Five artists' gardens


Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant

  • Charleston, East Sussex
  • Free with National Art Pass

The East Sussex home of Bloomsbury group artists Vanessa Grant and Duncan Bell was very much a creative project. Not only did they emblazon Charleston's interiors with their visionary modern designs, but they added their unique artistic touch to the exterior areas too. With help from Roger Fry who plotted the layout, they transformed a functional First World War garden containing hen runs and vegetable plots into a painter's paradise; mixing Mediterranean influences with traditional cottage style, the pair chose plants and flowers known for their intense colour and silver foliage, and added classical statues, mosaic pavements and tile-edged pools. It was the subject of many still lifes painted by both Grant and Bell, as well as other visiting artists.


Gabriel Orozco

  • South London Gallery
  • Free to all

This October a new permanent garden designed by circle-obsessed artist Gabriel Orozco opens at South London Gallery. Created over two years with support from 6a architects and horticulturists at Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, the design incorporates the Mexican's favourite motif; the layout features a series of circular 'rooms' that can be used for exhibiting work, running community activities or simply as a space for visitors to relax. The artist has used bricks that were recovered from the original Victorian building during recent restoration work in order to provide a specific connection between the gallery and the outdoor space. This project was made possible thanks to Art Fund support.


Derek Jarman

  • Prospect Cottage, Kent
  • Free to all*

Following his diagnosis with HIV in 1986, film director, artist and diarist Derek Jarman decided to relocate to Prospect Cottage in a remote part of Kent where he devoted his time to building a shingle garden in the shadow of Dungeness power station. Treating the desolate space as if it was the set of a theatrical production, he built sculptural forms from flotsam that washed up nearby and planted salt-loving beach flora that he allowed to grow wild and free. He remarked: 'Paradise haunts gardens, and some gardens are paradises. Mine is one of them'.

*Please note the property is private but the garden can be viewed from the path


Barbara Hepworth

  • Museum and Sculpture Garden, Cornwall
  • 50% off with National Art Pass

The artist originally came to Cornwall with her young family at the outbreak of the Second World War, but fell so in love with the area she moved permanently in 1949 and would remain here until her death. She wrote that finding her St Ives studio (now a museum) was 'a sort of magic... Here was a studio, a yard and garden where I could work in open air and space'. At the time the sculptor's practice had largely been restricted to stone and wood, but in Cornwall she began to incorporate alloy; laying out the design for the garden with the help of her friend, Prialux Rainier, she created a series of monumentally sized bronze works for display. Most of the sculptures are still in the position in which she herself placed them.


Ian Hamilton Finlay

  • Little Sparta, South Lanarkshire
  • Standard entry charge

After moving to Stonypath farm in the Pentland Hills in the 1960s, Ian Hamilton Finlay set out a plan to create 'concrete poetry objects' in the surrounding landscape. He and his wife Sue began developing the area; she digging flower borders and planting trees while he constructed ponds and a sunken garden. Ian sought out stonemasons and letter-cutters to produce his sculptural designs and over the next 25 years, he slowly brought his vision to life – piece by piece, poem by poem. By the end of his life the garden had doubled in size. It now contains over 270 sculptures, each set into a 'specific landscape' that Finlay conceived of to reflect the mood and tone of its poetic elements.

Back to top