The world’s top ten gardens

With Top Ten lists becoming img_9392popular, we thought should have a list of the world’s ten best gardens.¬† But how should it be compiled? Democracy or autocracy? Here are the democratic results: top ten gardens¬† generated from our garden reviews and rating system. But Winston Churchill said: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” ( 11. 11, 1947)

So let’s try autocracy: here is Tom Turner’s Top Ten Gardens List, which you can think of a list of the gardens which should be, like the Temple of Abu Simbel, if rising waters were going to flood all the world’s best gardens, by which I mean those which would disappear when the Vale of Kashmir, and Shalimar Bagh, were submerged by global warming. The gardens are in no particular order:

If I had been to Columbus Indiana I think I would include the garden of the Miller house, though I do not know what I would delete from the list. So which is best: democracy or autocracy? – and would readers like to suggest changes to the list?

14 thoughts on “The world’s top ten gardens

  1. Tom Turner Post author

    I visited Versailles many times over many years, finding it duller each time. But then I went to an evening event with crowds, music, fountains and fireworks – and thought it terrific. On a weekday afternoon it is like an empty theater.
    I know what you mean about Vaux: it is very well composed. But it lacks a quality in which Versailles excelles: vastness of extent and ambition, otherwise known as ‘awe’.

  2. Pingback: Monty Don on the best garden in the world: Ninfa | Garden Design And Landscape Architecture Blog –

  3. Lawrence

    I am pleased not to find Rousham on this list, despite it’s historical importance. It’s my favourite garden because of its charm, which can be enjoyed in solitude without cafes, souvenir shops, signposts and thousands of other visitors.

  4. Lawrence

    I know only one other garden with a claim to historical importance that follows the Rousham approach to visitors: Karl Foerster’s garden in Potsdam [ ]. I was greeted there warmly as the only visitor by Frau Foerster herself one warm, summer evening and she dug up some seedlings for me to take away. Perhaps there should be an alternative top ten list of gardens like this, where one can imagine oneself back to how the original creator might have seen his own work.

  5. Tom Turner Post author

    My grandad, presumably in the 1930s, used to chat with Vita Sackville West at Sissinghurst. Visitors numbers would have made this hard for her in the 2010s

  6. stephen Harmer

    Having visited a selection of French gardens again this week, including Vaux and Versailles and with the fountains all playing at Versailles accompained by music, and the candlelight and fireworks at Vaux these gardens take some beating, Vaux would have to be in my top 10.
    The garden though that most of the students enjoyed the most and one at which I only allowed a few hours, was Parc Sceaux. This is a delightful garden and a delighful surprise, and the cascade by le Notre is stunning.
    The other surprise for me was Marly, I found it a sad even melancholy place, a shadow of its former self, but now it is under the control of Versaille again since 2009 a restoration programe is in place. I am glad of this but feel the melancholy is part of its charm, and although I will be keen to watch the restoration over the coming years/decades I feel part of this garden will be lost in the crowds that will doubtless appear.

  7. stephen Harmer

    Can gardens today survive without tearooms and giftshops? Does the condition of some of the features at Rousham not testify to this?

  8. Lawrence

    I suppose this is a question of what we expect from our gardens. I have not been to Rousham for a long time now, but the feeling of genteel decay was always one of its biggest attractions for me, as you say, Stephen, melancholic charm. Foerster’s garden benefits from its nearness to Sans Souci, in that it receives funding spun off from the World Heritage Site status of the gardens and surrounding area, allowing the garden to be maintained in its original conception by the Foerster family, and to charge no admittance. Wikipedia says of Rousham that its “gardens and buildings are superbly maintained but not manicured.” I don’t know how this is paid for, whether there are public funds that the Cottrell-Dormer family can draw on. There certainly should be.

  9. Tom Turner Post author

    We have Green Flag Awards for public parks and Blue Flag awards for beaches. Though it would be a pity to use the name, it would be good to have a Rousham Award for a soft, generous, gentle and trusting garden management. What should it be called? The Short Poppy Award?


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