridgewater

While not strictly in Cheshire, the latest RHS Garden, in Salford, opened in May 2021 and is within easy reach for anyone in the county. One of my highlights is the walled garden and in particular, the Paradise Garden designed by Tom Stuart-Smith. It was inspired by traditional paradise gardens and combines Mediterranean, Asiatic and American planting. A rill runs through the centre, linking two fountains and a central pond, creating an oasis of calm. It’s a perfect place to wander, with all its accessible pathways and numerous places to sit and enjoy and sights and scents of the beautiful planting.


Great British Life: Cholmondeley's Temple Garden. Cholmondeley's Temple Garden. (Image: Alison Moore)

Cholmondeley Castle

There is so much to see at Cholmondeley, with 70 acres of wonderful plants to enchant the visitor. The romantic Temple and Folly Gardens are perfect for a leisurely stroll, and a must-see is the Cholmondeley Rose Garden, created in 2023. Eight beds surround the central tempietto planted with peonies and bearded irises as well as roses such as ‘Young Lycidas’ and ‘Silas Marner’ from David Austin Roses. Perennial borders wrapping around the new garden will add to the colourful display, and in summer will be alive with butterflies and pollinators.


Great British Life: Rosa Roald Dahl in the Rose Garden at Dunham Massey. Rosa Roald Dahl in the Rose Garden at Dunham Massey. (Image: Alison Moore)

Dunham Massey

I have nothing but admiration for this National Trust property near Altrincham, which boasts one of the largest winter gardens in England, as well as colourful summer borders and a wonderful rose garden. I’m very fortunate it’s close to where I live, and in winter, when so many gardens are closed for the season, it’s a perfect place to explore. From the delicate snowdrops of January to the vibrant tulips of April and May, the garden showcases a breathtaking display of bulbs. The gardens and parkland are hugely popular with families, with regular trails for the children to enjoy, and in November and December, the property hosts a spectacular lights and music extravaganza, adding a touch of magic to the festive season.


Great British Life: The Roman chariot at Mount Pleasant. The Roman chariot at Mount Pleasant. (Image: Alison Moore)

Mount Pleasant Gardens

With stunning views over the Cheshire plains, Mount Pleasant Gardens in Kelsall has been owned by Dave and Louise Darlington for more than 25 years. It has many different areas to explore including a wildflower meadow, a Japanese Garden, ponds and water features. Something that makes it unique though, is the Sculpture Trail where many artists from Cheshire and further afield exhibit their work. One of the most impressive is a magnificent Roman chariot, which pays homage to the fact a major Roman Road, commonly known as Watling Street, passed through this part of Kelsall on a route from Chester to York. The gardens are open from April 3 until Sunday, September 29, every Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays.


Great British Life: Maginficent magnolia at Ness Botanical Gardens. Maginficent magnolia at Ness Botanical Gardens. (Image: Alison Moore)

Ness Botanical Gardens

The gardens at Ness were founded in 1898 by Arthur Kilpin Bulley, who had a passion for collecting plants from around the world. After his death, they were donated to the University of Liverpool and have been captivating visitors ever since. Spring is my favourite season here, and there is so much to see from the impressive collection of flowering trees and shrubs to the carpets of bulbs to be found throughout the gardens. The magnolias are magnificent and it’s worth a visit to see the appropriately named Magnolia sperengeri ‘Diva’ alone. This huge specimen is a mass of showy pink blooms and can be seen from various vantage points in the garden.


Great British Life: Peonies in the Upper Garden at Quarry Bank. Peonies in the Upper Garden at Quarry Bank. (Image: Alison Moore)

Quarry Bank

I first visited the historic Mill at Styal in the early 1990s with my two young sons. The gardens weren’t open then; the house and land only later being acquired by the National Trust, but so much has changed in the intervening years. Thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2015, the upper garden, together with its glasshouse dating from 1930, was restored to its former glory. In early summer, the peonies and irises are nothing short of spectacular, putting on a stunningly colourful display much admired by visitors.


Great British Life: Stonyford Cottage Gardens in May. Stonyford Cottage Gardens in May. (Image: Alison Moore)

Stonyford Cottage

The task of picking my favourite gardens reminds me I haven’t been to Stonyford Cottage Gardens for a couple of years. Tucked away down a country lane, on the edge of Delamere Forest, this privately owned garden is a little gem. It was created from a wetland area, and pathways lead the visitor over bridges and around the ponds that are packed with shade and moisture-loving plants. Candelabra primulas, iris and astilbes thrive in this habitat and if you visit in spring or early summer you might just catch a glimpse of the resident swan and her cygnets.


Alison Moore of Renaissance Garden Design is a garden designer and photographer based in Sale. She writes a blog about her garden and other gardens she visits in Cheshire.


Twitter: @renaissancegd

Instagram: @alisonmoore