Tour 4 Fabulous British Celebrity Gardens

Explore the secret gardens and estates that belong to Sting, Sir Richard Branson and other British notables.

Photo By: Hugo Rittson Thomas/The Secret Gardeners

Photo By: Hugo Rittson Thomas/The Secret Gardeners

Photo By: Hugo Rittson Thomas/The Secret Gardeners

Photo By: Getty Images/Emma McIntyre

Photo By: Hugo Rittson Thomas/The Secret Gardeners

Photo By: Hugo Rittson Thomas/The Secret Gardeners

Photo By: Hugo Rittson Thomas/The Secret Gardeners

Photo By: Getty Images/Jacopo Raule

Photo By: Hugo Rittson Thomas/The Secret Gardeners

Photo By: Hugo Rittson Thomas/The Secret Gardeners

Photo By: Getty Images/CNBC

Photo By: Hugo Rittson Thomas/The Secret Gardeners

Photo By: Hugo Rittson Thomas/The Secret Gardeners

Sting's Labyrinth

When he’s home, Sting enjoys the grass labyrinth he and wife Trudie Styler created. Once a mown maze, it was built up with soil and takes the musician about 25 minutes to walk. The estate’s gardener clips the top paths with a narrow cylinder mower and the lower ones with a rotary mower. There are other mown lawns on the grounds, as well as formal plantings and a kitchen garden where pears, onions, leaks and kale are grown for the family table.

The Secret Gardeners, by Victoria Summerley

When you’re traveling in the U.K., put Sissinghurst Castle or another stunning British garden on your bucket list. Of course, there are some places you’re not permitted to see, lavish estates that belong to celebrities—unless you explore them through Victoria Summerley’s book, The Secret Gardeners: Britain’s Creatives Reveal Their Private Sanctuaries. Award-winning journalist and garden blogger Summerley takes readers behind the gates and hedges belonging to notables like rocker Ozzy Osbourne, actor Jeremey Irons and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. You’ll also get a look at the natural beauty in places like Oxfordshire, Cotswolds, London and Devon. Musician Sting's gardens and home are pictured on the book's cover.

Sting and Trudie Styler's Lime Walk

Trudie and Sting Styler enjoy walks under the interwoven branches on the Lime Walk in their garden. Trudie says she fell in love with their property, Lake House, after spotting a 300-year-old copper beech tree and sensing the opportunity to create something magical. Husband Sting readily agreed. Now the steps of their home are bordered by foxgloves, hardy geraniums and hellebores, There's also a rose garden in memory of Trudie's mother, who adored pink ‘Prima Ballerina' roses. Trudie also designed a lake (despite the estate’s name, it didn’t have one). Incredibly, a woman’s skeleton, believed to date to 400 A.D., was unearthed when the lake was dug. After archeologists returned the skeleton, the Stylers had it re-buried on an island in the water. Later, visiting Buddhist monks created a sand mandala at Lake House. When it was destroyed, as is the custom, the monks, who hadn’t known where the skeleton had been interred, happened to scatter the sand on that very spot.

Jeremy Irons

Before his career took off, Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons earned extra money with cleaning and gardening jobs. Today, he owns a house in Watlington, Oxfordshire, where he likes to host the local flower show and sometimes sits in to play fiddle in impromptu musical sessions. His classical English garden includes climbing roses, sweet peas, bellflowers, catmint, 'Annabelle' hydrangeas and a handsome weeping pear tree.

Fountain at Irons' Estate

A fountain sits between dwarf hedges at Irons’ home, Kilcoe Castle, in West Cork, and roses add color. Irons is an environmentalist, says author Summerley, who doesn’t think gardens should be overly tidy. He prefers plants that re-seed enthusiastically, like Mexican daisies (Erigeron karvinskianus), although he and his family do enjoy a more formal herb garden, where they pick chives, tarragon and sage.

Pond and Canoe

Some of Irons’ plants are non-natives, but English gardeners have grown them, in some cases, for centuries. Water soldiers (Stratiotes aloides), for example, bear spiky yellow flowers round his pond, and a daisy-like flower commonly called Mexican fleabane spills over steps and a terrace. He also grows yellow flag iris and angel’s fishing rod, a perennial with rose-purple, bell-shaped flowers. The arum lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) shown here border the water’s edge. Author Summerley calls Irons a “hands-on horticulturist" who finds gardens peaceful and calming, and feels they give you a glimpse into other people’s souls—as well as your own.

Ornamental Gates

Wrought-iron gates frame a view of Irons’ fountain (look closely to see the graceful swans around its base). The large, white flower heads of Sitpa gigantea lean over the edge of the path. Yuccas, also known as Spanish daggers (Yucca gloriosa) also border the gates and are tough enough to withstand the freezing winter temperatures. Irons’ limestone Regency house, which dates to around 1820, features arched windows and a Welsh slate roof.

Rupert Everett

Rupert Everett wears many hats: actor, director, producer and writer. He and his mother, Sara, live in Wiltshire, where the family has lived since Everett was a teenager. They garden along the banks of the River Avon, and because they’re considered "riparian owners," they’re required to control any invasive species and avoid obstructing or polluting the water.

The Everetts' Pond

The Everetts’ lily pond is behind the house. An antique copper wash tub serves as a planter for summer annuals. It’s surrounded by Darmera peltata, a deciduous perennial commonly known as umbrella plant. Sara favors hot colors, like the dramatic burgundy-reds of 'Nuit d’Ete’ dahlias and the crimson-changing-to-rich-purple tones of 'William Shakespeare 2000,’ a David Austin rose.

Water Feature at the Everetts' Home

Clay pots of bedding plants stand along the Everetts’ stone-edged water feature. The family also keeps a vegetable garden between their swimming pool (not shown) and the south end of their house, where strawberries, gooseberries and raspberries flourish. A nearby border is planted with pink 'Bowl of Beauty’ peonies and blue Tradescantia. Conifers and evergreen shrubs thrive in a front garden, while another border features red valerian, alliums and roses.

Sir Richard Branson

After English businessman and investor Sir Richard Branson and his wife moved to the British Virgin Islands, they sold their estate near Kidlington, in Oxfordshire, to their adult children, Sam and Holly. Sam, Summerly notes, says his dad still likes to visit and stroll around the lake he built as habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.

The Branson Family's Lake

The Cherwell River, which runs through the Bransons’ gardens, spills into the manmade lake after heavy rains. Columbines (aquilegia) bloom along the banks, reflecting the family’s love of wildflowers and naturalistic plantings. Today, the garden that Sam and Holly share has been divided into a lawn where their children can play, and an area of box parterres filled with sedums, Stachys, tall verbena, echinaceas and other perennials.

Kidlington

This timber pergola sits on a lush lawn near Sam Branson’s home. There’s a hot tub to the rear, where pink Persicaria bistortata, ‘China Pink’ tulips, hostas and coneflowers provide color. After Sam and Holly bought the property from their parents in 2008, they hired a designer-friend to renovate the gardens. Their request: lots of colorful but sustainable plants, such as bougainvillea, to remind them of the gardens they admired when they visited the elder Bransons Caribbean home.