In 1768 Admiral Robert Digby, a younger son of the 7th Baron Digby of Sherborne Castle, bought Minterne from the executors of the will of General Charles Churchill. It is interesting to note that in his diary later that year, Robert wrote, "Visited my new estate, valley very bare, trees not thriving, house ill contrived and ill-situated!" Robert immediately set about landscaping the valley in the manner of Capability Brown, who was working at Sherborne Castle at the time. Although the hills are chalk, the garden is situated on a mound of green sand, which runs for a mile down the centre of the valley. This, with the humus and dappled shade provided by the large beech trees was the perfect setting for the rhododendrons and magnolias from the Wilson, Forrest, Rock and Kingdon Ward expeditions to the Himalayas.
The secluded gardens at Minterne, famed for its seasonal profusion of rhododendrons, azaleas, Japanese cherries and magnolias are set in a peaceful wooded valley and have been described by Simon Jenkins as ' a corner of paradise.'
In late May and June many fine specimens of Davidia Involucrata (the Pocket Handkerchief Tree) are a particular feature.
Small lakes, streams and cascades offer a new vista at each turn round the 1-mile round horseshoe-shaped gardens, and in the summer the streams are enhanced by primulas, astilbes and water-lilies.
Over 200 Maples and Acers provide stunning autumn colouring.
Minterne House, Minterne Magna, Dorset, England, DT2 7AU
1st March to 9th November. Daily. Open 10am to 6pm.
Adult £4.00, Child free