Western Europe and the United Kingdom are home to many of the world's oldest and most famous gardens and also its best known garden festivals. It's the first place many garden tourists think of when they dream of going on a garden-based holiday.

Gardens to see and visit in Western Europe and the UK include the show gardens of London's Chelsea Flower Show, artists' garden like Monet's garden in France, the historic Moorish splendour of La Alhambra in Spain, Holland's fields of tulips, or one of Italy's huge formal gardens like Villa d'Este. But it also has many less well-known garden attractions like Scotland's quirky Little Sparta, the massive gardens of Austria's Schönbrunn Palace, Northern Ireland's Mount Stewart and the breath-taking Sichtungsgarten Hermannshof in Germany.

Country garden guides in this region:

Regional Garden Travel Guide to Western Europe and UK


Getting there, and around

In Garden Tour Hub’s guides, Western Europe and the UK includes:
Ireland, Iceland, United Kingdom (Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales), Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, France, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Luxembourg, and the micro-states of Liechtenstein, Malta, Andorra, San Marino and Monaco.

All Western Europe’s cities are easy to fly to and from most destinations worldwide. For those flying from Asia, Australia and Oceania, using a change point like Dubai gives direct access to dozens of Western European and UK cities. From USA’s west coast, flights to London and Paris are a long-haul flight of nearly 11 hours, and 11:15 hours to Munich.

Within Europe there are many cheap flights between major cities on budget carriers such as Ryanair or easyJet for only $20USD however be warned that they have very strict and much lower luggage limits than trans-Atlantic and other international flights, so if you bring 25-30kg of luggage with you, be prepared to pay a fortune in excess baggage!



Western Europe and the UK’s climate is dominated by the warming currents of the Gulf Stream and the warming effect of the relatively shallow Mediterranean Sea. These prevent the winters of most Western European countries from being nearly as cold or snowy as North America, even though most of them are at a higher latitude.

The wettest parts of Europe are those that receive rain from the prevailing westerly winds during the winter months, such as Ireland, western UK, northwest Spain, and western Norway and also in early summer, referred to as the ‘European Monsoon’. Other areas of Europe also have a winter maximum rainfall. The mildest areas of Europe are along the Mediterranean Spanish Costa del Sol and the hottest summers in inland Spain and Italy.


Topography and vegetation

The four defining physical features of Western Europe and the UK are Western Uplands, the North European Plain, the Central Uplands and the Alpine Mountains.

The Western Uplands are areas shaped by glaciers such as Britain, Denmark, Scandinavia and Iceland, and they still have many fiords, lakes and marshlands. The North European Plain is mostly flat land less than 150 metres (500 feet) in elevation bordering the Atlantic Ocean and home to Europe’s most productive farmlands and the bulk of its population, such as southern UK, north-west France, Belgium, The Netherlands, northern Germany, and southern Denmark. The Central Uplands is an elevated plateau through central France, southern Germany and northern Switzerland much of which is heavily wooded. The Alpine Mountains zone include the Alps and Pyrenees and active volcanoes in Italy.

Mixed conifer and deciduous tree forests once covered most of the more elevated areas of Western Europe and grasslands on the Plain, but most has been cleared for farming and an increasingly urban population. The Mediterranean basin has a distinct flora of highly drought-resistant plants.


Garden styles

Europe has been gardened since Roman times, so there are layers of history in its gardens, many of which have been redesigned and replanted dozens of times through the centuries reflecting the waxing and waning of empires, changes in garden design fashions, and the arrival of newly discovered and collected plants from other continents.

Medieval gardens were mostly productive monastic gardens. The first well-known large landscape gardens emerged during the 15th century Italian Renaissance and were modelled on ideas of Roman symmetry and order. Several Renaissance gardens are still maintained in that style such as Villa d’Este and the Boboli gardens in Italy.

André Le Nôtre revolutionised garden design in France during the 17th century, creating the French classical style of long axes crossing a flattened landscape with canals, orangeries, fountains and grottos as can still be seen at Versailles.

The 18th century saw the rise of the English Picturesque gardens designed by masters such as Capability Brown and William Kent, which pushed back against the formal Classical style with naturalistic park-like grounds featuring woodlands, lakes and follies. French Rococo gardens of the same period also started to incorporate international influences from China and Japan and Turkey.

From the early 19th century, the Victorian/Gardenesque/collector’s style garden began to evolve, where each plant is displayed to its best advantage, fuelled by the new and interesting plants being brought back by plant hunters in far-off places. Island beds, strange plant juxtapositions and detailed features were scattered about the garden, often linked by a winding path.

By the turn of the 20th century, this gave way to the cottage garden and herbaceous border style popularised by Gertrude Jekyll, Vita Sackville-West and Margery Fish which persisted for many decades and was further revived in the 1980-1990s.

In the middle 20th century, contemporary gardens with simpler and less fussy layouts emerged, inspired by similar the art and architecture movement of ‘from follows function’ and also modernist gardens of patterns and foliage rather than flowers.

In recent years a naturalistic planting style of natural-style meadow gardens and seasonal perennials has been inspired by American designers such as James van Sweden and Wolfgang Oehme.


Western Europe and UK regularly open gardens

See individual country entries listed at the top of this guide


Western Europe and UK garden festivals and shows

Flower Parade – Nice, France, mid February
Giardina Zürich – Zürich, Switzerland, late March
Keukenhof Gardens – Lisse, The Netherlands, March-May
RHS London Spring Plant Extravaganza – London, UK
Festa da Flor – Funchal, Madeira, Portugal, mid April
RHS Flower Show Cardiff – Cardiff, Wales, UK, mid April
Nordic Gardens –  Stockholm, Sweden, late April
International Garden Festival – Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire, France, late April-end October
Floralia – Brussels April-May
Girona Temps de Flors – Girona, Spain, early May
RHS Malvern Spring Festival – Malvern, Worcestershire, UK, early May
Córdoba Patios Festival – Córdoba, Spain, early May
D’Aywiers Plant and Gardens Festival – Jardins D’Aywiers gardens, Lasne, Belgium, early May
Garden Festival Herrenhausen – Herrenhausen Palace, Hannover, Germany, mid May
Chelsea Flower Show – London, UK, late May
Perugia Flower Show – Perugia, Italy , late May
Northwest Garden Show – Castlefinn, Donegal, Ireland, late May (next show 2017?)
Jardins, Jardin – Tuileries, Paris, France, early June
Garden Show Ireland – Antrim Castle Gardens, Northern Ireland UK, early June
Gardening Scotland – Edinburgh, Scotland UK, early June
Bloom – Dublin, Ireland (Eire), early June
RHS Hampton Court Flower Show – London UK, early July
RHS Flower Show Tatton Park – Knutsford, Cheshire, UK, late July
Brussel’s Flower Carpet – Grand-Place, a biennial event, next in August 2016
Paris Garden Festival – Paris, France, late September
Malvern Autumn Show – Malvern, Worcestershire, late September


RHS Chatsworth Flower Show – Chatsworth, Derbyshire, early June 2017
IGA – International Garden Exhibition – Berlin, Germany, April – September 2017


Best time to visit gardens

April-October – early spring for bulbs; spring-summer for flowering trees, shrubs and perennials; autumn foliage. There are also some UK gardens open throughout the winter.


Ballintubbert Gardens, a revelation

Lorna Vallely

Ballintubbert Gardens in Co. Laois are a complete revelation to the first time visitor. On entering through what must be one of the most humble and unassuming garden entrances, and then a short distance further there’s a fine Georgian Manor House around which are an astonishing 14 acres of gardens.

Two Madrid garden masterpieces

Louise McDaid

In Spain’s capital Madrid, two impressive garden works caught my eye and enhanced my ‘art experience’: the Caixa greenwall and cloud pruning in Retiro Park, with both of these outdoor living works offer their own distinctive appeal and artistry.

Garden review: historic Villa Gamberaia, near Florence

Bernard Chapman

While holidaying in Florence I visited the famous and historic Villa Gamberaia. Yes there are great views and engaging statuary but also non-working fountains, dead hedges and poor maintenance.

The Garden of Ninfa – is it worth all the superlatives?

Deryn Thorpe

It was at a meeting of heritage rose lovers that I first heard about Ninfa, a romantic, rambling, Italian garden built in the ruins of a medieval town. I put it on my garden ‘bucket list’ and in May, on a journey from Rome to Sorrento, I got the opportunity to see if the anticipation lived up to the experience.

Review: A tale of two Normandy gardens

Paul Morgan

I visit two gardens in Normandy – Les Jardins en Le Pays d’Auge is a rambling garden packed with plants, while geometric topiary defines Le Jardin de Castillon. So which garden did I prefer?

Amsterdam’s secret: an enchanted forest and gardens

Paul Morgan

It is so completely entrancing; we have stumbled into an enchanted forest threaded with sunny meadows of daisy-strewn lawns, tiny cottages & bright gardens

Chelsea Flower Show goes on

Steven Wells

There is just so much to take in at the Chelsea Flower Show. So here is some more of the fun, fashion, flowers, fascination and fantastic gardens that makes Chelsea so special.

Chelsea Flower Show 2016

Steven Wells

On a glorious, sunny spring day in London the 2016 Chelsea Flower Show delivers again. The pinnacle of horticultural endeavours and exhibitors were on display and I was certainly impressed by the gardens on show.

Estufa Fria – Lisbon’s greenhouse (serra fredda Lisbona)

Dana Frigerio

This enchanting “cold greenhouse” is located at the end of the Parque Eduardo VII in Lisbon, Portugal, in a protected and sheltered area of an abandoned former quarry. Walking within this park becomes a sensory experience that is fantastic for both adults and children.

Book Review: Great Gardens of London

Helen Young

I’ve offered to write a review of this book, simply because I enjoyed it. Such books don’t always live up their hype but this is one I’m happy to add […]

Ludwigsburg: one of the world’s best pumpkin festivals

Linda Green

The handful of varieties on a supermarket shelf is a fraction of those grown around the world, as you can see with the hundreds of different pumpkins displayed at the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival.

My challenge, the acceptance, and the Jardin du Bois du Puits

Andrew Davies

I contacted Catherine Stewart with a challenge: find me a garden to visit on my Normandy driving holiday. She said “It will cost you a shiraz”. My summer visit to the Jardins du Bois du Puits was well worth the red!

When cars and landscape collide


Porsche has been turning heads with this soaring new 25m 911 car sculpture by Gerry Judah outside its Porscheplatz headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.

Garden travel – how do you temper your desire?

Helen Young

Garden travel starts with desire…you want ALL the beautiful gardens, exotic locations and intriguing local cultures. But I know that this desire is best satisfied when its balanced by restraint, as that’s what will give you the most holiday pleasure.

The Kiss: Gardening with Gustav

Tammy Schmitt

Have you ever seen a piece of art and imagined it as a garden? I am not a horticulturalist, garden designer or landscape architect. My only design experience comes from moving seventeen times in thirty four years and always having to cram my stuff into a new house

Welcome to the world’s largest maze, in Fontanellato, Italy

Catherine Stewart

Welcome to the Masone Labyrinth (Labirinto della Masone) of Franco Maria Ricci in Fontanellato, near Parma, Italy. Covering 7 hectares (17 acres), it is the largest labyrinth in the world. Will you ever get out?

Book Review: ‘Lessons from Great Gardeners’


‘Lessons from Great Gardeners’ is an inviting book, profiling 40 ‘gardening icons’ – gardeners and garden designers. You will respond to their creative ideas and their passion for gardens, and learn from them.

Promenade du Paillon in Nice, France: A Public Open Space that Works!

Helen McKerral

Nice may be the playground of the rich and famous but, frankly, few Australians will be impressed by its most famous open space: a small, crowded, pebbly beach, oppressively hot on the day we visited. For me, the real attraction lay within the city.

Which gardens make your heart sing?

Janna Schreier

When I first took an interest in garden design, it was all about the look. Some combination of colours, textures and forms would jump out at me from a page […]

Sa Pedra Arrubia: Maurizio Usai’s garden

Carlo Gabriele

Sometimes I just need to take a quick look at a garden to understand the personality of its owner. I don’t think it’s because I am particularly intuitive; it’s more that for some gardens the aim of the design is so clear and easy to interpret.

Henry James and his Lamb House garden

Susannah Fullerton

“I am hopeless about the garden, which I don’t know what to do with and shall never, never know – I am densely ignorant,” said Henry James, whose garden at Lamb House was both refuge and inspiration.

Northern Portugal: like Scotland with more sun

Alison Stewart

A June trip to the Serra d’Arga mountain region in northern Portugal, just south of the border with Spain, reminded me of one of the many pearls of wisdom to be found in Catherine Stewart’s blog postings for GardenDrum.

Whisper of stars: Daniel Spoerri garden

Carlo Gabriele

For a very special Italian sculpture garden, the Daniel Spoerri Garden in Tuscany shows a collection of artworks made specifically for him and his garden, flanked by mature plantings of oaks, chestnuts and olive trees.

A garden tour of Italy (Part 2)

Anne Latreille

Travelling in Italy, I am constantly surprised at the green planting that defines the gardens and the landscape. So much so that when colours crop up, they’re a kind of embroidery, something that focuses the eye

Chelsea 2015: 10 things that caught my eye

Helen Young

What caught my eye at the Chelsea Flower Show 2015? From moss-covered lampshades to colourful potatoes and a must-have shell-covered pig seat, there really was something for everyone.

Astonishment and surprise: Tarots Garden

Carlo Gabriele

I have never seen anything that I can compare to the Tarots Garden: astonishment, surprise, and fascination are some of the feelings I felt exploring this 20,000 square meter Art […]

Chelsea 2015 Fresh: World Vision Garden

Helen Young

One of the Chelsea Flower Show 2015 gardens in the Fresh category that I loved was the ‘World Vision Garden: Grow Hope’, inspired by the beauty of Cambodia. It won a silver-gilt medal for

London’s ‘Sloane in Bloom’ 2015

Helen Young

In Sloane Square close to London’s Chelsea Flower Show, retailers compete annually in ‘Sloane in Bloom’, dressing their shops with glorious floral displays, this year themed ‘Fairytales’.

Gardens of southern Italy & the Amalfi Coast

Angus Stewart

One of my favourite garden tours visited southern Italy, from Rome south to the Amalfi Coast near Naples. Aside from the spectacular views, there is a surprising range of sub-tropical and temperate zone plants

South African garden at Chaumont sur Loire

Leon Kluge

When I opened the email last year asking me to be part of the Chaumont-sur-Loire International Garden Festival (IGF), I just about fell off my chair, as it’s been on the top of my bucket list

The Brontës and their garden

Susannah Fullerton

“There is not a knoll of heather, not a branch of fern, not a young bilberry leaf, not a fluttering lark or linnet, but reminds me of her” wrote Charlotte Brontë, of sister Emily after her death.

Lessons from Italy’s summer windowboxes

Helen McKerral

Container gardening is challenging. Pots often require daily watering, especially on exposed, sunny windowsills. The window boxes of northern Italy’s offer up some handy tips for success

Sir Walter Scott and his Abbotsford garden

Susannah Fullerton

In 1811 Sir Walter Scott bought a small farm on the Tweed River in Scotland where he built the Scottish Baronial-styled ‘Abbotsford’, surrounded by gardens and picturesque grounds.

Garden oddities – floral clocks

Silas Clifford-Smith

One of the horticultural oddities of the last century is the floral clock. A curious landscape design practice of the 20th C., floral clocks have a history that dates back to the 18th century.

The terraced food gardens of Cinque Terre

Helen McKerral

Forget award-winning landscape design, perfectly pruned hedges or immaculate lawns – be inspired by the terraced food gardens of Cinque Terre in coastal northern Italy

Great Dixter: a manic masterpiece

Angus Stewart

I have long been fascinated by the work of the late British garden designer Christopher Lloyd. So it was with great anticipation that I recently visited his Great Dixter garden […]

Wordsworth’s outdoor office at Rydal Mount

Susannah Fullerton

Wordsworth is of course familiar to all as one of the greatest of English poets, founder of the Romantic movement and Poet Laureate. What is less well known is that […]

Garden travel to broaden your mind

Stephen Ryan

I am about to jump on a plane and head off to France to lead a tour of gardens and châteaux of Normandy and the Loire Valley and if you […]

Rudyard Kipling and his garden

Susannah Fullerton

The first plants that Rudyard Kipling ever knew were exotic ones. He was born in India in 1865 and spent his first years surrounded by palms, mango and banana trees, […]

The romantic Garden of Ninfa, Italy

Jennifer Stackhouse

It was May and I was travelling through Italy enjoying a feast of gardens from Sorrento in the south to Lake Como on the north. That’s late spring in the […]

Giverny, a ‘bucket list’ garden of flowers

Alice Spenser-Higgs

The list of 1001 Gardens to See Before You Die includes the Giverny garden of Claude Monet and it is truly one for the bucket list. For gardeners who love […]

A country house in France – and garden

Margaret Cory

I have a friend who lives in France and she and her husband owned a beautiful, old, stone house in the Lot in south west France which they have just […]

Orchid fever

Ros Andrews

As a first time visitor to the Chelsea Flower Show in late May, I felt like a kid in a candy shop. So much to see in such a short […]

The floating gardens of London

Paul Urquhart

Twice a year, a unique barge community of barge gardens floating on the Thames is opened to the public to raise money for charity. Known as the Downings Road Moorings […]

La Louve – a very special garden

Peter Whitehead

I was very fortunate to visit La Louve in early June this year when taking a Ross Tour to Paris and Provence. How lucky we were with a glorious sunny […]

A garden in Provence

Bernard Chapman

My partner and I decided to celebrate 35 years together by holidaying in Europe, mainly France. We had always wanted to see and smell the lavender fields of Provence during […]

Louisa Jones fell in love with France

Warwick Forge

Louisa Jones fell in love with France and Provence as a student in the late 1960s and lives there to this day. English friends said there were no important gardens in […]

War and Peace

Julie Thomson

On a day when all manner of people turned out to publicly and conspicuously commemorate ANZAC Day, marching, singing, praying, dressing up in uniform, waving flags, wearing medals, beating drums, […]

Xylothek – a touching, reading adventure

Bernhard Feistel

As we can read in this forum or elsewhere, gardening from a distance is far from easy, if not mad; awkward to plan and yet full of surprises. Last week […]

A Year (or two) in Kew

Tim Entwisle

As I prepare to leave London this week, I thought I’d reflect a little on my nearly two years at Kew, how I got here and why I’m leaving. A […]

World’s largest plant show

Amanda Mackinnon

Every year in north western Germany the worlds biggest plant show takes place. Essen, the 9th largest German city, plays host to over 1500 exhibitors from 40 different countries. They […]

Giant squill is simply delightful, Madeira

Tim Entwisle

No I haven’t been to Madeira. But according to Greg Redwood, one of my colleagues here at Kew, I should go there rather than to (mainland) Portugal. This was in […]

Plant promenade in Paris

Tim Entwisle

At 10 metres above the ground, maybe 10 metres wide, nearly 5 kilometres long, and packed with trees, shrubs and views of Parisian streets, the Promenade plantée is a trend […]

Nature’s leaf rainbow

Matthew Popplewell

Having returned from a whirlwind tour of the UK, few places could have left a more lasting impression than the wondrous colourful transition of the leaves and progression into a […]

Monty Don’s French gardens

Jill Sinclair

One of my more exciting projects over the past few months has been providing consultancy advice to a forthcoming BBC TV programme on the history of French gardens, presented by […]

The James Bond garden tour

Tammy Schmitt

I recently popped over to Plant Postings to read about the amazing garden tour of Italy Beth is planning for herself and other bloggers. I just returned from a garden tour […]

The Loire Valley

Anne Latreille

Back home again after two weeks in France’s beautiful Loire Valley, its sights and sounds are still singing in my mind. Most of all I remember the ducks quacking gleefully as […]

Chelsea 2012 review & retrospective

Paul Urquhart

Sometimes it is hard to crystallise your thoughts about an event especially when there is so much visual white noise around. I found that after visiting Chelsea 2012. I have […]

Ornamental vegies at Villandry

Jennifer Stackhouse

Well it seems vegetables are hot. And, if they are colourful and ornamental, well they’re even hotter. If you want to see vegetables used to ornamental perfection, then I recommend a […]

Girl & boy hydrangea at Trebah Garden

Tim Entwisle

Trebah Garden is in the far west corner of Cornwall, half an hour or so by hedge-row lined roads from Falmouth (i.e. a couple of miles). ‘Trebah’ means house by the […]

A Mediterranean cottage garden

Alison Stewart

The British really do take their love of gardening with them when they move to other parts of the world. I’ve just come back from a short stay in the […]

Real, or not? Dubai, Chelsea & Aalsmeer

Helen Young

Some things you see when you’re travelling are amusing or thought provoking, and it’s nice to have a blog like this to share them. I’m very lucky to lead a […]

Floriade 2012, Venlo, The Netherlands

Clare Bell

Having heard so much about Floriade in the Netherlands, I was keen to experience this world famous European garden event held every ten years and looking forward to two days soaking […]

Turning forests into trees into poems

Tim Entwisle

I’ve returned from my visit to Ionia, or at least the island of Chios, home of Homer and Mastic and once part of that Ancient Greek empire on the Aegean Sea. I […]

International Garden Festival at Chateau de Chaumont

Linda Green

The International Garden Festival at Chateau de Chaumont in France's Loire valley should be on the 'bucket list'…

Tuna and other succulent fruit

Tim Entwisle

To avoid death you may eat a cactus but not a euphorbia. To avoid an irritating meal don't eat the prickly bits of either. Mostly it's the fruit of cacti that people eat…

Island of Dogs

Tim Entwisle

The Guanche bred rather large and ferocious dogs on a cluster of islands one hundred kilometres west of Morocco, just under four hours flight from Gatwick…

Ancient Parisian acacia has a crise d’identité

Tim Entwisle

Well at last I’m really ‘talking plants’. As regular readers know, Talking Plants (http://talkingplants.blogspot.com) is a blog devoted to plants and gardens, with an eye for the quirky or scientific, or […]

Loulou de la Falaise at Château de Chaumont

Linda Green

When I came across that familiar name in the obituary pages of the paper, Loulou de la Falaise I knew who she was. It’s not the sort of name that you could […]

Garden Stay

Millgate House, Yorkshire

When: Available on demand/by appointment

Countries: United Kingdom - Yorkshire

Highlights: Rise from a great night's sleep and look out over the sheltered, walled garden. After a delicious breakfast, wander on...

Garden Tour

French Enlightenment Gardens

Académie des Arts de Vivre

When: Available on demand/by appointment

Countries: France

Highlights: Join the Académie des Arts de Vivre (AAV) on this private tour of the enchanting late 18th century landscape gardens...

Garden Tour

Loire Valley Garden Tour

Académie des Arts de Vivre

When: Available on demand/by appointment

Countries: France

Highlights: If gardens are your passion, join the Académie des Arts de Vivre (AAV) on this enchanting Garden Tour through the...

Garden Tour

Celebrating Andre Le Nôtre, visionary landscape designer

Académie des Arts de Vivre

When: Available on demand/by appointment

Countries: France - Paris and the Ile de France

Highlights: Andre Le Nôtre, was the visionary landscape designer who created the legendary gardens at Versailles for Louis XIV. His classical...

Garden Tour

Royal Châteaux & Gardens in the Ile de France

Académie des Arts de Vivre

When: Available on demand/by appointment

Countries: France - Paris and environs

Highlights: If you dream of exploring some of the world’s most enchanting gardens and castles in the countryside surrounding Paris, join...