Anyone enjoying a 'staycation' this summer should make the most of a wealth of gardens open to the public, from National Trust properties to privately-owned country estates, royal parks and RHS treasure troves of colour.

Take a notebook with you to jot down inspiring designs, plant combinations and names of plants you'd like to grow in your own garden. Don't be afraid to ask the expert gardeners on site about hardiness, location preferences and soil requirements of the species in which you are interested.

Many of the public gardens also have guided tours, workshops and special events throughout the summer - check out their websites to find out what's on.

Among the pick of the crop are:

Blickling Estate, Blickling, Norwich, Norfolk NR11 6NF

Blickling Hall is one of England's great Jacobean houses, widely believed to be the home to Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn. The beautiful parkland houses a glorious lake and woodland, offering plenty of picnicking spots. After tucking in, let the kids discover the secret garden, investigate the ancient temple and smell the wonderful citrus trees in the orangery. You can also hire bikes to explore the park or even play a game of croquet on the lawns.

(; phone 01263 738030)

House of Pitmuies, Guthrie, By Forfar, Angus DD8 2SN, Scotland

If you love old-fashioned delphiniums and other gorgeous traditional perennials, then these gardens will be for you. Two semi-formal wall gardens adjoin the 18th century house and shelter long border of herbaceous perennials, superb delphiniums, old fashioned roses and pavings of violas and dianthus. Below the gardens is a 25-acre arboretum where you can enjoy spacious lawns and lochside walks beneath fine trees.

(; phone 01241 828245)

Alnwick Gardens, Denwick Lane, Alnwick, Northumberland NE66 1YU

This immense site is perfect for the family. Not only does it house one of the country's largest collections of European plants, laid out in striking geometric beds in its ornamental garden, and the impressive grand cascade, the largest water feature of its kind in the country, it also has plenty to interest younger family members too. There is an amazing treehouse plus a series of water features in the serpent garden - where children may be inadvertently squirted. For others, a visit to the famous poison garden is a must. Monkshood rubs shoulders with hemlock, foxgloves, aquilegia, autumn crocus (colchicum autumnale), laburnum and hellebores. They are all common plants you might find in your garden or in a hedgerow, and all with different levels of toxicity.

(; phone 01665 511350)

Dunham Massey, Altrincham, Cheshire WA14 4SJ

Enjoy a satisfying stroll at Dunham Massey's 30-acre estate this summer, one of the great gardens of the North West. Its new rose garden features more than 160 varieties of stunning roses, and kids can search for quiz clues in the garden, spot a deer, clamber and climb on the log pile or help feed the chickens. (; 0161 941 1025)

Scampston Walled Garden, Malton, North Yorkshire

If you love contemporary design, innovative planting and a mixture of old intermingling with new, don't miss a visit to Scampston Walled Garden in Malton. The four-and-a-half acre 18th century garden, once a neglected kitchen garden occupied by Christmas trees and sheep, has been transformed into nine individual rooms separated by formal beech hedging, each room completely different from the other.

Venturing from room to room, you'll find a sea of colour one minute, then the next, you'll find minimal green areas highlighted with topiary or punctuated with swathes of wavy grass.

Set in a glorious landscape of Capability Brown parkland, complete with serpentine lake, Palladian bridges and mature oak trees, the award-winning Dutch designer Piet Oudolf, one of the leading figures in a movement known as 'new wave planting' and previous Chelsea gold medal winner, was brought in to help realise the dream.

The high point for many visitors is a stunning Perennial Meadow in the centre of the walled garden, which becomes a riot of colour in summer with such rich gems as salvia, rudbeckia, phlomis, sedum, knautia and monarda, mixed with flowing ornamental grasses. (; phone 01944 759111)

Mount Stewart House, Garden and Temple of the Winds, County Down

Mount Stewart is hailed as one of the most spectacular and idiosyncratic gardens of Western Europe, universally renowned for the extraordinary scope of its plant collections and the originality of its features and tapestry-like design. Cared for by the National Trust, in summer the formal areas have a strong Mediterranean feel with the Italian garden, the sunken Spanish garden, beautiful rhododendrons and the lake walk. There are also all kinds of oddities to delight children, including red squirrels, crocodiles and dodos.

(; 028 4278 8387)

RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey GU23 6QB

The jewel in the crown of RHS gardens, Wisley is worth a trip in the summer just to take in the two spectacular rose gardens, the Golden Jubilee Rose Garden and the Bowes-Lyon Rose Garden - the latter of which features colour-themed plantings of more than 4,000 roses and 5,000 herbaceous plants. The Glasshouse showcases a world class plant collection and has three climatic zones recreating tropical, moist temperate and dry temperate habitats. Meanwhile, the children can explore the scarecrow trail (runs Jul 19 to Aug 18), finding more than 100 decorated scarecrows throughout the gardens, created by local WI groups.

(; phone 0845 260 9000)