June 24, 2024
These Are the World’s Most Beautiful Gardens of 2023

Our fourth annual outdoor living design competition celebrates the ingenious revivals of a diversity of landscapes, each imbued with old-fashioned garden romance for their second acts. Designer and passionate gardener Bunny Williams and Institute of Classical Architecture & Art president Peter Lyden returned to our judging panel once again to blindly select our 2023 World’s Most Beautiful Gardens.

From a meadow wonderland in southeastern England to an urban sanctuary in Charleston, this year’s five winners reimagine the idylls and traditions past with thoughtful, innovative ways forward. Here, the most world’s most beautiful gardens for 2023.

Ultimate Secret Garden

Designed by Alvaro Sampedo

Tendilla, Spain

17th century palace in tendilla, spain design by Álvaro sampedro a wispy perennial garden features grasses, nepeta, salvia, yarrow, and irises

A wispy perennial garden features grasses, Nepeta, salvia, yarrow, and irises.

CLAIRE TAKAC

“I found something amazing—you must come see,” Spanish interior designer Luis Puerta instructed his longtime collaborator landscape designer Álvaro Sampedro. As it turns out, recalls Sampedro, amazing was perhaps an understatement.

 

preview for HDM All sections playlist - Veranda US:

Just 50 minutes outside of Madrid, Puerta had discovered a 17th-century palace in near ruin in a little village named Tendilla close to Guadalajara. Behind it, a “jungle, an incredible paradise,” notes Sampedro, in need of rescue. There were hints of an orchard, creeks, and a kitchen garden, he recalls, but whatever overarching design there may have once been had long succumbed to neglect.

17th century palace in tendilla, spain design by Álvaro sampedro madame alfred carrière and eden roses ascend a reappointed stone wall

Madame Alfred Carrière and Eden roses ascend a reappointed stone wall.

CLAIRE TAKAC

Near the outset of the six-year restoration project that followed, Sampedro made a serendipitous discovery of his own. “I uncovered old garden lines similar to the design of the chapel’s cupola,” says the landscape designer of an original plot set near the house.

17th century palace in tendilla, spain design by Álvaro sampedro crowned with a sculptural fountain, the pool doubles as a soothing sound feature

Crowned with a sculptural fountain, the pool doubles as a soothing sound feature.

Claire Takacs

He salvaged those lines to revitalize the garden’s octagon-inspired layout (mimicking the chapel’s crowning structure), now outlined in boxwood and alive with roses. Nearby he added a new fountain pool and a perennial garden lush with grasses, Nepeta, salvia, and irises—“serene blues and purples”—as well as a kitchen garden, where willow raised beds are filled with aromatics, herbs, and a medley of vegetables.

17th century palace in tendilla, spain design by Álvaro sampedro gravel paths are lined with boxwoods and arches of lady banks roses

Gravel paths are lined with boxwoods and arches of Lady Banks roses.

Claire Takacs

“I like a sense of quiet order, especially near the house, then as you go down the paths, the garden loosens up to blend with the fields and trees beyond,” says Sampedro, who saved and revived older trees and liberally interspersed new cypresses “to give vertical lift, unifying the ground and sky.”

Speaking of lift, some 15 species of roses grace pergolas and arches, while Boston ivy climbs the palace walls. “My client is a creator of magnificent spaces, a lover of beauty and tranquility, so I approached this garden similarly as if it was an interior space, with places to nap, have tea with friends, to play,” says Sampedro, who composed every detail, from the sound of the gravel underfoot to the whiffs of jasmine. “I love how a garden is never finished and always changing—something curious and amazing all year long.”

17th century palace in tendilla, spain design by Álvaro sampedro a cloak of wisteria creates a hidden dining room

A cloak of wisteria creates a hidden dining room.

Claire Takacs

Most Poetic Revival

Designed by Dan Gordon Landscape Architects

Concord, Massachusetts

home in concord, massachusetts design by dan gordon landscape architects mounded boxwoods and an allée of london plane trees quietly enhance the home’s historic grandeur

Mounded boxwoods and an allée of London plane trees quietly enhance the home’s historic grandeur.

CHRIS RUCINSKI

“All that has been is visible and clear,” wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, beloved bard of early America. This classic Georgian Revival along Concord, Massachusetts’s Authors Ridge is patterned after Longfellow’s house in nearby Cambridge, and when a young family bought the circa 1900 manse, its timeless beauty was indeed visible and clear. Yet the former glory of its nearly six acres was decidedly less so. “It was overgrown, with no real sense of order or plan,” says Dan Gordon of Dan Gordon Landscape Architects. Plus a 2016 microburst had decimated many of the existing trees.

home in concord, massachusetts design by dan gordon landscape architects white annabelle hydrangeas and rozanne geraniums pool around a secluded garden fountain

White Annabelle hydrangeas and Rozanne geraniums pool around a secluded garden fountain.

CHRIS RUCINSKI

Tasked with reenvisioning a landscape that both complemented and enhanced the stately architecture, Gordon and project manager Patrick Taylor created definition by regrading the front elevation and introducing a stone retaining wall and a parade of bluestone pavers. An allée of London plane trees and groupings of mounded boxwood frame the entrance, creating quiet contrasts of height and form, order and elegance.

From there, a sweeping lawn gives way to a grassy meadow with the woodland beyond, “in keeping with the rural nature of the surrounding landscape,” says Gordon.

home in concord, massachusetts design by dan gordon landscape architects white salvia, catmint, and allium bloom along a backyard walkway

White salvia, catmint, and allium bloom along a backyard walkway.

CHRIS RUCINSKI

Closer to the house, a terrace garden brims with white hydrangea and perennials surrounding a fountain. “This more intimate garden contrasts with expanses of lawn. And it’s always lovely to hear a water feature from a porch,” Gordon notes. With the scent of catmint and salvia coming from the rear garden, these sensory elements become part of the poetry of the home, and the New England landscape its ardent muse.

home in concord, massachusetts design by dan gordon landscape architects meadow grasses invite a soft transition from the stately entrance to the rural concord surrounds

Meadow grasses invite a soft transition from the stately entrance to the rural Concord surrounds.

Neil Landino

Parterre Perfection

Designed by Ben Lenhardt

Charleston, South Carolina

18th century charleston, south carolina, home design by ben lenhardt in the parterre garden, kingsville boxwood borders with corner globes of japanese boxwood frame variegated asiatic jasmine knots and smaller spheres of oregano

In the parterre garden, Kingsville boxwood borders with corner globes of Japanese boxwood frame variegated Asiatic jasmine knots and smaller spheres of oregano.

Gross & Daley

“Parterre gardens are to be enjoyed from above, designed so the lady of the house could gaze from a piazza,” says Ben Lenhardt, pointing to the broad second-story porch of this 1743 home he and his wife have fully restored. Though small, his Charleston garden amplifies a refined lyricism, more exquisite chamber music than robust symphony. With boxwood-lined precision and plantings true to those found in the 18th-century Carolinas, it’s a celebration of history and preservation as much as form and finesse.

18th century charleston, south carolina, home design by ben lenhardt white lady banks roses tumble over a garden wall with creeping fig

White Lady Banks roses tumble over a garden wall with creeping fig.

Gross & Daley

There was no preexisting garden, just a lovely “borrowed landscape” of live oaks, massive magnolia, loquat, dogwood, and hollies surrounding the property. Lenhardt, a retired CEO who serves as chairman emeritus of The Garden Conservancy and board member of the Chicago Botanic Garden, embraced the blank slate, creating a series of garden rooms, including a narrow brick-lined front courtyard, then a central parterre aligned with sightlines from the main house.

Espaliered Little Gem magnolia, Iceberg roses, and white lantana climb the brick kitchen house. This unusual treatment was a “happy accident,” he says, noting that a prostrate lantana plant had toppled over and began ascending on its own. “I tucked it behind Iceberg roses for support.”

18th century charleston, south carolina, home design by ben lenhardt a double border of white gardenias embraces geometric kingsville littleleaf boxwood, with an old ligustrum tree standing guard above two gardenia standards

A double border of white gardenias embraces geometric Kingsville little leaf boxwood, with an old Ligustrum tree standing guard above two gardenia standards.

Gross & Daley

A brick walkway leads past the original privy turned “poor man’s Hidcote Manor folly,” Lenhardt jokingly explains, and into the larger back garden, where brick and stucco walls are encircled by Pink Perfection camellias, sasanquas, crape myrtles, and dogwoods—“all the usual suspects.” A 90-year-old palmetto, one of Charleston’s tallest, stands sentry on the lawn.

The middle parterre room’s strict white-and-green palette disappears, allowing Lenhardt to play with plant varieties and introduce color. “The bigger the property, the more sins you can get away with. A small garden is like a magnifying glass; you can see every error.” And clearly, every success.


Most Ingeniously Wild

Designed by Emma Burrill

East Sussex, England

home in east sussex, england design by emma burrill wispy grasses like warrior, karl foerster, and goldtau varieties, mixed with pink autumn stonecrop and other sedum, form playful corridors for wildlife

Wispy grasses like Warrior, Karl Foerster, and Goldtau varieties, mixed with pink Autumn stonecrop and other sedum, form playful corridors for wildlife.

Claire Takacs

Step one: Plant 550 native trees. That was how fine art photographer turned gardener and ceramicist Emma Burrill began a decade ago, transforming nearly seven acres of scruffy horse pasture into the garden of her dreams.

Charmed by the property’s old buildings, Burrill and her husband gave the farmhouse a modern renovation and turned the old stables into an art studio—but the fields ignited Burrill’s fantasy of a prairie-style haven of biodiversity. Her passion is rooted in the playfulness of gardening. “The process keeps me calm and sane,” she says. “I love the slowness of it, like watching 40-centimeter little whips I planted 10 years ago grow into 30-foot trees.”

home in east sussex, england design by emma burrill a studio perch overlooks a wildflower meadow

A studio perch overlooks a wildflower meadow.

Claire Takacs

Burrill also marvels at wild orchids colonizing amid her planted perennials and grasses. “To have it half-planned and half-wild links the gardens to the fields and woods beyond, creating connected corridors for wildlife,” she says. To her delight birds, mice, and foxes have begun to reclaim habitat that once was heavily sprayed for agricultural use, and emerging bee populations are particularly keen for her early flowering plum, pear, and almond trees.

In the wildflower meadow behind the studio, Burrill indulges her love of North American grasses; she’s partial to their calm-inducing wispiness and “almost sculptural shape and seed structure, even when dormant.” A mowed circular path in the prairie behind the studio adds a graphic modernist element, juxtaposed with two large rectangular perennial borders enclosed by the studio and the house.

“It’s a completely different planting style than a traditional British garden and I love that contrast,” she says. “I’m a tidy person by nature, but I try not to take that into the garden. Here I leave piles of twigs and leaves on the ground. It’s so much better for wildlife.”

home in east sussex, england design by emma burrill a circular mowed path introduces a modern element

A circular mowed path introduces a modern element.

Claire Takacs

Best Perennial Parade

Designed by Jo Thompson Landscape & Garden Design

Goudhurst, England

italianate estate in goudhurst, england design by jo thompson landscape garden design a double herbaceous border with purple berberis, ornamental grasses, agastache, roses, nepeta, and other perennials defines the entry

A double herbaceous border with purple berberis, ornamental grasses, Agastache, roses, Nepeta, and other perennials defines the entry.

Rachel Warne

Landscape designer Jo Thompson could tell the overgrown, shabby gardens surrounding the 19th-century Ladham House had once been well loved. When the Italianate mansion’s new owners, a young family, asked her to reinvigorate the grounds, “we did so with a sense of respect to what was there while adding a fresh contemporary twist,” says Thompson.

For instance, she kept the structure of the existing double 260-foot-long borders but relaxed their formality, infusing a gentle zigzagging rhythm of mixed-height perennials and traditional pink roses—“such a British thing”—interspersed with grasses for an airy feel. “There are extraordinary magnolias and mature trees framing these borders,” says Thompson, who built on this air of woodland mystery by introducing “pops of deep wine red” at the borders’ sunnier end, with wilder roses as the shade creeps in. “Instead of starting over, we regenerated what was there.”

italianate estate in goudhurst, england design by jo thompson landscape garden design the terrace’s asymmetrical boxwood and japanese holly topiaries contrast white annabelle hydrangeas

The terrace’s asymmetrical boxwood and Japanese holly topiaries contrast white Annabelle hydrangeas.

Rachel Warne
italianate estate in goudhurst, england design by jo thompson landscape garden design the expansive front lawn offers stillness amid the riotous borders

The expansive front lawn offers stillness amid the riotous borders.

Rachel Warne

Off a side patio, Thompson’s perennial garden in blues, pinks, and lilacs encircles a modern globe sculpture by David Harber. She echoed its curves with cloud-pruned topiary and allium, all softly blending into magnificent views of The Weald, the ancient natural forest well known in Southeast England.

In a previously unused part of the property, Thompson designed a sunken reclaimed York flagstone terrace and entertaining area surrounding an indoor pool and spa. “Here we can have a bit of contemporary fun,” says Thompson, noting manicured hedges of yew, hornbeam, and boxwood to give a cloistered effect and copious hydrangea in energizing dark green shades.

“A nod to Sissinghurst just down the road,” she says of the idea of a white garden but with a pared-down approach. “It’s all about taking our cues from the landscape, from history and research, to create a sense of place.”

italianate estate in goudhurst, england design by jo thompson landscape garden design a sculpture by david harber overlooks the weald

A sculpture by David Harber overlooks The Weald.

Rachel Warne

Methodology

VERANDA editors chose the top 18 entries for blind judging by Bunny Williams and Peter Lyden. View the information and submission guidelines for the 2024 awards here.