The Living Eden: Madagascar’s Unique Flora and Fauna

The Living Eden: Madagascar’s Unique Flora and Fauna

 

 

ITINERARY

The following itinerary lists a range of sites which we plan to visit. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in flight schedules, road and weather conditions. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches (usually boxed lunches) and evening meals as indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch, and D=evening meal. The duration of walks described below are approximate only.

 

Discovering Lemurs

Lemurs belong to the suborder Strepsirhini, which also includes bushbabies, pottos and lorises. These groups are the most basal living primates. Ancestral prosimians, possibly resembling today’s Mouse Lemurs, are thought to have colonised Madagascar from mainland Africa 50-60 million years ago. In the absence of competition from other non-primate mammals, these species diversified to fill a wide range of unusual ecological niches. There are five distinct families of lemurs: Lemuridae, Indriidae, Megaladapidae, Cheirogaleidae and Daubentoniidae. The Lemuridae comprises 10 species, divided into two subfamilies: the Lemurinae (‘true’ lemurs) and the Hapalemurinae (Bamboo or Gentle Lemurs). All species of lemurs are endemic primates of Madagascar. They are the smallest primate in the world, from Ms Berthe Lemur which weighs 30 grams to the Indri, which can weigh up to 9.5 kg. Recently extinct species were much larger. In 2010, five families, 15 genera and 101 species and subspecies of lemurs were officially recognized. Between 2000 and 2008 39 new species were identified. During this tour we shall study several beautiful species including the Indri Indri, Sifaka and some interesting nocturnal species.

 

Guiding in Madagascar and visits to the National Parks

Entry to national parks and reserves in Madagascar requires that you be accompanied by a local guide. During visits to the national parks there will be at least two local guides as well as our English-speaking national guide from Wild Madagascar. This will enable us, if necessary, to sub-divide into small groups according to preference and ability levels. If you feel you cannot keep up with the rest of the group or feel tired, you may return to the entrance of the national park, shorten your visit or take a short-cut to meet the rest of the group at a different place.

 

 

Antananarivo – 1 night

 

Day 1: Monday 9 September, Arrive Antananarivo

 

Airport transfer for participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight (from Mauritius MK288 1410-1505)
Orientation tour of Antananarivo
Welcome Evening Meal

We arrive in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital city, affectionately known as ‘Tana’. We proceed immediately from the airport for a short orientation tour of the city including stops at the former Prime Minister’s and Queen’s Palaces.

The city of Tana was built in three stages; the high city was the first area occupied during the royal period, and it is here that the old Manjakamiadana Rova (Queen’s Palace) is located. This royal palace complex (rova in Malagasy) served as a residence for the kings and queens of the Merina Kingdom during the 17th and 18th centuries and the rulers of the Kingdom of Madagascar in the 19th century. Its religious counterpart is the nearby fortified village of Ambohimanga, which served as the spiritual seat of the kingdom. Originally made of wood, in 1869 the palace was rebuilt in stone by order of Queen Ranavalona II. In 1995 a fire almost completely destroyed the palace sparing only the stone walls. From its high position the palace offers great panoramic views of the city and the Twelve Sacred Hills.

The Andafiavaratra Palace, also known as the Prime Minister’s Palace, is located north of the Queen’s Palace. The original wooden palace was built under the supervision of Queen Ranavalona I. In 1872, it was rebuilt according to the plans of British architect William Pool. The 3-storey palace centres on a large reception hall lit up by a glass dome. Each of the four corner towers includes a bell tower. From 1864 to 1895 the palace was the residence of Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony, who married three queens and exercised ultimate power from here. After Madagascar became independent, the palace was used as army barracks, a court, school of fine arts, presidential palace and finally again as the prime minister’s office. In 1976 the palace burnt down. Following extensive restoration it now houses a museum displaying precious items which were saved from the fire of the Rova in 1995 including the red jacket of Radama I, the royal coral jewels, various royal portraits and the diadem of the last queen. Note: this palace is is currently closed for restoration and may not be open by September 2019.

We next drive down to mid-city Tana, or the administrative district, ending at the Rainiharo tombs. While poorly maintained, the tomb designed by Jean Laborde in 1835 for the deceased prime minster is nevertheless a significant example of French colonial architecture and the first structure in Madagascar to use carved stone. A three-year stay in Bombay, shortly before Laborde’s fateful shipwreck on Madagascar, gave a decided Hindu air to his design for this mausoleum.

Finally we visit the low city which is the commercial area of the town with its magnificent Avenue de l’Independence and its imposing colonial buildings including the old railway station. In the late afternoon we transfer to our hotel located in the heart of the government district. This evening we gather for a welcome meal at a local restaurant. (Overnight Antananarivo) LD

 

 

Andasibe National Park – 3 nights

 

Day 2: Tuesday 10 September, Antananarivo – Marozevo – Andasibe

 

Peyrieras Reptile Reserve (Mandraka Nature Farm), Marozevo

Physical Endurance: Our visit to the reserve may include an optional ten minutes hike to the top of a nearby hill where a family of Coquerel’s Sifaka (Propithecus coquereli) and a group of Common Brown Lemurs (Eulemur fulvus) reside. The hillside is quite steep. Duration: 2hrs

Early evening walk in the VOI Community managed forest of the Reserve of Indri d’ Analamazaotra. Physical Endurance: The night walk starts at around 1800 from the entrance to the VOI preserve. The trail, winding in the understory of the forest, is reasonably flat. Duration: 1.5hrs

This morning we depart Antananarivo for Andasibe, a region of primary forests and lakes. En route we stop at the Peyrieras Reptile Reserve, founded by the French entomologist and naturalist André Peyriéras, for a close-up look at some of Madagascar’s numerous reptiles and amphibians, including several species of chameleons, snakes, geckos and frogs.

We arrive at our atmospheric lodge, set on the edge of the rainforest, in the late afternoon. In the early evening we make our first visit to the special Reserve of Indri d’Analamazaotra with a stroll through the VOI community managed forest. Here we search for a number of nocturnal species including various tree frogs, chameleons, the Eastern Woolly Lemur (Avahi laniger), Furry-Eared Dwarf Lemur (Cheirogalus crossleyi) and Goodman’s Mouse Lemur (Microcebus Lehilahitsara). (Overnight Andasibe) BLD

 

Day 3: Wednesday 11 September, Andasibe

 

Journey by 4WD
Birdwatching and nature tour of Mantadia National Park: The Tsakoka and Belakato Trails

Physical Endurance: Hiking trails in Mantadia can be steep and are often sandy/muddy. As our plan is to combine birdwatching and wildlife, lemurs in particular, we cannot limit walks to the lower elevation. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 4-5hrs.
Time at leisure

The Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is a pristine primary growth rainforest reserve, separated into two sections, each home to plants and animals found only in that part. The two protected areas are referred to as the ‘special Reserve of Indri d’Analamazaotra’ (or Andasibe National Park) and Mantadia National Park. Mantadia National Park, located 21kms north of the Andasibe National Park, was created primarily to protect the Indri and also constitutes a habitat for the Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur (Varecia variegat). A quiet, beautiful area with numerous waterfalls, it is undeveloped and less visited than its popular neighbour to the south.

We spend today exploring this section of the park, looking for lemurs, reptiles and rare endemic birds. The terrain at Mantadia is ranked from rough to very rough and searching for wildlife will be physically demanding. We will dedicate four to five hours to following a combination of the Tsakoka and Belakato trails. We intend to be back at our lodge around mid-afternoon. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. (Overnight Andasibe) BLD

 

Day 4: Thursday 12 September, Andasibe

 

Birdwatching and nature tour of the special Reserve of Indri d’Analamazaotra
Physical Endurance: Hiking trails in the reserve are steep in spots and can be sandy/muddy. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 3-4hrs.

Lemur Island

This morning we explore the special Reserve of Indri d’Analamazaotra, world famous for its population of Indri whose unforgettable wail can be heard emanating from the misty forest throughout the day, most commonly in the early morning. There are about 60 resident family groups of two to five Indris each. In 2005 the Goodman’s Mouse Lemur was discovered here and identified as a distinct species. There are numerous other species to see as well, such as the Bamboo Lemur and the Brown Lemur, the Emerald-Green Parson’s Chameleon and a number of rainforest dependent birds.

In the middle of the afternoon, we visit Lemur Island, a tiny reserve owned by Vakona Lodge, home to three species of lemur including the Bamboo Lemur, the Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur and the Brown Lemur. Here we may obtain a close-up view of these endemic creatures. (Overnight Andasibe) BLD

 

 

Antsirabe – 1 night

 

Day 5: Friday 13 September, Andasibe – Ambatolampy – Antsirabe

 

Aluminium Pot Workshops, Ambatolampy
Evening orientation walk of Antsirabe (time-permitting)

We spend most of the day travelling from Andasibe to Antsirabe. Our journey will take approximately seven to eight hours. South of Tana we make a brief visit to the charming and very typical plateau town of Ambatolampy, famous for its aluminium pots. A visit to a local foundry will enable us to view the workers who, out of the blazing hot metal, create small artworks, cutlery and cooking pots. Their skilful technique is interesting to watch. The metal is smelted by one worker in a crucible until it is molten. In the mean time, another member of the team creates the inverted shape of the inside of the pot on the floor of the workshop using a very fine-grained mixture of sand, laterite and powdered charcoal. Once this shape has been completed, a wooden mould is lowered carefully over the foundry sand, and more sand is packed around it. Finally, the molten metal is poured into the cavity between the two to create the pot. The pot is then left to cool – which is a surprisingly quick process – before the mould is removed and the foundry sand is gently swept away to expose the new pot. It is then sanded and burnished to remove the rough edges and reveal the characteristic silvery white colour of the metal.

Depending on the traffic, we hope to arrive into Antsirabe in time for a short evening orientation stroll along the Avenue de l’Independence. Colonial Antsirabe’s broad tree-lined avenue, which stretches from its handsome railway station to the Hôtel des Thermes was intended to achieve the goals of defining the resort as European and of making it a symbol of French rationality and modernity with which to impress the Malagasy. (Overnight Antsirabe) BLD

 

 

Ranomafana National Park – 3 nights

 

Day 6: Saturday 14 September, Antsirabe – Ambositra – Ambatovaky – Ranomafana

 

Rickshaw ride: visit to the semi-precious stone workshops and handicraft sector of Antsirabe
Wood carving of Ambositra
Blacksmith village of Ambatovaky

Early this morning we begin with a short tour of Antsirabe, the third largest city in Madagascar. Located on a high plateau, at an altitude of approximately 1500m, it has a relatively cool climate. Its name, meaning “where there is salt”, honours the large number of hot springs whose curative qualities were appreciated by the local population when French colonists decided to locate a thermal bath here in the 19th century. It is also renowned for having hundreds of registered rickshaws (or pousse-pousses in French) and specialises in the cutting of semi-precious stones. In the town’s thriving handicrafts sector we may view a variety of products including jewellery made from zebu horn, toys crafted from old tin cans, wood carvings, polished minerals, embroidered tablecloths and clothing.

Mid-morning we depart Antsirabe and continue 90km south to the Betsileo town of Ambositra, whose close proximity to the forest has made it the centre of Madagascar’s wood carving industry. Its name means “the place of the eunuchs” supposedly because the Merina tribe castrated all defeated warriors of the local tribe, the Zafimaniry. The cultural influence of this tribe can be found in the traditional motifs on the local houses with their intricately carved balconies, panels and shutters. We’ll encounter many specialized workshops in printmaking, wood carving and marquetry. Saturday is market day; raffia products are particularly plentiful.

The village of Ambatovaky, situated 24km from the entrance to Ranomafana National Park, consists of a small population of farmers and artisans. Here shall visit a local blacksmith before continuing to Ranomafana National Park in the mountainous highlands. (Overnight Setam Lodge, Ranomafana) BLD

 

Day 7 & 8: Sunday 15 September & Monday 16 September, Ranomafana National Park

 

Mornings: Birdwatching and nature walk along the Varibolamena Trails
Physical Endurance: One of the most difficult trails, it is taxing due to the rough terrain and humidity. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 4 hrs.

Afternoon: Birdwatching and nature walk along the Vohiparara Trails
Physical Endurance: The Vohiparara Trail is flatter than the Varibolamena Trail. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: dependent on bird species spotted; approx 2hrs.

Particularly rich in wildlife, this hitherto unprotected fragment of mid-altitude rainforest and higher-altitude mountain cloud forest first came to the world’s attention with the discovery of the Golden Bamboo Lemur in 1986; formal protection followed in 1991. Today this exquisite upland cloud forest is one of Madagascar’s top wildlife hotspots. The 12 lemur species that live here include all three Bamboo Lemurs: Grey Bamboo Lemur (Hapalemur griseus), Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus) and the Golden Bamboo Lemur (Hapalemur aureus). The Bamboo or Gentle lemurs have grey-brown fur. Their muzzles are short and their ears are round and hairy. Lengths vary from 26 to 46 cm, with tails just as long or longer, and they weigh up to 2.5 kg. Bamboo Lemurs prefer damp forests where bamboo grows and as their name suggests they feed almost exclusively on bamboo. Completely dependent on this low-energy food source, the lemur must lead a very sedentary lifestyle and spend much of its time eating. As with many specialised species, this lemur is unable to adapt to its rapidly changing habitat. Widespread clearing of its rainforest habitat has caused populations to become isolated in the few remaining patches of forest capable of supporting the species. Other residents of the park include the striking Milne-Edward’s Sifaka and the robust Black and White-Ruffed Lemur. There are also scores of reptiles and beautiful chameleons.

We shall spend two days in Ranomafana National Park exploring the network of paths through the forests and dense stands of giant bamboo. Expect to see various lemurs, such as Red-Fronted Brown Lemur (Eulemur rufus), Red-Bellied Lemur (Eulemur rubriventer) and the shy Grey Bamboo Lemur. For the tree lover we will see some of the species of Dombeya with their heads of pink or white flowers. Ranomafana is also superb for birdwatchers as many of the rainforest dwelling endemics occur in the park. There are Brown Mesite, Blue Coua and the Velvet Asity. Ranomafana is a herpetologist’s paradise, with a variety of chameleons, geckoes, skinks and frogs. The floral diversity is bewildering, with numerous species of palm, bamboo and orchid thriving here.

The Ranomafana National Park trail is considered to be one of the most difficult walks included on this tour due to the roughness of terrain and the permanent humidity. Difficulty will undoubtedly arise while tracking wildlife, in particular Golden Bamboo Lemurs and Milne’s Edward Sifaka, the former being very often met only off track – which can be a strenuous endeavour. The terrain where birds are usually encountered is more even. (Overnight Setam Lodge, Ranomafana) BLD

 

Isalo National Park – 2 nights

 

Day 9: Tuesday 17 September, Ranomafana – Anja – Isalo National Park

 

Ring-Tailed Lemurs of Anja Community Reserve
Physical Endurance: Relatively easy trail with only slight uphill slopes. The narrow trails follow open vegetation through dry-deciduous forest. Duration: 2hrs

Leaving the rainforest early after breakfast we drive across the desolate central southern interior to the community-run Anja Reserve. Known for its superb scenery, the reserve covers eight hectares and is home to about 300 Ring-Tail Lemurs (Lemur catta), instantly recognisable by their banded tail, and some intriguing plants adapted to the dry southern climate. The region is sacred to the Betsileo; their ancestors are buried here and it has always been fady (meaning taboo in the traditional culture of Madagascar) to hunt the lemurs. The caves here have provided a useful sanctuary in times of trouble and were inhabited up to a century or so ago. We spend a couple of hours in the Anja Reserve following a relatively easy trail through dry-deciduous forest to spot groups of Ring-Tailed Lemurs and various species of reptiles.

In the afternoon we continue our drive to Isalo’s remarkable landscapes, with eroded ‘ruiniforme’ sandstone outcrops, giving hints of silver and green reflections of sunlight, and interspersed with endless palm savanna of the endemic Bismarkia Palms (Bismarkia nobilis). (Overnight Hôtel Le Jardin du Roy, Ranohira, Isalo National Park) BLD

 

Day 10: Wednesday 18 September, Isalo National Park

 

Morning nature trail, Isalo National Park
Physical Endurance: The path to the natural pool climbs steeply and there is little shade along the way. The hiking time for the uphill climb is approximately 1-1.5 hours at a leisurely pace with stops. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 2-3hrs.

Afternoon at leisure OR optional trail to the Piscine Noire et Bleu, Isalo National Park.  Physical Endurance: This 4km walk begins with easy walking, but becomes more difficult towards the end of the canyon due to stream crossings on flattened boulders, cliff ascents on carved steps, followed by a descent to the pools along narrow steps and stepping stones. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 3hrs.

We explore Isalo National Park’s fascinating plant community, including some very localised species of palm, aloe and the squat ‘elephant’s foot’ pachypodiums, which flourish on the rock faces. With luck, we’ll see some Ring-Tail Lemurs or Verreaux’s Sifakas in dense vegetation lining the canyon streams. Isalo offers several options for hikes into rocky canyons and verdant oases, with opportunities to take a refreshing dip in naturally formed pools at the base of hidden waterfalls. We shall look for Ring-Tail Lemurs, Verreaux Sifakas and Red-Fronted Brown Lemurs that have adapted to life in this dry desert climate.

Our early morning trail provides views of xerophytic and sclerophyllous vegetation as well as stunning sandstone runiforme scenery.

This afternoon is at leisure for you to enjoy the lodge’s facilities. Alternatively you may wish to join an optional walk to the ‘Piscine Noire et Bleu’ (Black and Blue Pools), both fed by narrow waterfalls, located at the end of the Namazaha Canyon. This canyon features riparian (riverbank) vegetation and shelters a variety of birds including the Benson Rock Thrush (Monticola bensoni). We begin the trail in a dry deciduous pocket forest that is home to birds, reptiles and insects. At the centre of this forest we may see Ring-Tailed Lemurs, the Red-Fronted Brown Lemurs and a Verreaux Sifaka. (Overnight Hôtel Le Jardin du Roy, Ranohira, Isalo National Park) BLD

 

Ifaty – 2 nights

 

Day 11: Thursday 19 September, Isalo – Zombitse National Park – Toliara – Ifaty

 

Zombitse National Park
Physical Endurance: An easy walk along the Mandresy Trail; terrain includes loose sand. Duration: 2hrs

Arboretum d’Antsokay, Toliara

We make a very early start to drive to Zombitse National Park. The forest is a very special transition zone between the southern flora and the western deciduous forest. Similar in appearance to the latter, it contains the baobab species of the former. Here we may find our first Angraecum orchids and see Rhopalocarpus, a large tree and a member of a family unique to Madagascar. The large white Verreaux’s Sifakas bound from tree to tree and often allow close views.

After lunch we visit the splendid Aboretum d’Antsokay, located 12km south-east of Toliara. Created in the early 80s on the initiative of a Swiss amateur botanist, Hermann Petignat, the arboretum is devoted to the conservation of plants from the south-western part of Madagascar. In close collaboration with many institutions including the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and WWF it presents a typical spiny thicket (also known as spiny forest) in a botanical garden preserving more than 900 species, of which 90% are endemic to the region and 80% have medicinal virtues.

In the late afternoon we drive to Ifaty, a small fishing village with idyllic palm-fringed white beaches on the southwestern coast of Madagascar. (Overnight Ifaty) BLD

 

Day 12: Friday 20 September, Ifaty

 

Reniala Reserve: Spiny Thicket
Physical Endurance: An easy walk; terrain includes loose sand.
Today we make an excursion to the Reniala Reserve whose name “mother of the forest” is the nickname of the baobabs endemic to this area. The reserve, which opened in 2001, functions as a botanical garden, ornithological park and baobab forest, and includes some of the last pieces of primary forests of the South. The spiny thicket or “spiny desert” of southern Madagascar, also referred to as deciduous thicket, is a globally distinctive ecoregion with 95 percent of the plant species endemic to the region. Members of the endemic Didiereaceae family dominate the thicket, which have similar xeric adaptations to New World cacti, such as small leaves and spines, but are woody rather than succulent. The reserve also features the the famous baobabs (Adansonia rubrostipa), Pachypodium and countless Euphorbia.

For bird lovers, you may see the Madagascar harrier-hawk (Polyboroides radiatus) or find the sickle-billed vanga (Falculea palliata), the white-headed vanga (Artamella viridisa) and Madagascar buttonquail (Turnix nigricollis) in their natural habitat. Reniala is also home to many endemic reptiles. A big population of the rare radiated tortoise and the smaller spider tortoise (Astrochelys radiata and Pyxis arachnoides) lives on the sandy ground and shares its territory with many Madagascar iguanas (Chalarodon madagascariensis). The forests are rapidly disappearing and becoming fragmented by charcoal production, agricultural expansion (for maize and cattle grazing), and wildfires associated with generation of new cattle pastureland. (Overnight Ifaty) BLD

 

Kirindy Forest Reserve – 1 night

 

Day 13: Saturday 21 September, Ifaty – Toliara – Morondava – Kirindy

 

Fly Toliara to Morondava via Antananarivo (MD713/MD702 0745-1230)
Nocturnal guided visit of Kirindy Forest Reserve
Physical Endurance: Trails are broad and mostly flat, making walking easy. Duration: 2hrs

Today we fly from Toliara to Morondava, and then drive to the Kirindy Forest Reserve. This 10,000-hectare reserve is a rare remnant of Madagascar’s threatened dry tropical deciduous forest. The reserve contains such oddities as the endangered Giant Jumping Rat collected by Gerald Durrell and now resident at the Durrell Wildlife Foundation, the Fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) – Madagascar’s largest predator and a member of the mongoose family, and seven species of nocturnal lemur including the Fork-Marked Lemur, Coquerel’s Dwarf Lemur and the smallest of all primates, the Pygmy Mouse Lemur. Also present is the hissing cockroach. Kirindy boasts the highest density of primates of virtually any forest in the world. Diurnal lemurs include the acrobatic Verreaix’s Sifaka and Red-Fronted Brown Lemur.

Kirindy is part of the Manabe forests, also noted for their diverse botany which includes three of the island’s seven endemic baobabs, including the Giant Baobab and the smallest, the Bottle Baobab. Birdwatching is excellent, and we should see the Madagascar Jacana, Coquerels and Crested Couas and Sicklebill Vangas to name but a few. You may also see iguanids and the Flat-Tailed Tortoise – known as Kapidolo (ghost turtle), currently one of the most threatened of all the world’s tortoises.

This evening we take a walk through the reserve to spot some of these nocturnal species including the Giant Jumping Rat (Hypogeomys antimena). Accommodation is provided at the recently opened (April 2017) Relais du Kirindy. Your impressive nocturnal wildlife walk should leave you feeling that our night in Kirindy Forest was well worthwhile. (Overnight Relais du Kirindy, Kirindy Forest Reserve) BLD

 

Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve – 3 nights

 

Day 14: Sunday 22 September, Kirindy – Belo Tsiribihina – Tsingy de Bemaraha

 

Return visit to Kirindy Forest Reserve
Journey by 4WD to Bekopaka via the Tsirbihina River and Belo Tsiribihina

Following an early return visit to the Kirindy Forest Reserve we drive northwards to the shores of the Tsiribihina River where a barge will transport us across the river to the town of Belo Tsiribihina. The river crossing takes about 45 minutes.

Following lunch in Belo Tsiribihina we make the four to five-hour drive to Bekopaka. Our journey takes us across savanna, a grassland home to the Madagascar Harrier-Hawk (Polyboroides radiatus). One of the commonest raptors of Madagascar, this is a very large bird of prey. Aside from its size, it is unmistakable with its black and white stripes (called barring) on its underside, grey back, long bare yellow legs and bare pink or yellow skin patch around the eye.

A second barge will take our party across the river Manambolo to the village of Bekopaka; we shall spend the next three nights based at the Soleil des Tsingy. Located in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Tsingy de Bemaraha, the lodge is perched on the highest point in this region, offering spectacular views of the surrounding scenery. (Overnight Soleil des Tsingy, Bekopaka) BLD

 

Day 15: Monday 23 September, Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park

 

The Gorge of the Manambolo River by pirogue
Physical Endurance: The excursion by pirogueon the Manambolo River is not suitable for anyone with bad knees. Further details are provided below. Duration: 2hrs

The Petite (Small) Tsingy
Physical Endurance: The walk includes a short ascent following a series of iron ladders and wooden walkways. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 2-3hrs.

The spectacular mineral forest of Tsingy de Bemaraha stands on the west coast of Madagascar. The area, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1990, comprises 1575 square kilometres of canyons, gorges, undisturbed forests, lakes and mangrove swamps. The northern section is designated an Integral Reserve, and therefore off-limits to visitors, but we shall visit the southern section, declared a national park in 1998. This vast forest of rugged and eroded karst pinnacles supports about 90 species of birds, 8 species of reptiles and 11 species of lemurs. Scientists estimate that 86.7% of the flora and flora are endemic to Madagascar, and 47% are endemic to this region.

This morning we make an excursion by pirogue (wooden dug-out canoe) to the spectacular Manambolo Gorge, where the river has carved a deep channel through the limestone plateau. As we canoe past dry forest and sheer, vertical cliffs, craggy caves and overhangs, we shall view unusual vegetation, endemic water birds, and hear the shrill cries of black parrots resounding against the rock walls. Madagascar Fish Eagles can sometimes be seen perching in large trees edging the river. The park is generally divided into two parts – the Petit (Small) and the Grand (Big) Tsingy – a distinction based upon on area and also on the height of the pinnacles.

This afternoon we visit the Petit Tsingy. An easy walk through a dry deciduous forest (where you’ll get to see plenty of lemurs) takes us to the base of the karst formations. Here a short ascent – following a series of iron ladders and wooden walkways (designed by a French mountaineer) – takes us to the viewpoint that opens up to a vista of the surrounding Tsingy forest. (Overnight Soleil des Tsingy, Bekopaka) BLD

 

Day 16: Tuesday 24 September, Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park

 

The Grand Tsingy: Adjacent Forest Walk (Option 1)
Physical Endurance: Option 1: A leisurely forest walk. Duration: 2hrs

Climbing The Grand Tsingy (Option 2: strenuous)
Physical Endurance: Option 2: Climbing the Grand Tsingy is long and strenuous and can be very hot during the middle of the day. It includes many steps, cables, walkways, caves, and a fair bit of rock scrambling. You need to be okay with heights. A climbing harness is provided for those undertaking the cables and rock scrambling section. Duration: 4hrs.

Afternoon at leisure

We depart very early this morning for a one-hour drive to the Grand Tsingy; a packed breakfast will be provided. We may see lemurs and dozens of birds, orchids, aloes, pachypodium and baobabs. The endemic and medicinal plants make the flora of this park unique. On arrival we take a leisurely walk exploring the adjacent forest for birds: Decken’s Sifaka (Propithecus deckeni), Randrianasolo’s Sportive Lemur (Lepilemur randrianasoli). At the entrance of the Tsingy we may also search for the Western Ring-Tailed Mongoose (Galidia elegans occidentalis). Note: the Grand Tsingy, the outskirts of which are characterised by xerophyte vegetation, may be viewed from below, from quite short distance without needing to climb.

Alternatively you may wish to take an adventurous (and indeed strenuous) walk traversing the pinnacles either along a harnessed track or following the iron ladder way. A harness clipped to a steel cable is used for safety on the vertiginous and exposed scrambling sections amongst the rock. (Note: no technical climbing experience is necessary).

After visiting the park we shall return to our hotel for lunch and an afternoon at leisure to relax. (Overnight Soleil des Tsingy, Bekopaka) BLD

 

Morondava – 1 night

 

Day 17: Wednesday 25 September, Tsingy de Bemaraha – Morondava

 

Return journey to Morondava by 4WD
Avenue des Baobabs

We return to Morondava by road, viewing the sunset in the Avenue des Baobabs. This cluster of towering Grandidier’s Baobabs (Adansonia grandidieri) is one of Madagascar’s most famous views. In 2007 the avenue (together with about 300 baobabs of three species in the surrounding one kilometre) became an officially protected natural monument. Andansonia grandidieri is the most majestic and famous of the baobab species and may reach 30m in height. The best-known specimens form the Boabab Avenue. These trees would once have been surrounded by dense forest, but today their isolated silhouettes can be seen for miles across the flat, featureless rice fields. There is now an active program to plant saplings amongst the existing trees. The project suffered a setback late in 2012 when a fire engulfed 11ha of the 320ha reserve, destroying 99 of the 2220 newly planted trees, but no mature baobabs were affected. We overnight in Morondava, a relaxed coastal town located on the Mozambique Channel. (Overnight Morondava) BLD

 

 

Antananarivo – 1 night

 

Day 18: Thursday 26 September, Morondava – Antananarivo

 

Flight Morondava – Antananarivo (MD702 MOQTNR 1355-1455)
Royal Hill of Ambohimanga

Following some time at leisure we take a flight back to Antananarivo. We spend the remainder of the day exploring this city, including the UNESCO heritage listed Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, one of the most important spiritual and historic sites for the Malagasy people. Occupied since the 15th century, it was a fortified political capital, royal palace and royal burial ground. In the nineteenth century, the French colonial authorities made several attempts to undermine the significance and national symbolism of Ambohimanga, all of which proved unsuccessful. (Overnight Antananarivo) BLD

 

 

Maroantsetra – 1 night

 

Day 19: Friday 27 September, Antananarivo – Maroantsetra

 

Flight from Antananarivo to Maroantsetra (flight details to be confirmed)
Orientation tour of Maroantsetra
The Tomato Frog, Dyscophus antongilii

This morning we fly to Maroantsetra. Located at the far end of the Bay of Antongil, near the mouth of the Antainambalana River, this charming town described as ‘Madagascar at its most authentic’, enjoys both river and ocean views.

This afternoon we make a short tour of the town which often smells of vanilla and cloves; looking around we may see tables of drying vanilla beans on colourful blankets or cloves drying on mats and plastic bags.

Vanilla is a major export from Madagascar’s east coast. The only fruit-producing orchid, it is one of the most labour-intensive crops in the world, taking as long as five years from planting the vine to producing aged extract. Production involves the entire family, who pollinate the vanilla by hand when it flowers after two years, and then collect, cure and dry the pods. World vanilla prices experienced a massive spike after a 2000 cyclone devastated much of the East Asia crop. The sudden drop in supply pushed vanilla prices to nearly $500 per kg. However, by 2010 prices had dropped to as low as $25 per kg. Today, vanilla prices are surging again due to drought, fungal attacks and low prices driving many producers out of the market. Vanilla now sells for $80-$120 per kg. Despite the establishment of a financial cooperative which allows farmers to access credit during the lean season that lasts for most of the year (vanilla is sold only between June and October), very few people are still interested in caring for their plantations. Many have moved away from vanilla to other cultivations. Seeing drying vanilla pods is therefore very much dependent on the year and whether vanilla plantations are still tended.

There is also an abundant market featuring food such as large jumping shrimp, rice, greens, coconuts and a variety of cooked dishes, housewares, clothing and jewellery. Among the local crafts are lovely handmade raffia hats and bags which are primarily used by the local women. Women with stately postures may be seen balancing raffia totes and baskets piled high with fruit, vegetables and other goods on their heads.

While in Maroantsetra we also visit an area dedicated to the breeding habitat of the Tomato Frog, Dyscophus antongilii, a conspicuous red-orange frog belonging to the Microhylidae family. Currently listed as ‘Near Threatened’ by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, it is present in eastern and north eastern Madagascar, with two main nuclei, one around and within the town of Maroantsetra, and the other in the surroundings of Antara, close to the town of Toamasina. (Overnight Maroantsetra) BLD

 

 

Masoala National Park – 2 nights

 

Day 20: Saturday 28 September, Maroantsetra – Nosy Mangabe – Masoala

 

National Park

Réserve de Nosy Mangabe: Physical Endurance: Hiking trails can be steep and are often sandy/muddy. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 2hrs

Early this morning we travel by boat to the Masoala Peninsula. En route we make an excursion to the island nature reserve of Nosy Mangabe, a small island (520ha), located in Antongil Bay two kilometres offshore from Maroantsetra, and covered in humid dark-green thick forest.

The boat takes around 40 minutes before we wade ashore. The island is home to White-Fronted Brown Lemurs and Black-and-White Ruffed Lemurs, Leaf-Tailed Geckos (Uroplatus fimbriatus), several species of chameleons, frogs and snakes, including the Madagascar Tree Boa (Sanzinia madagasciensis), some of which can usually be spotted easily on the forest trails during a day visit. There is also the nocturnal Aye-Aye Lemur, which in the past could be seen if one stayed overnight on the island. However, the Aye-Aye on Nosy Mangabe are now more elusive and night walks are no longer permitted on the island.

In the early afternoon we continue by boat to the Masoala Peninsula. Here we spend three nights based at the Masoala Dounia Forest Lodge offering accommodation in rustic, but quite adequate, thatched huts. (Overnight Masoala Dounia Forest Lodge) BLD

 

Day 21: Sunday 29 September, Masoala National Park

 

The Western Coastal Trail, Lohatrozona
Physical Endurance: Hiking trails can be steep and are often sandy/muddy. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels.

The Masoala Peninsula is truly exceptional: two percent of all of planet earth’s animal and plant species are to be found here. Some species like Aye-Aye, Red-Ruffed Lemur, Madagascar Red Owl and the extremely rare Serpent Eagle are endemic to the peninsula.

Encompassing 2,300 square kilometres of rainforest and 100 square kilometres of marine parks, Masoala is Madagascar’s largest protected area. The park was established in 1997 to preserve this unique ecosystem comprising coastal rainforest, flooded forests, marsh and mangroves from the serious threat of encroachment by local communities that depend on the area for agricultural land and firewood, and from international logging companies harvesting timber. The park forests, which abound with chameleons, geckos, frogs as well as several species of butterflies, tumble down to the edge of a pristine, unspoiled shore peppered with unexplored golden beaches.

The three marine parks protect over 10,000 ha of coral reefs, marine plants and mangroves around the peninsula. Presently, more than 3,001 fish species have been inventoried in the marine parks. Antongil Bay is also used as a shelter by humpback whales that gather here during the summer breeding season, when Antongil’s waters literally froth with cetaceans.

The region also supports one of the most diverse groups of palm species in the world. The park is home to a total of 102 species of birds, more than 60% of which are endemic. During our stay we shall be looking for, among others, the rare and localised Helmet and Bernierʼs Vangas, Madagascar Long-Eared Owl, Red-Breasted Coua and both Short-Legged and Scaly Ground-Rollers. There are also several rare species of lemur (Red-Ruffed, White-Fronted Brown, Fork-Marked) and chameleon. Among the carnivores, Masoala is the only locality where the Mongoose Salanoia Concolor or Brown-Tailed Mongooses have been observed since 1970. This species is the least known of the Malagasy carnivores. (Overnight Masoala Dounia Forest Lodge) BLD

 

 

Antananarivo – 1 night

 

Day 22: Monday 30 September, Masoala – Maroantsetra – Antananarivo

 

Morning Charter Flight from Maroantsetra to Antananarivo (MD417 WMNTNR 1600-1715)
Farewell Evening Meal at La Varangue

We travel this morning by boat to Moroantsetra where we connect with our charter flight back to Antananarivo. The afternoon is at leisure. This evening we enjoy a farewell meal at La Varangue, one of the city’s top gourmet restaurants thanks to it’s chief Lalaina Ravelomana who is a kitchen maestro and chocolate specialist. (Overnight Antananarivo) BLD

 

Day 23: Tuesday 1 October, Antananarivo TOUR ENDS

Airport transfer for participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight (MK289 1655-1940)
Following some time at leisure in the morning we transfer to the Antananarivo airport in order to check-in for our late afternoon flight for Australia (via Mauritius) B

 

 

Western Australia: Wildflowers, Wineries and Private Gardens of the South West

Western Australia: Wildflowers, Wineries and Private Gardens of the South West

 

ITINERARY

 

 

Margaret River – 2 nights

 

Day 1: Saturday 14 September, Arrive Perth – Dwellingup – Margaret River

Meeting Point: Perth Airport (domestic terminal) at 11.30am
Coach journey from Perth airport to Margaret River
Orondo Farm, Dwellingup: Guided tour of the private gardens & afternoon tea

Our private coach collects us at Perth airport and drives to Dwellingup to visit Orondo Farm with its 25-plus acre private garden surrounded by woodlands and traversed with meandering watercourses. The fertile river valley, within which the garden sits, creates a perfect microclimate and provides the rich loam soils for growing rare deciduous and evergreen trees, flowering shrubs, such as rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas, and colourful perennials that have been planted over the years. The owners and creators of Orondo Farm, Bette and Bill Healy, will treat us to guided tour and an afternoon tea. We drive to the Margaret River Holiday Suites, home for the next two nights. (Overnight Margaret River)

 

Day 2: Sunday 15 September, Margaret River – Yallingup – Wilyabrup – Margaret River

Bill Mitchell’s award-winning garden, Yallingup
The Secret Garden by Paul Bangay
Cullen Wines: Spiral Garden Biodynamic Tour, followed by a wine tasting
Cullen Wines: Welcome Lunch – 5-course Dégustation Menu

We journey to Yallingup to visit the garden of Bill Mitchell, who was the Gardening Australia magazine ‘Gardener of the Year’ for 2016. Situated on the clifftop of Smiths Beach and surrounded by Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, Bill was driven by the need of a fire-management plan due to being in an extreme bushfire risk area because of the surrounding heathland flora to create a fire-resistant garden. The result was ‘Fire and Beauty’, a five-year-old garden mass-planted with fire-retardant plants, such as succulents and cacti. Drifts of bird attracting aloes, huge dragon trees, rare and unusual succulent varieties have been combined with local stone mastering the art of a lower maintenance garden without sacrificing colour and beauty. The achievement of this non-gardener’s concept and design is inspiring.

Next we visit a garden that was designed by Melbourne master Paul Bangay, early in his career in 1997 for Pat Poynton, who, as a skilled gardener in her own right, has continued developing the garden to reflect her passions. Margaret River’s Secret Garden is situated in a valley beside the Wilyabrup Brook and covers 1.2ha of formal, semi-formal and natural landscapes set within a native West Australian peppermint forest producing a wonderful microclimate. The head gardener will take us on a romantic journey through the spring displays of iris, clematis and crab apples that complement the formal plantings and defined structure for which Paul Bangay is renowned.

The rest of the day will be spent enjoying a gourmet experience for which Margaret River is internationally renowned. Cullen Wines was established in 1971 and their philosophy is ‘quality’, ‘integrity’ and ‘sustainability’ with a commitment to biodynamic viticulture that led them to produce a number of award-winning wines. Here, we will be given a tour of their Biodynamic Spiral Garden and historic vineyards, which enables us to become familiar with the biodynamic process employed throughout the winery and gardens. This will be followed by a tasting of the wines they produce. Lunch is a 5-course extravaganza of food, from the biodynamic garden together with local produce, matched with current and museum vintages. (Overnight Margaret River) BL

 

Walpole – 1 night

 

Day 3: Monday 16 September, Margaret River – Cape Leeuwin – Pemberton – Walpole

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
BBQ lunch
4WD Ecotour visiting Beedelup National Park, Yeagarup Dunes & coastal heath at Warren River

We leave Margaret River to travel south-westwards towards the Cape Leewin Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse on mainland Australia. It also has the distinction of being at the most south-westerly point of Australia. The lighthouse was constructed in 1895 from local limestone and opened by WA Premier John Forrest. This functioning lighthouse is situated at the junction of the Indian and Southern oceans and still plays an important role in guiding vessels around the treacherous cape. The lighthouse precinct includes the cottages that housed the keepers and surrounding land on which they grew fresh vegetables.

Next, we travel through the coastal town of Augusta before arriving near Pemberton at the Greater Beedelup National Park, where we will have a BBQ lunch surrounded by karri trees, of which some specimens are believed to be in excess of 400 years old. The park takes its name from the Beedelup Brook running through it, possibly deriving from the Nyoongar word Beedja, which means ‘place of rest’ or ‘place of sleep’. After a short walk to the rocky granite cascades of Beedelup Falls, our 4WD Ecotour begins by driving to Lake Yeagurup and over the Yeagurup Dunes, the largest land-locked mobile dune system in the southern hemisphere. From the dunes, we will continue by 4WD to the beach at the mouth of the Warren River. Along the way, karri forests and coastal heath will be admired. We reconvene with the bus at the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree, so named after being pegged in 1988 as part of Australia’s bicentennial celebrations. The pegging enables it to be one of three fire lookout trees open to the public in this area. We continue south to the Tree Top Walk Motel in Walpole. A light dinner will be served at the hotel on arrival. (Overnight Walpole) BLD

 

Albany – 3 nights

 

Day 4: Tuesday 17 September, Walpole – Valley of Giants – Albany

Cruise with a local expert to explore the biodiversity of the Walpole Wilderness
Valley of the Giants: Tree Top Walk & the Ancient Empire Walk

This morning we embark on a wilderness ecotour to explore the Walpole Nornalup National Park, home to tingle forests that occur nowhere else in the world. We will be travelling by boat along the waterways of the Walpole and Nornalup Inlets Marine Park, which is one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth and fed by the Franklin and Deep rivers. Its remote wilderness feel is due to the untouched nature of the park, its wildlife and scenic quality.

There will be time at leisure for lunch in Walpole before travelling to the Valley of the Giants. These ‘giants’ refer to the tingle trees that make up this spectacular forest, which only occur in this area and can grow to a height of 75m and have a circumference of up to 25m. To achieve the full experience of their majestic grandeur, we will walk amidst the canopy on a walkway positioned 40m above the ground. The Ancient Empire Walk allows us to see the red tingle trees (Eucalyptus jacksonii) from a boardwalk along the forest floor and is based on the theme of the lost era of Gondwana. The origins of some of these plants date back to this period in time, that is 65 million years ago. We drive to the Best Western Albany Motel and Apartments, our home for three nights. (Overnight Albany) BL

 

Day 5: Wednesday 18 September, Albany – Stirling Range – Albany

Stirling Range National Park

Today, Steve Wood will be joined by ASA garden leader Sabrina Hahn. She is best known for her gardening talk back show on ABC Perth radio and also for her weekly column in Western Australian newspaper. The Stirling Range was formed around 55 million years ago when sedimentary layers were pushed up as Australia drifted away from Antarctica. The peak of the range is Bluff Knoll where fossils of jellyfish-like creatures can be seen as evidence of its violent formation. Noongar people call it Koi Kyeunu-ruff ‘a place of ever moving fog and mist’ and it holds the totemic spirit of their people. The base of the Stirling Range holds many secrets and an astonishing diversity of plants.

Those who wish to test their legs will walk up Bluff Knoll to get a bird’s eye view of the landscape and hopefully see some of the rare plants that only grow on the peak of this mountain. On the walk, Sabrina will explain the plants that grow on different parts of the Stirling Range in relation to soil type and climate. Bluff Knoll is the only spot in all of Western Australia that experiences snow. (Overnight Albany) BL

 

Day 6: Thursday 19 September, Albany Area

Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve
Torndirrup National Park: The Gap & Natural Bridge, The Blowholes & Stony Hill
Historic Whaling Station

We will walk through the Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve heritage trail which tracks through peppermint woodlands and the remote and untouched beach. This is home to the critically endangered Gilberts potoroo and the noisy scrub bird and we may be lucky enough to hear them. It is a mecca for bird lovers and fishermen. This has been listed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world with azure blue water, massive granite boulders and pure white sand. The coastal heathland plants have been carved by the wind and many species have adapted in unusual ways to compensate for salt laden winds and sandy soil.

Torndirrup National Park is known for its rugged coastlines which feature coastal heaths, granite outcrops, sheer cliffs and steep sandy slopes and dunes. Natural structures, such as the Natural Bridge and The Gap, were carved by the ferocity of the waves. The Blowholes are where air, and occasionally spray, is blown through a crackline in the granite, making an impressive sound. The highest point in the Torndirrup National Park is Stony Hill from which an expansive view to the west can be enjoyed. The Stony Hill Heritage Trail gives a 360 degree view of the national park and of Albany.

The historic Whaling Station was owned by Australia’s last whaling company, the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company, which processed over 1000 humpback and sperm whales a year at its peak. A significant part of Australian history, the whaling station is now considered a heritage site and has been preserved exactly as it was on the last day of operation in 1978 when the workers ‘simply put down their tools and walked away’. During this unique experience, we will be informed on the station’s operations and history, share in the workers’ memories and stories and discover their place in the economic and social history of Albany. (Overnight Albany) B

 

Hopetoun – 2 nights

 

Day 7: Friday 20 September, Albany – Fitzgerald River National Park – Hopetoun

Fitzgerald River National Park: a Biodiversity Hotspot

The Fitzgerald River National Park is the largest and most botanically significant national parks in Australia. It is the most diverse botanical regions in the world, featuring more than 1,800 species of plants, 75 of these are found nowhere else in the world. There are 184 bird species, 22 mammal species, 41 reptile species and 12 frog species living in the park. A number of species have only recently been rediscovered here, including the Dibbler and Heath rat.

During the winter months southern right whales shelter close to shore with their newborn calves. We will divide the trip into two main areas and walk from the car park at Mount Barren to Sepulcralis Hill, and then separately to No Tree Hill.

In the afternoon, we drive to the Hopetoun Motel and Chalet Village, our home for the next two nights. (Overnight Hopetoun) BLD

 

Day 8: Saturday 21 September, Hopetoun – Ravensthorpe – Hopetoun

The Railway Heritage Trail, Ravensthorpe
Wildflower Show, Ravensthorpe

This morning we drive to Ravensthorpe to walk the Ravensthorpe Railway Tour. The bus will take us to the drop off point at the Heritage trail which takes us through Eucalypt woodlands and wildflower country. Sabrina will have a list of plants people will see and bring reference books.

The afternoon will be spent at the Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show where Sabrina will take us around and explain different plant groups and how they evolved. There is over 1000 different species of plants collected from two national parks and over 3000 species in their world class herbarium. (Overnight Hopetoun) BLD

 

Fremantle – 4 nights

 

Day 9: Sunday 22 September, Hopetoun – Fremantle

Homestead lunch in the Wheatbelt Region

On our way to Fremantle we break our trip with a visit to a local farm or homestead located in the Central Wheatbelt Region of Western Australia. Our hosts will provide us with a long-table lunch where we will taste the local produce. In the late afternoon we arrive at the Esplanade Hotel Fremantle by Rydges, our home for three nights. (Overnight Fremantle) BL

 

Day 10: Monday 23 September, Fremantle – Waroona – Jarrahdale – Fremantle

Cypress Farm, Waroona: Guided tour with Professor Kingsley Dixon (to be confirmed in 2019)
Millbrook Winery, Jarrahdale: Tour of organic food garden with award-winning chef, Guy Jeffreys & 3-course lunch

Our tour will be visiting Cypress Farm, the private garden of Professor Kingsley Dixon, who is the John Curtin Distinguished Professor at Curtin University and Foundation Director of Science at Kings Park and Botanic Garden. Named ‘West Australian Scientist’ of the Year in 2016, Professor Dixon was responsible for the discovery of the chemical in smoke that initiates germination of seed in Australian plant species after a bushfire. Not only a keen gardener, Professor Dixon is also a passionate speaker in biodiversity conservation science and restoration ecology, having been recognised for his acclaimed work in these areas. Cypress Farm is located near Dwellingup and takes advantage of the area’s clay-based soils, cooler climate and abundant water supply allowing the most diverse range of European and Australian plant species to be grown and displayed at their very best.

Next we transfer to Millbrook Winery where we will be treated to 3-course gourmet lunch utilising fresh produce from the Millbrook garden and showcasing the creative abilities of Head Chef, Guy Jeffreys. Guy was named ‘Chef of the Year 2017’ by the West Australian Good Food Guide. He is a passionate grower of organic food and believes in the philosophy of ‘root to shoot’ where as much of the plant as possible is used and little to none is wasted. Guy will give us a tour of the one-acre organic gardens that includes over 100 varieties of heirloom vegetables, along with an active orchard, an olive grove and one of the largest vineyards in the Perth Hills. A wine tasting tour will follow the garden tour. (Overnight Fremantle) BL

 

Day 11: Tuesday 24 September, Fremantle – Perth – Karrinyup – Fremantle
Exclusive tour of Kings Park breeding program of Australian native plants hosted by Digby Growns, and Kings Park Botanical Garden tour showcasing native Spring wildflowers.
Janine Mendel’s private garden in Karrinyup
Farewell Dinner at La Sosta
Kings Park covers an area of 400 hectares and is situated only minutes from the centre of Perth. The Botanic Garden consists of 17 hectares of outstanding display gardens featuring over 3000 varieties of West Australian native flora. Our tour starts with Digby Growns, Senior Plant Breeder at Kings Park International Park Breeding Program, giving us a rare behind-the-scenes opportunity by guiding us through the science and ingenuity of one of the world’s most exclusive and diverse plant breeding programs. This will be followed by a visit to Kings Park Nursery, where we will be shown some of the rare grafting techniques used to reproduce the most difficult to grow native species and explore the secrets of making and using smoke water as discovered by Professor Kingsley Dixon that is vital in germinating seed of many Australian bushland plants.

After lunch, we will be visiting the private garden of Janine Mendel in Karrinyup. Janine has trained and worked as a cartographer before embarking on her career as an award-winning landscape designer 24 years ago. She has designed more than 1000 Australian gardens, many of them small urban spaces. She believes less is more and that, by its very nature, good design should tread lightly on the planet. In line with her philosophy that a house should look like ‘it’ has been planted in the garden, she thinks the most successful gardens are created when the entire site becomes the canvas for the design of both the house and the landscape.

Her present house and garden were designed simultaneously enabling her to place the house exactly where she wanted it as far back from the road as possible. This means every room has a view to the outside, and it allows the living areas at the front of the house to be bathed in winter sun but protected from the harsh summer sun and winter winds. Janine’s garden combines lush planting with many textural elements such as stone, timber and stainless steel to create interest and contrast. The front entry garden evokes a sub-tropical theme, while the central courtyard has a beach theme and contains succulents and white sand. The rear courtyard has fruit trees and some productive plants.

Tonight we enjoy a Farewell Dinner at Fremantle’s award-winning Italian Restaurant, La Sosta. (Overnight Fremantle) BD

 

Day 12: Wednesday 25 September, Fremantle Area – Perth Airport

Private garden of Sabrina Hahn, Willagee
Private garden of Deryn Thorpe incl. morning tea, Mt Lawley
Transfer to Perth Airport arriving at 1215hrs

The morning consists of visiting the two private gardens of Sabrina Hahn and Deryn Thorpe. Sabrina’s house is marked out from others in her suburban street by the boab on the verge and a raised planter box with herbs and vegies that she grows for her neighbours to pick. Inside the front fence is a garden combining drought tolerant Mediterranean and Australian plants, with a collection of potted begonias, her Nana’s favourite plant, on the front veranda. The back garden has inherited lemon scented gums, fruit trees and an ornamental vegetable patch, with a hedge of Viburnum tinus and a central glass water feature. There is also a firepit, and a collection of unusual plants from the Kimberley that were collected on Sabrina’s many trips working with Aboriginal groups in establishing food gardens in schools.

Deryn Thorpe is a garden guide for ASA, who writes about gardening in magazines including Gardening Australia and co-hosts a weekly gardening podcast with Steve Wood called ‘All The Dirt’. Her garden was featured on the ABC TV’s Gardening Australia program in May 2018. She will explain the design, planting and the challenges of creating a traditional cottage garden on Perth’s non-wetting sandy soil which is recognised as one of the world’s least fertile soils. Her garden surrounds a 1913 Federation style home in the leafy inner Perth suburb of Mount Lawley. The garden layout has a formal structure but garden beds are informally planted. The front beds are filled with roses, vegetables and massed plantings of flowering perennials and annuals. Hanging baskets and pots add colour to the sweeping veranda. Established trees give dappled shade and a sense of scale to the high-set house. The back garden is more structured with hedges, pergolas, pots of succulents, a herb garden and swagged roses on chains suspended between obelisques. Deryn will be very kindly treating us with a sweet and savoury morning tea.

After these two gardens, we transfer to the airport. Our tour officially ends at approximately 12.15pm on arrival at Perth Airport. B

 

Landscapes, Art & Gardens of the Côte d’Azur, Provence & the Cévennes

Landscapes, Art & Gardens of the Côte d’Azur, Provence & the Cévennes

 

ITINERARY

 

 

The following itinerary describes a range of museums and gardens which we plan to visit. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meal.

 

 

Menton – 8 nights

 

Day 1: Sunday 5 May, Arrive Nice — Transfer to Menton

Introductory Meeting
Welcome Dinner

On arrival at Nice’s airport, participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer by private coach and travel west along an awesome coastline where the pre-Alps plunge almost sheer into the sea, to the port town of Menton. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at the Hotel Napoléon, Menton. Note: private transfers from the airport to the hotel can be arranged through the hotel’s concierge, please contact ASA for further information.

For the next 8 nights we stay at the 4-star Hotel Napoléon, located just across the road from the beach and only a ten-minute slow walk to the old town of Menton. In the hotel’s private off-street courtyard, an exotic garden designed by Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières hides a small paved area. For Ossart and Maurières, hotel gardens “must be able to satisfy each client’s need for privacy and yet welcome people in groups. As much as the interior decoration, the gardens participate in the overall feel of the place and must be designed around an original idea or theme. Finally, they must be attractive in all seasons, whether as places to relax in or simply to be seen from windows”. This evening we enjoy a welcome meal at a local restaurant overlooking Menton’s Garavan Bay. (Overnight Menton) D

 

Day 2: Monday 6 May, Menton

Jardin Exotique Val Rahmeh
Guided tour of Menton, including the Salle des Mariages
Jean Cocteau Museum, Menton

We start the day with a visit to the sub-tropical botanical garden of Val Rahmeh, laid out in 1905 for Lord Radcliffe, Governor of Malta. In 1957 Miss May Sherwood Campbell acquired the property and a second garden, now accessed by a bridge, and created a pond with water hyacinths, water lilies, and papyrus. In 1966 she donated her property to the nation, and today it is owned by The French Museum of Natural History. A guided tour will reveal a wonderful array of lush plantings.

Menton occupies a natural amphitheatre dominated by Mount Agel and the Gorbio and St. Agnes Heights. Ruined fortresses clinging to its surrounding cliffs testify to the town’s deep, turbulent history. Here we shall study the work of one of the coast’s greatest creators, the famous artist and film-maker Jean Cocteau. Cocteau first came upon Menton in 1955 while vacationing at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. He fell in love with its high-cliffed coastal charms and began the next year, at the request of the mayor, to redecorate the town hall’s Salle des mariages with frescoes and furnishings all with a theme of ‘Love’.

Nearby we also visit the new Jean Cocteau Museum which includes 990 works by Cocteau. All of the artist’s key periods are represented, from the first self-portraits of the 1910s up to the “Mediterranean” period towards the end of his life. There are drawings, prints, paintings, ceramics, tapestries, jewellery, books and manuscripts and 172 photographs relating to Cocteau. There are also works by fellow artists Picasso, Modigliani, Di Chirico and others. (Overnight Menton) B

 

Day 3: Tuesday 7 May, Menton — Opio — Coursegoules — Menton

La Casella, Opio (private garden, by special appointment – to be confirmed in 2019)
Le Vallon du Brec (private garden, by special appointment)
Late afternoon at leisure

Our first visit is to the garden of La Casella, a stylish pavilion located on the site of an old jasmine farm. The garden was created by Tom Parr and his partner Claus Scheinert, and is a wonderful example of a late 20th-century garden combining Provençal, English and Italian styles. Here, Parr created a series of flower-filled rooms that became a benchmark of simple grandeur. The gardens themselves, under Scheinert’s astute direction, have become more structurally ambitious, lush, and romantic with every season. It is a garden of parallel, raised terraces with each terrace more perfect than the last. Laurus nobilis has been sculpted into rows of obelisks, walls clipped from Italian cypress and yew. Old-fashioned roses form one terrace in a planting framed by lavender. The house, integrated with the garden, is colored terracotta and planted with white wisteria.

Tom Parr, who died aged 81, was one of England’s leading postwar decorators (a term he proudly preferred to ‘interior designer’), working first with David Hicks and then for 35 years at Colefax and Fowler, of which he became chairman. Parr decorated for a legion of worldwide clients, from Dame Vivien Duffield to members of the Ford dynasty and Château Latour. Many of his clients became lifelong friends, among them the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort at Badminton, where Parr was to achieve some of his finest work. Claus Scheinert passed away in 2015, 4 years after his partner Tom Parr.

Then we travel to Coursegoules to visit Le Vallon du Brec, situated at an altitude of 1000 metres, in the backcountry of Nice. Designed by its owners, photographer and painter Yan and Jean Grisot, this 20,000-square-metre garden is divided in two parts. One, planted with botanical varieties from China, Japan, North America, contrasting with old roses and irises, is dotted with wooden sculptures. The second half is wild prairies on old farming terraces dating back to the 11th century. This large garden has been awarded the status of ‘Jardin Remarquable’ by the French Ministry of Culture and Environment. We return to Menton for a late afternoon at leisure. (Overnight Menton) B

 

Day 4: Wednesday 8 May, Menton

Clos du Peyronnet, Menton (private garden, by special appointment)
Serre de la Madone, Menton
Dinner at Restaurant Mirazur, Menton

This morning we visit one of the garden highlights of the region, the Clos du Peyronnet. Created by Mr and Mrs Derick Waterfield (and still tended by their son’s nephew), the Clos du Peyronnet was established around a Belle Époque Italianate villa in the Garavan (gardé du vent: ‘sheltered from the wind’), on terraces between vertical cliffs and the sea. The villa façade has been engulfed by a Wisteria sinensus (Chinese wisteria). Oreopanax, catalpa and jacaranda give way to a wet grotto, terraces of heat-loving plants such as hibiscus and solanum, architectural cypresses, and a water garden designed to afford glimpses of the Mediterranean below.

This afternoon we visit Serre de la Madone, designed in the 1920s by Lawrence Johnston, creator of the world-famous Hidcote Garden in the Cotswolds, England. Johnston was interested in acclimatising a large variety of exotic species to this inimitable environment. La Serre de la Madone is a secluded paradise with double curving steps, fountains, pools, classical statuary, green garden rooms, a Moorish patio and orangeries for tender exotic plants. Johnston employed 12 gardeners to tend his 7 hectares of terraces that boast an almost bewildering variety of plants from throughout the world.

This evening we dine at the two-Michelin-star Restaurant Mirazur, which enjoys spectacular views of Menton’s old town and harbour. Michelin-star chef Mauro Colagreco excels in original Mediterranean-style dishes, using wild herbs, edible flowers and the freshest vegetables obtained from the restaurant’s garden. (Overnight Menton) BD

 

Day 5: Thursday 9 May, Menton — Villefranche-sur-Mer — Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat — Beaulieu-sur-Mer — Menton

Chapelle Saint-Pierre by Jean Cocteau, Villefranche-sur-Mer
Villa Ephrussi, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Villa Grecque Kérylos, Beaulieu-sur-Mer

This morning we drive out to Cap-Ferrat, a narrow peninsula extending far out to sea. Our first visit is to the Chapelle Saint-Pierre, painted by Jean Cocteau at Villefranche. The ornamentation of the Chapelle Saint-Pierre, a jewel of the modern symbolist art, was a dream cherished for a long time by Cocteau that he finally realised in 1957. He supervised the ceramicists and stonecutters who worked on his project. The chapel evinces a simple, humble fervor reminiscent of small Romanesque churches. It simultaneously represents St. Peter’s life, the village dear to Cocteau’s childhood, and the artist’s friendship for the fishermen to whom the chapel was dedicated.

The road to Cap-Ferrat offers wonderful views of the Mediterranean. The Cap itself was one of the most fashionable resorts of the 20th century and is associated with such luminaries and eccentrics as Somerset Maughan, who lived in the Villa Mauresque, and Léopold II of the Belgians, who established the world’s most important private botanical gardens there. In 1926, Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild chose a site here for her enormous villa and garden – Villa Île de France. The eclecticism of her garden, named after the famous ship and tended during her residence by gardeners in sailors’ uniforms, reflects the syncretic mix of styles that made the Riviera an important avant-garde centre in the early twentieth century. We shall take a guided tour of the villa’s first floor that includes terracotta sculptures by Clodion, a Meissen China Room and a Tapestry Room whose furniture by Jacob is upholstered with Beauvais tapestries. We shall then tour the villa’s seven exquisite gardens, which include patios, waterfalls, ponds, floral borders, shady walks and rare species of trees. The garden ensemble comprises Florentine, Spanish, formal French and exotic gardens, as well as rose and rock gardens.

After lunch in the villa’s tearoom, we visit the Grecian Villa Kérylos, one of the most extraordinary sites on the French Riviera. It was built in the early 1900s, in the Belle Époque era, and is a unique and extremely luxurious re-creation of an ancient Grecian dwelling, complete with wall decorations and furniture. It was built as the tribute to Greek civilisation by two great Hellenophiles, Théodore Reinach, an archaeologist and patron of the arts, and the architect Emmanuel Pontremoli who based the design on the remains of noble houses from the 2nd century BC on the Island of Delos. Everything inside, from the arrangement of rooms to the details of the décor, was designed to recreate the atmosphere of a luxurious Grecian villa. From the garden around the villa there are fine views of the Cap-Ferrat peninsula, dotted with magnificent mansions. The garden contains a pleasing mixture of typically Greek plants: olive trees and vines, pomegranate and carob trees, acanthus and myrtle, oleanders and irises, pine and cypress trees, palm trees and papyrus which all help create a Grecian look and feel in the bright Mediterranean sunshine. (Overnight Menton) BL

 

Day 6: Friday 10 May, Menton — Grasse — Châteauneuf-Grasse — Menton

Le Mas des Pivoines, Grasse (private garden, by special appointment)
Lunch at Restaurant Le Mas des Géraniums, Opio
Jardin de la Villa Fort France, Châteauneuf-Grasse (private garden, by special appointment)

Our first visit is to a garden located in the countryside near Grasse. Le Mas des Pivoines is owned by Marcel and Lucile Barrault, who have been developing this 1.5-hectare garden since 1998. The topography of the site allows a succession of different gardens: olive grove, lavender fields, mix-borders of Mediterranean plants, separated from each other by arbours covered with roses or vine creepers. Two large, flat areas are connected by a set of terraces. The dry stone retaining walls are lined up with iris and plants adapted to the dry conditions, leading to recently landscaped park. A creek runs at the lower part of the land. From mid-April, venerable tree peonies such as the double-pink ‘Duchesse de Morny’ start blooming. These are followed by tree and herbaceous peonies such as the ‘Golden Isles’ and ‘Hanakisoi’, roses, shrubs spring flowers, irises, perennials and so on. This is a constantly evolving garden where one can find some ancient remains including basins, canals, arbours, mass of fallen rocks, gazebos and big box-hedges.

We lunch among olive, fig and lime trees at Le Mas des Géraniums, a typical Provençal farm located on Opio’s hill. In this peaceful and beautiful setting, we shall enjoy a light lunch.

Just a short drive away is the garden of Villa Fort France. The original owners, Lady Winifred Fortescue and her husband, Sir John, an archivist and military historian, bought it in 1935. Lady Fortescue wrote a best-selling account of her struggles to create her home there entitled Perfume from Provence, which was illustrated by A.A. Milne. She followed this success with two further books written when she moved to Opio: Sunset House and Trampled Lilies (which recounts her time during the war years). The rose garden she created was expanded to form the current garden by Jeanne Gruniaux, who continued to advise the present owners, Pierre and Valérie de Courcel, until her death. The de Courcel have added their own deft, artistic touches to create a lovely garden full of colour, much of which comes from a superb use of annuals (poppies, larkspur, love-in-the-mist and aquilegia plus a sweet pea hedge). (Overnight Menton) BL

 

Day 7: Saturday 11 May, Menton — Tourrettes-sur-Loup — Saint-Paul de Vence — Vence — Menton

Domaine du Prieuré, Tourrettes-sur-Loup (private garden, by special appointment – to be confirmed in 2019)
The Maeght Foundation, Saint-Paul-de-Vence
Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire, Vence

Today we drive through some of the finest scenery in the south of France. We first travel up to Tourrettes-sur-Loup, where we visit the private garden of Joanna Millar, recently acclaimed as ‘the grand dame’ of Riviera gardening. Joanna’s roses will be in full flower, as will the irises that she grows in serried ranks among a fine collection of other native and exotic plants.

Then we drive to Saint-Paul de Vence, built on a rocky outcrop and surrounded by ramparts overlooking the coast. Fortified in the 16th century, it remained beautifully intact and began to attract artists such as Russian painter Marc Chagall who moved here in 1966. A host of famous artists and writers were drawn to the beauty of the surrounding area and its exceptional light. Later it also became a favorite ‘hangout’ of film directors and French and international stars such as Yves Montand and Simone Signoret.

After some time at leisure for lunch and to walk around the narrow and picturesque streets of Saint-Paul de Vence, we visit the Marguerite and Aimé Maeght Foundation, which hosts an exceptional collection of twentieth-century works. André Malraux, then Minister of Cultural Affairs, inaugurated the Foundation on 28 July 1964. It is a unique example of a private European art foundation. This architectural ensemble was entirely conceived and financed by the Parisian art dealers Aimé and Marguerite Maeght to display modern and contemporary art in all media. Painters and sculptors collaborated closely in the realisation of the complex with Catalan architect Lluis Sert by creating works, many of them monumental, that were integrated into the building and its gardens: the Giacometti courtyard; the Miró labyrinth with sculptures and ceramics; mural mosaics by Chagall and Tal-Coat; a pool and stained glass window by Braque, and a Bury fountain. We shall enjoy its collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings and graphic works by artists such as Bonnard, Braque, Calder, Chagall, Giacometti, Léger, and Miró.

We return to Menton via the town of Vence, noted for its Chapelle du Rosaire, conceived and created by Henri Matisse. From 1943 to 1949, an ailing Matisse settled in Vence and employed a young nurse, Monique Bourgeois, who became his confidante and model. In 1946, the young woman entered the religious Order of the Dominicans and was ordained Sister Jacques-Marie and shortly after persuaded Matisse to design the chapel for her community. The result is a unique masterpiece, which Matisse worked on for 4 years (1948-1951) to elaborate the plans of the building and all the details for its decoration, stained glass windows, ceramics, stalls, stoup, cult objects and priestly ornaments. For Matisse this work was “the fruit of [my] whole working life. In spite of all its imperfections [I] consider it as [my] masterpiece”. (Overnight Menton) B

 

Day 8: Sunday 12 May, Menton — Cap d’Antibes — Antibes — Nice — Menton

Scenic drive, Cap d’Antibes
Château Grimaldi – Musée Picasso, Antibes
Provençal Food Market, Cours Masséna, Antibes
Matisse Museum, Nice

This morning we tour the Cap d’Antibes, a beautiful peninsula with a winding road that reveals stunning views around every corner; we shall take in the grand panorama at the highest point of the cape, the Plateau de la Garoupe.

We visit the port town of Antibes, which attracted many writers, such as Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, as well as artists like Picasso. Our walking tour includes a visit to Antibes’ Provençal food market on the Cours Masséna. We also visit the Château Grimaldi, a mix of 12th and 16th-century architecture, which houses the Musée Picasso. Picasso used the castle as his studio for a time in 1946. In addition to his paintings, it holds a fine collection of the master’s ceramics.

After lunchtime at leisure in Antibes we drive to Cimiez, site of a small Roman city just oustide of modern-day Nice. It is more famous, however, for its museum devoted to France’s greatest modern painter, Henri Matisse, who lived in Nice from 1917 to his death in 1954. We shall view the paintings in the museum that span his career, from the very early Still Life with Books (1890) to his Rococo Armchair (1947) and Blue Nude (1952). (Overnight Menton) B

 

 

Aix-en-Provence – 3 nights

 

Day 9: Monday 13 May, Menton — Fréjus — Bouc-Bel-Air — Aix-en-Provence

Jardin la Pomme d’Ambre, Fréjus (private garden, by special appointment)
Jardins d’Albertas, Bouc-Bel-Air (private garden, by special appointment)

This morning we drive to Fréjus, built upon the remains of an ancient harbour where Octavian (Augustus) moored ships captured from Cleopatra’s fleet at the Battle of Actium. Our main interest is not Fréjus’ Roman remains, however, but the Jardin la Pomme d’Ambre of Madame Nicole Arboireau, chief exponent of the Provençal cottage garden. Nicole Arboireau’s garden contrasts vividly with the foreigners’ gardens you have hitherto encountered. She has set herself the task of nurturing the Provençal tradition of the small garden in which local plants are propagated. We will explore this lovely small domain, learning much about the traditions of gardening in this region, and enjoy a delicious Provençal buffet, prepared by Nicole herself. Nicole’s delightful book Jardins de Grands-Mères describes the gardens of grandmothers, with their special secrets revealed.

Following our visit, we continue to Aix-en-Provence, where we shall be based for the next three nights. En route we shall visit the Jardins d’Albertas at Bouc-Bel-Air. The city of Aix-en-Provence occupies a site previously inhabited by Celts, Greeks and Romans. It rose to prominence as capital of the County of Provence and then the royal city of the House of Anjou. Under René of Anjou it was a centre of Italian and French culture. Absorbed by the French monarchy at the end of the 15th century, it became the home of the Parlement de Provence, a status it lost during the French Revolution. The Marquis Jean-Baptiste d’Albertas, first president of the Provence Audit Office, decided in 1751 to create a garden to the south of the city at Bouc-Bel-Air. The craze for gardening in mid-18th-century France meant that the domain was laid out before the house. In fact, this country retreat never gained its house. The garden, which includes a kitchen garden, is laid out somewhat like Villandry in the Loire. Its formal parterres have a profusion of sculpture set against powerful vistas. It has been maintained since the 18th century by the Albertas family, which has taken great pains to maintain its original state. (Overnight Aix-en-Provence) BL

 

Day 10: Tuesday 14 May, Aix-en-Provence — Valensole — Aix-en-Provence

Clos de Villeneuve, Valensole (private garden, by special appointment)
Atelier Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence
Orientation walk of Aix-en-Provence

This morning we drive north of Aix to the Clos de Villeneuve, Valensole. This bastide was constructed in the first half of the 18th century. Jean-Baptiste de Villeneuve, seigneur of Esclapon, who was descended from an ancient Provençal family, laid out its basic form. His garden still occupies three terraces with seven basins and fountains from the 18th and 19th centuries. The late owner André de Villeneuve, has, over the last 30 years, created the present garden on the original terraces, around the early basins. Parterres planted in the tradition of the French formal garden, an alley of 100-year-old chestnut trees, a huge basin on the lowest terrace, and a view beyond to purple lavender plantations, form a magnificent ensemble, along with colourful roses and richly aromatic sage, thyme and other Provençal herbs. There are fruit and olive trees at every level, and remarkable walls constructed of round stones from the Valensole Plateau. Alain Sauvat, long-time friend of André de Villeneuve and manager of the property will show us the garden and host us for lunch. Mr Sauvat comes from a family of lavender growers. He will also guide inside his small museum of lavender, housed in a former 1925 lavender distillery.

In the afternoon we drive back to Aix to the Atelier Cézanne, which was the base from which this most careful and methodical of artists made excursions to paint in the countryside. When the weather was bad he worked in the atelier, painting his famous still lifes. One of the most interesting aspects of this museum is that it still has many of the objects Cézanne collected and used as subjects for these still lifes: a table, a short ladder, a high easel, a potbelly stove, a sofa, a few chairs, the items seen here were the only furniture present in the closed world of Cézanne. A few locally decorated vases, a ginger jar and an olive pot, a fruit bowl, a plate, a glass, a bottle of rum, three skulls, and a little plaster cupid by François Duquesnoy are among the smaller objects made so famous in his works that are in the atelier’s collection.

Dickens visited Aix, Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral went to school and Marcel Pagnol attended university there, and it was Émile Zola’s home town. As a boy he became friendly with Cézanne, and the two enjoyed long excursions where Paul would paint and Émile would write. Our day ends with a guided orientation walk of Aix. (Overnight Aix-en-Provence) BL

 

Day 11: Wednesday 15 May, Aix-en-Provence — Cucuron — Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade — Aix-en-Provence

Pavillon de Galon, Cucuron (private garden, by special appointment)
Lunch at La Petite Maison de Cucuron, Cucuron
Art and Architecture Tour, Château Lacoste, Puy Sainte Réparade

This morning we travel north of Aix-en-Provence to the Pavillon de Galon, a restored 18th-century hunting pavilion, surrounded by vines, orchards, cherry and olive trees. At the foot of the Luberon mountains and facing south, its grounds are secluded yet have stunning views all around. Its gardens, which boast a colourful mix of lavender and clipped hedges, have been awarded the status ‘remarkable garden’ by the French Ministry of Culture and Environment.

We next drive to the preserved medieval village of Cucuron in the heart of the Luberon National Park, home to La Petite Maison de Cucuron, a delightful restaurant run by Michelin-star Chef Eric Sapet, which has a reputation as one of the finest restaurants in Provence. Located on the central square in the shade of hundred-year-old plane trees, the Petite Maison serves traditional Provençal dishes made with fresh market produce.

On our way back to Aix-en-Provence, we visit Château La Coste, the creation of Irish property magnate Patrick (Paddy) McKillen. It is a vineyard where wine, art and architecture live in harmony. Since 2008, the Château has been inviting artists and architects to choose a place in the landscape and create a work that they feel belongs there. Jean Nouvel designed the estate’s chai de vinification (wine vault); while in 2011, Tadao Ando designed the art centre surrounded by a shallow pool of water, on which Louise Bourgeois’ Crouching Spider masterpiece perches.

We take a guided tour through the wooded hilltops and valleys, alongside olive groves and vineyards, to discover the many installations of contemporary art by Alexander Calder, Frank O. Gehry, Ai Weiwei, Andy Goldworthy, Paul Matisse, Tom Shannon, Jean Prouve, Sean Scully, Richard Serra, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Tunga, and others.

We also visit the kitchen garden, conceived by the landscape designer Louis Benech. It consists of twelve equal-sized square plots of aromatic herbs, vegetables and flowers, and it is edged by an orchard of almond, peach, red plum, and cherry trees. The central plots of the garden are planted with perennials, perfumed roses, asparagus, artichokes, aubergines and tomatoes. (Overnight Aix-en-Provence) BL

 

 

Avignon – 6 nights

 

Day 12: Thursday 16 May, Aix-en-Provence — Ménerbes — Avignon

Le Clos Pascal, Ménerbes (private garden, by special appointment)
La Carméjane, Ménerbes (private garden, by special appointment)

In the Luberon hills, beneath the perched village of Ménerbes, we visit Clos Pascal, a little-known work by the famous Nicole de Vésian. Long, gentle terraces, cloud-clipped shrubs lead up to a potager garden and a small vineyard. La Carméjane, owned by Mr and Mrs Coxe, is located on the edge of the village. The rose-covered terrace reached from the house has amazing views of the rural landscape. The lower terrace has cherry orchards, a potager for the family and a new restored area planted with olive trees. In the late afternoon we continue our journey through the Petit Luberon (the name given to the western end of the range) to Avignon. (Overnight Avignon) B

 

Day 13: Friday 17 May, Avignon

Papal Palace, Avignon
Pont Saint-Benezet, Avignon
Afternoon at leisure in Avignon

Avignon, one of Europe’s most interesting and beautiful medieval cities, is sited majestically on the banks of the Rhône. Its historical importance and great monuments are due to its status as a papal city between the 14th and the 18th centuries; it reverted to the French crown in 1761.

This morning we will visit the castle that served as a palace fortress for the seven popes whose sojourn in France between 1309 and 1377 came to be called by opponents ‘the Babylonian Captivity’. For the following 400 years it was the residence of the papal legate. This massive complex has some rooms that are masterpieces in their own right, such as the grand hall, the great kitchen, with its single huge chimney spanning the whole interior, and the papal bedroom with its painted walls depicting a great vine set against a blue background.

Near the Papal Palace is the Pont Saint-Benezet, the famous bridge described in the popular children’s song, Sur le pont d’Avignon. Bridges were vital to medieval pilgrimage and Saint-Benezet, who built the bridge between 1177 and 1185, founded a company of bridge-builders to serve this purpose. Now missing a number of spans, the original 900-metre-long wooden structure was repaired and reconstructed – in stone – many times before half the bridge collapsed into the Rhône in the mid-1600s. The remainder of the day is at leisure. (Overnight Avignon) B

 

Day 14: Saturday 18 May, Avignon — Eygalières — Noves — Avignon

Mas Benoît, Eygalières (private garden, by special appointment)
Atelier of Marc Nucera, Noves (by special appointment)

Today we are privileged to meet with Marc Nucera, renowned tree sculptor and ‘shaper’. Marc started his career as the student and disciple of the professor, sculptor and then garden designer and Land Art practitioner Alain-David Idoux. Although Idoux died tragically young, he left behind a legacy of ground-breaking design.

Our day begins with a visit to the private gardens of Mas Benoît, located close to Eygalières, in the foothills of the Alpilles. The garden surrounding this traditional Provençal farmhouse, or ‘mas’, lies on a low hill with the magnificent backdrop of the Alpilles in the distance. It is considered a leading example of contemporary Mediterranean landscape art by Alain-David Idoux, with lavender wedge, almond spiral, rock river and oak groves sculpted by Marc Nucera.

We next travel to Noves, just south of Avignon, to meet Marc Nucera at his atelier and experimental garden ‘Le Terrain’. Son of a furniture maker, Marc Nucera trained as a tree pruner, commencing with the rehabilitation of old olive orchards. In the 1990s, working with land artist, Alain-David Idoux, Marc began to evolve his own style. Local garden designers, including the legendary Nicole de Vésian, creator of La Louve (She-Wolf) garden in Bonnieux, gave help and encouragement. Nucera’s love of trees is reflected in the way he brings out the existing character of each individual plant, highlighting their best features so that they both enhance and give coherence to the surrounding landscape. He sculpts living trees, favoring natives such as almonds, green and white oaks, and the remnants of cypress hedging often found on old farmsteads. He also gives new life to dead trees by turning them into furniture and sculptures, either still in the ground or positioned near their place of origin. (Overnight Avignon) BL

 

Day 15: Sunday 19 May, Avignon — L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue — Gordes — Bonnieux — Sorgues — Avignon

Sunday Market, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
Scenic drive to Gordes
Le Jardin de La Louve (She-Wolf), Bonnieux (private garden, by special appointment)
Château de Brantes, Sorgues: garden tour, Provençal dinner and classical music concert

We depart early this morning, and travel 30 kilometres west of Avignon to visit the Sunday market of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. This large market is a food market, flea market, and antique market where you can buy everything from olives to fine art. The town itself stretches across the Sorgue River, earning it the nickname ‘Venice of Provence’, and makes a very lovely backdrop to this large market with its shade-providing plane tress, babbling river, historic waterwheels, and flower-filled riverside cafés and restaurants. The town is famous for being a big hub for antique dealers and is the second largest antique centre in France (after Paris).

Having collected some ingredients for a picnic lunch, we continue our journey through the Petit Luberon. This scenic drive takes us to the village of Gordes, perhaps the most picturesque of the perched villages. The houses of Gordes rise in picturesque tiers above the Imergue valley on the edge of the Vaucluse plateau. The stone buildings built in tight against the base of the cliffs and those perched on the rocks above, including the 12th-century castle, are made of a beige stone that glow orange in the morning sun. A short drive across the valley takes us past Roussillon, a village that stands on the highest hill between the Coulon valley and the Vaucluse plateau. These striking hills, composed of ochre rock of 16 or 17 different shades featured in the local houses, enhance the beauty of the village and the surrounding countryside.

Continuing south through the Luberon mountain range, we reach the picturesque village of Bonnieux, set atop craggy cliffs, where we shall visit the garden La Louve (She-Wolf). Nicole de Vésian began restoring her Provençal terrace garden on the lower fringe of this medieval town in 1987. Here the former fashion stylist designed house and garden in harmony with the natural surroundings, producing a result with the concision, beauty and elegance of a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie house. Since Nicole’s death in 1996, this tiny spot has become one of the most photographed gardens in the world. While La Louve was already dearly loved, the publication of Louisa Jones’ book, Modern Design in Provence (2011), only fanned the flames. Nicole also created several other gardens which are less well-known.

In the late afternoon we make our way to the Château de Brantes, located just outside the village of Sorgues, for a special evening tour and reception. The garden, which has the oldest magnolia tree in France (1780), was designed by the Danish landscape architect Mogens Tvede in 1956. The château, listed as a historic monument in 1987, is surrounded by an extensive plane-tree wood, and features a series of basins through which flows the river Sorgues. After a guided tour through the park and garden, we enjoy an al fresco Provençal buffet dinner, followed by delightful classical music concert given under the magnolia tree. (Overnight Avignon) BLD

 

Day 16: Monday 20 May, Avignon — Pont du Gard — Arles — Avignon

Pont du Gard
Museum of Antiquities (Musée de l’Arles Antique), Arles
Theatre and Amphitheatre, Arles
Saint-Trophime and its cloister, Arles

Today we travel a short distance to visit the Pont du Gard, one of the best preserved of all Roman aqueducts. Its survival testifies to the building skill of the Romans, for the massive blocks of which it is fabricated have remained in place despite the fact it is a dry stone construction (without mortar or cement).

Then we continue our travel to visit Arles and experience the fascinating history of this Provençal town with its Roman monuments. Our first visit is to the splendid Musée de l’Arles Antique. Inaugurated in 1995, the museum features a wonderful head of Caesar and a 31m-long Roman boat which was discovered beneath the Rhône in 2011.

Provence takes its name from the fact that it was the oldest non-Italic ‘province’ (provincia) of the Roman Empire outside Italy. Arleate (now Arles), a major Roman city, was built to protect the vital estuary of the Rhône. This colonia was given a typical gridded street plan that can still be traced in the centre of the city. It had an important amphitheatre, which in the Middle Ages became a castle but is now used for bullfights, and a theatre, now used for festivals. Arleate was a major centre of early Christianity and produced a number of very important martyrs who were buried in its great cemetery, Alyscamps. Among these was Saint-Trophime, whose Romanesque basilica has one of the finest porticoes in Provence, with a porch modelled on a Roman triumphal arch. (Overnight Avignon) B

 

Day 17: Tuesday 21 May, Avignon — Saint Etienne du Grès — Saint-Rémy-de-Provence — Avignon

Le Petit Fontanille, Saint Etienne du Grès (private garden, by special appointment)
Private garden designed by Dominique Lafourcade (by special appointment)

This morning we visit Le Petit Fontanille, the private garden of Mrs Anne Cox Chambers near Saint Etienne du Grès. Le Petit Fontanille is the work of several English garden designers, Peter Coates, Rosemary Verey, and, more recently, Tim Rees. The garden merges perfectly into the hills, the woods and olive groves of the surrounding countryside and its success lies in its combination of a profusion of native plants with exotics that are compatible with the climate. Here the design is all about lines; olive trees form a horizontal mass against the verticality of the Italian cypresses.

In the afternoon, we make a visit with master landscape architect Dominique Lafourcade to one of her recent creations near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

“A garden is first and foremost a work of art, with the gardener playing the roles of architect, sculptor, musician and painter in turn. A garden should move visitors, setting all their senses aquiver” – Dominique Lafourcade. (Overnight Avignon) B

 

 

Florac – 3 nights

 

Day 18: Wednesday 22 May, Avignon — Uzès — Le Villaret — Florac

Wednesday market of medieval village of Uzès
Le Jardin des Sambucs, Le Villaret (private garden, by special appointment)
Dinosaur footprints, St-Laurent-de-Trèves

Our journey continues north-west of Avignon to the pretty village of Uzès, home to one of the most colourful markets in the south of France. The Wednesday morning market, located on the Place aux Herbes, specialises in produits du terroirs (regional products and specialties) where you can find creamy goat cheese, garlic olives, fragrant herbs, pots of thyme-flavoured honey, bread and even small jars of snail and shallot spread!

We then drive to the foothills of the Cévennes National Park. Set in Le Villaret, a tiny hamlet on a terraced slope, Le Jardin des Sambucs is one of France’s most creative new country gardens, appealing to plant-lovers, art-lovers and those who enjoy simply being in places of exuberant beauty.

Awarded ‘2013 Favourite Garden of the Year’ by the Association of French Garden Journalists, it is a labyrinth of stone, pools, wild plants and horticultural treasures. It covers some 5,000 m² of hillside in the southern Cévennes hills on the edge of the Mediterranean climate zone.

It took years for the owners, Agnès and Nicolas Brückin, to transform land previously farmed by Agnès’ family into a marvellous mix of plantsmanship fused with artistic imagination. Nicolas worked with stone while Agnès cared for the plants, creating a garden rich with scents and hues, and blessed with a unique sense of humour.Highly personal, it is both pioneer and model in ecotourism, blending family gardening with nature study, organic agriculture and country crafts. We lunch in the garden sampling a menu based on their home grown vegetables flavoured with edible flowers, such as elderflower.

We continue our journey to our friendly family hotel in the picturesque village of Florac at the very centre of the Cévennes National Park, where we shall stay for the next three nights.

Our journey takes us past the little hamlet of St-Laurent-de-Trèves, situated on a rocky outcrop with magnificent views. Dinosaur footprints have been discovered here, dating back 190 million years, to the time when the region was a limestone swamp. A short walk around the site reveals a number of footprints, which are amazingly clear.

We dine in the hotel restaurant, L’Adonis, whose owner and chef Martial Paulet will serve dishes with the best local seasonal produce. The hotel is situated on the escarpments of the Causse Méjean close to the awesome Gorges du Tarn, Mont Lozère et du Mont Aigoual. Robert Louis Stevenson became enamoured of this awesome region and spent much time wandering through it. (Overnight Florac) BLD

 

Day 19: Thursday 23 May, Florac — Mont Lozère — Finiels — Pont de Montvert — Florac

Orientation walk in Florac
Mont Lozère scenic drive
Pont de Montvert

We spend the next two days exploring the Cévennes National Park in the company of local expert mountain guide Anne Nourry, Vice-President of the Association Sur Le Chemin de Robert Louis Stevenson. The Cévennes, now a UNESCO-listed National Park, was and still is one of the wildest areas of France, with mountains and deep gorges. 19th-century travellers like Robert Louis Stevenson visited isolated villages that seemed locked in the past, with a tradition-bound, conservative culture. Many peasants of the Cévennes, like much of the population of southern France, had converted to Protestantism in the 16th century. When Louis XIV revoked the Henry IV’s Edict of Nantes (1685), which had assured Protestants the right of free worship, the Huguenot Camisards of the region revolted (1704-1712); their revolt is called the Camisard Revolt. When Stevenson trekked through the area, Protestantism was again tolerated, but the deeply conservative people of each village adhered universally either to the Protestant or Catholic cause. Intermarriage between Catholics and Protestants was strictly forbidden and offenders would be cast out of both villages. Stevenson, a Scot, was himself a Protestant, and both the geography of the Cévennes with its barren rocky heather-filled hillsides, and the history of religious strife that lay over the land, were familiar to him.

Today’s program will combine coach touring with easy rambles through the countryside and to small, medieval villages. We shall be able to imagine the area as Robert Louis Stevenson saw it, with its wilderness scenery of rugged escarpments, deep valleys, small streams and a host of pretty wildflowers.

After an orientation walk in Florac, we take a scenic drive to the summit of Mont Lozère which is the highest peak in the Cévennes National Park. It offers some stunning natural scenery and is covered by coniferous plantations and ‘broom’ scrub moorland. A short walk will enable us to view the Pic de Finiels which rises at 1699m. The distinct geological zones that make up the Cévennes National Park sustain different types of landscape, which have all been shaped by human activity. Mont Lozère is a granite massif scattered with typical reliefs called felsenmeer (block fields). Water is omnipresent in springs, peat bogs and rivers. The bare crests are summer pastures for great flocks of sheep. Mont Lozère bears the signs of ancient human occupation: menhirs, Gallo-Roman vestiges, and so on.

Following our lunch in the small village of Finiels, we drive to the Pont de Montvert (870 metres in altitude), located at the base of the south-facing slopes of Mont Lozère. Le Pont de Montvert is a pretty granite village that is named for its hump-backed bridge (en dos d’âne) that spans in a single arch the swift-flowing Tarn. The bridge is guarded by a defensive tower at the village end, now with a less bellicose function: it holds the village clock. Medieval in aspect, the bridge and tower date to the 17th century. The bridge is well known as one of the places that Robert Louis Stevenson stopped during his famous Travels with a Donkey and now forms one of the stopping points along the popular trail that follows his original route. (Overnight Florac) BLD

 

Day 20: Friday 24 May, Florac — Gorges du Tarn — Gorges de la Jonte — Florac

Boat excursion, Gorges du Tarn
Belvédère des Vautours (Vulture Lookout), Gorges de la Jonte
Farewell Dinner

This morning we focus on the great Gorges du Tarn, an impressive canyon cut by the Tarn through the harsh limestone plateaux (causses) south of the Massif Central. We shall drive along the gorge and then take a boat excursion down the Tarn as it winds through the most spectacular section of the valley. Starting from La Malène, we board small flat-bottomed boats and make our way down the river in the crisp morning light through Les Détroits, the most beautiful and narrowest section of the canyon, between towering vertical cliffs of up to 400 metres, and end at the Cirque des Baumes (baume meaning ‘cave’), where the gorge widens forming a magnificent amphitheatre.

Following a picnic lunch we travel to the western edge of the park, where the Gorges du Tarn meets the Gorges de la Jonte. Here we visit the Belvédère des Vautours, an interpretive centre and viewing point for the many vultures that nest in the gorge, mostly Griffon vultures, but now also Black vultures. With the aid of national park officers, we may view their nests, and watch individuals and groups perched on the dramatic gorge walls. Two decades or so ago these giant airborne scavengers were almost extinct in the Cévennes. Now, thanks to a successful reintroduction program, some 75 pairs breed in the national park. Following a majestic aerial ballet performed by 30 or so vultures, we return to our hotel and enjoy a farewell meal together. (Overnight Florac) BLD

 

Day 21: Saturday 25 May, Florac — Nîmes TGV Station

Corniche des Cévennes

This morning we drive out of the Cévennes National Park along the scenic Corniche des Cévennes, past the village of Saint-Jean-du-Gard and on to Nîmes’ TGV station, where you will be able to take a train to your airport or next French destination. B

 

Victoria’s Private Gardens and their Designers

Victoria’s Private Gardens and their Designers

 

**Early-Bird special BOOK before July 31**

 

The following itinerary describes a range of gardens which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission, which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure in 2019. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meals.

 

ITINERARY

 

Ballarat – 3 nights

 

Day 1: Saturday 23 March,

 

Arrive Melbourne – Ballarat
Coach journey from Melbourne airport to Ballarat
Cameron House – a florist’s garden, Golden Point
2-Course Welcome Dinner in the Princes Room, Craig’s Royal Hotel
Meeting Point: Tullamarine Airport, Terminal 1, Ground Floor Arrivals Hall, at the Gloria Jeans Coffee Shop at 2.35pm.

 

Our private coach collects us at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport and drives to Ballarat, a city with ornate architecture built during the prosperous days of the 1850s gold rush. First we visit Cameron House, a quirky home garden created by Greg Block, an ex-florist with a passion for form, texture and shape. Recycled garden materials including fronds and branches have been transformed into beautiful sculptures which enhance a garden overflowing with potted plants including a big collection of ferns, bonsai and topiary.

We drive to the historic Craig’s Royal Hotel, a grand boutique hotel, dating to the gold rush which will be our home for three nights.

Tonight we enjoy a 2-course welcome dinner in the Princes Room, at the Craig’s Royal Hotel. After dinner you may wish to take a leisurely walk through the streets of Ballarat. (Overnight Craig’s Royal Hotel, Ballarat) D

 

Day 2: Sunday 24 March, Ballarat – Trentham – Daylesford – Ascot – Ballarat

 

Begonia extravaganza at Robert Clark Conservatory
Frogmore, the flamboyant country garden of a horticulturalist and a florist, Trentham, Spa town of Daylesford
Lambley Nursery, the garden of horticulturalist David Glenn, Ascot

 

We’ll walk through colourful bedding displays and beneath mature trees in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens to visit the spectacular autumn begonia display in the Robert Clark Conservatory. The showcase includes large flowered tuberous begonias in pots and pendulous varieties in baskets with perfect blooms in a rainbow of colours and forms.

We journey on to Frogmore Gardens which started in 2002 when florist Zena Bethell and horticulturalist Jack Marshall bought eight acres of land near Trentham. Three hectares adjoining the Wombat State Forest have been transformed into a spectacular garden with beds overflowing with dramatic perennials and annuals in dramatic, colour-themed, wide herbaceous borders. There is a separate drought tolerant, prairie-style grass garden with a forest backdrop.

Next we visit the charming spa town of Daylesford and have time to wander the picturesque streets lined with boutique shops and find a café for lunch.

This afternoon we visit Lambley Nursery in Ascot, home of horticulturalist David Glenn and his wife, the artist, Criss Canning. Their gardens have been created around an old farmhouse. David has learnt to work with Ballarat’s harsh climate and has transformed barren paddocks into a beautifully designed space overflowing with colour and structure. In autumn the display gardens, which feature many salvias and dahlias are looking spectacular. The striking dry garden, which is watered no more than four times a year, will supply inspiration to those gardening with limited water. David is a plant breeder; his best known release is Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’. He also trials flowers, fruits and vegetables which are on display in his bountiful edible garden. (Overnight Craig’s Royal Hotel, Ballarat) B

 

Day 3: Monday 25 March, Ballarat – Denver – Blackwood – Ballarat

 

Designer Paul Bangay takes us on a tour of his rural garden, Stonefields, Denver
Garden of St Erth, Blackwood

 

The day is spent in the country and our first stop is the home of Paul Bangay, widely regarded as the foremost garden designer in Australia. For more than 25 years he has created timeless and elegant designs around the world. He will take us through his own spectacular rural garden called Stonefields and will talk to us about the process of design as he shows us through the garden’s series of elegant and formal garden rooms. They include an entry court, front courtyard with water rill, burgundy rose garden, white garden with formal pond, apple walk, mirror image back garden overlooking the countryside and relaxed woodland garden.

Midday we continue to the Garden of St Erth in Blackwood where we enjoy a light lunch followed by a guided tour of the garden. The garden is built around an 1860s sandstone cottage and features espaliered fruit and heirloom vegetables. Drought tolerant annual and perennial flowers and grasses add colour and texture to the herbaceous borders. The garden is run by the Diggers Garden and Environment Trust which strives to conserve historic gardens and buildings and to protect heirloom seeds. (Overnight Craig’s Royal Hotel, Ballarat) BL

 

Melbourne – 3 nights

 

Day 4: Tuesday 26 March, Ballarat – Macedon Ranges – Melbourne

 

Bolobek, a historic garden with designer flair
Lunch in the gardens of Bolobek
Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria: Private guided tour with Professor Tim Entwisle

 

We leave Ballarat for the green heart of the Macedon Ranges to meet Bridget Robertson who bought Bolobek, a historic working cattle property, with husband Hugh in 2006. This garden was laid out in the early 1900s and today demonstrates how a creative design style can be overlaid on an earlier garden landscape. Bolobek is on the Victorian Heritage Register because of the quality of its design, artistry and plantings. Bridget will share stories of the people that made the garden and we’ll admire its geometric design which focuses on attractive bark, soft green foliage and white flowers.

Following a light lunch at Bolobek, we continue to Melbourne where Professor Tim Entwisle, Director and Chief Executive of Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, has kindly agreed to give us a private guided tour of the gardens. Tim is a highly respected scientist and scientific communicator with a broad interest in plants, science and gardens. He was director of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust for eight years, and spent two years at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew before returning to Australia. Tim will guide you through Melbourne’s 173-year-old heritage botanic garden, described as one of the most beautiful botanic garden landscapes in the world. You’ll discover rare and unusual plants as well as hear stories about the history and creation of this masterpiece.

In the late afternoon we transfer to the Rydges Hotel in Melbourne, our home for three nights. (Overnight Rydges Melbourne) BL

 

Day 5: Wednesday 27 March, Melbourne

 

25th Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show

 

It’s a ten-minute stroll from our hotel to the Melbourne International Flower and Garden show, the biggest and best in the Southern Hemisphere and we’ll get there for 9am when the gates open. The show is ranked in the top ten flower shows in the world and floral displays fill the world heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building.

Deryn will be joined by ASA garden leader Sabrina Hahn, best known as ABC Perth garden talkback presenter and for her weekly chat with Trevor Chappell on ABC Radio Overnights. Deryn and Sabrina will ensure you get the most from the show. Together, we will take a tour of the landscape displays, meet the designers to discuss their philosophy behind their designs. Deryn and Sabrina will also highlight elements that we can incorporate in our own backyards. (Overnight Rydges Melbourne) B

 

Day 6: Thursday 28 March, Melbourne – Yarra Valley – Melbourne

 

Private Garden of Kate Herd, Alphington
Lunch and garden tour of Alowyn Gardens by its owner, John Van de Linde, Yarra Glen
Visit to Lubra Bend designed by Phillip Johnson, Yarra Glen

 

Kate Herd is an artist, garden designer and garden writer who has used her love of plants and artist’s eye to create a diverse garden on a 2.4-hectare property in Alphington, 7km north-east of the Melbourne. Adjoining the 1890s house are stone-walled terraced gardens, filled with sun loving plants, which zig-zag down the slope. The family has owned the property since 1994 and Kate, who’s been wheelchair-bound since a diving accident at 16, has created a garden featuring plants that provide dramatic colour and texture and cope with hot dry summers. Working with volunteers she has re-established thousands of indigenous plants around the dam and flood plain which covers 1.6ha of the property. The area also has a big vegetable bed she shares with her neighbours.

From Alphington we continue to the Yarra Valley where we will hear about the creation of a garden from bare paddocks by owner, John Van de Linde from Alowyn Gardens. After three years clearing blackberry from paddocks and improving the soil the first tree was planted in 1999. The four-acre gardens are designed along strong symmetrical lines and include a perennial border, a silver birch forest, edible garden, and a formal parterre garden leading through to a series of small courtyards and display gardens.

In the afternoon we visit Lubra Bend designed by Phillip Johnson, the only Australian designer to win a gold medal and a ‘Best In Show’ award for his landscape display at the Chelsea Garden Show. Here, Phillip has created sprawling wetlands from a dry garden by capturing water to sustain a network of billabongs which cascade down to the Yarra River. Land was recontoured and boulders selected and positioned by hand to create natural sculptures. Patrick Ashton, an Environmental Scientist, will explain how the garden was created. (Overnight Rydges Melbourne) BL

 

Flinders – 2 nights

 

Day 7: Friday 29 March, Melbourne – Olinda – Cranbourne – Flinders

 

Vaughn Greenhill takes us though designer Phillip Johnson’s natural billabong garden
Jeremy Francis’ Cloudehill, a masterpiece garden in Olinda
Homely lunch at Seasons Restaurant
Designer Jim Fogarty gives us a tour of The Australian Garden at Cranbourne

 

We meet Vaughn Greenhill today as he takes us through the home garden that Phillip Johnson created at Olinda which inspired his award-winning Chelsea garden in 2013 for Flemings Nurseries. His gorgeous garden has a sustainable billabong, surrounded by tree ferns, that doubles as a chemical free swimming pool. It has a waterfall, spa and is surrounded by garden featuring many indigenous plants.

Just down the road is Cloudehill where a maze of stone walls and jewel-like garden rooms are set within woodlands of historic cool climate trees. Over the last 25 years Jeremy Francis has created a garden on deep volcanic loam and a rainfall of 1.25 metres a year on a site that was formerly a cut flower nursery. Jeremy is a master gardener with an exquisite eye for detail and design. He will guide us to areas looking their best in autumn, including the tranquil water garden, the warm coloured perennial borders and two of Australia’s best Japanese maples. Keep an eye out for the detailed paving, few gardens do it as well as Cloudehill.

We’ll enjoy an old-fashioned, tasty lunch in Seasons Restaurant which has windows overlooking the gorgeous Cloudehill gardens.

In the afternoon we travel to Cranbourne where award-winning Melbourne designer Jim Fogarty, who is also a leader for ASA, takes us on a private tour of the multi-award winning Australian Garden that was designed by Taylor Cullity Lethlean with Paul Thompson. The garden shows the dramatic variety of Australian plants in an inspiring and immersive display of flora, landscapes, art and architecture. Set over 15 hectares the garden follows the journey of water from the arid inland landscapes of central Australia, along dry river beds and down mighty rivers to the coastal fringes of the continent.

Our tour will take in the dramatic red sand garden, rock pool waterways, Eucalypt walk and exhibition gardens all featuring Australian plants and Jim will use his designer eye to explain the design concept and plantings.

We drive to the Flinders Hotel, home for the next two nights. (Overnight Flinders Hotel) BL

 

Day 8: Saturday 30 March, Flinders – Sorrento – Moorooduc – Flinders

 

Tour of designer Fiona Brockhoff’s coastal home garden, Sorrento
Visit and lunch at The Garden Vineyard, one of Australia’s finest gardens, Moorooduc
Rick Eckersley’s Musk Cottage, Flinders
Talk on using indigenous plants in design by Jim Fogarty at his beach house

 

Designer Fiona Brockhoff’s Sorrento garden called Karkalla, is more than 20 years old and showcases the importance of creating gardens in sympathy with the local environment. It is influential and much admired for the way it embraces its coastal location, modern aesthetic and sculptural use of Australian plants.

We continue to Moorooduc to visit the Garden Vineyard which features in Monte Don’s book and television program Around the World in 80 Gardens. Architects Sue McFall and her husband Darryl are the owners of one of Australia’s finest gardens. It was created in 1986 with many European plants but the plant palette has changed to suit our drying climate. There are several European-style rooms including a memorable silver garden, walled courtyard, a big perennial border and a formal area flanked by lilly pillys. The terrace overlooks a lawn that rolls down to a garden with only Australian plants and the adjoining lawns lead to a display of maples in the glorious red foliage of autumn.

Designer Rick Eckersley’s sustainable garden, Musk Cottage, is on a ten-acre block and was purchased to showcase a different way of creating gardens on the Mornington Peninsula. It combines Australian plants with others that suit a low maintenance, no-water garden. He describes it as a ‘multicultural melting pot’ of plants and wants the garden to look like it might have occurred naturally. Boggy areas have been transformed into a wetland in a 12-year old garden that continues to evolve and mature.

Jim Fogarty welcomes us to his beach house in Flinders. He will talk about how the design was inspired by indigenous shapes of moving water and waterholes and will address the design challenges, including a small budget and a site that floods each winter. Jim worked with Charles Solomon from Garawana Creative on this project. (Overnight Flinders Hotel) BL

 

Melbourne – 1 night

 

Day 9: Sunday 31 March, Flinders – Main Ridge – Red Hill South – Langwarrin – Melbourne

 

Villa Lettisier, a private garden designed by Paul Bangay, Flinders
Private Garden designed by Paul Bangay, Main Ridge
Tour of Cruden Farm with garden manager Michael Morrison, Langwarrin
Farewell Dinner

 

This morning we visit two private gardens designed by Paul Bangay. A love of Italy and cliff top ocean views have inspired the creation of Villa Lettisier. The house is styled on 16th-century Palladian architecture and designed to have uninterrupted views of the ocean. Paul Bangay designed the formal garden to suit the architecture and coastal site. The property’s original dairy shed has been kept as part of the site’s history and the existing cypresses, oak trees and Moreton Bay figs have created a parkland effect. A driveway provides glimpses of the house and ocean before straightening to become a long formal approach to the forecourt in front of the villa. Both the house and garden design are perfectly symmetrical.

The second garden, in Main Ridge, has been carved into a working vineyard and is nestled into a protected valley. Three garden terraces are carved into the hill, all designed to create abundance and colour as the owners wanted to pick flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables. The first terrace has a big herb garden with paving softened with interplantings of thyme and a shaded rear garden with massed hydrangea and helleborus. The central terrace has a formal rose garden which has a vegetable garden either side, each with a picturesque structure, one a library and the other a potting shed. A long narrow walk of white crepe myrtle underplanted with box spheres and softened with a mass planting of catmint adds drama to the final terrace.

After time at leisure for lunch in Red Hill South, we travel to one of Australia’s best known gardens, Cruden Farm, which was given to the late Dame Elisabeth Murdoch in 1928 as a wedding present from her husband Sir Keith Murdoch. She cherished the farm at Langwarrin throughout her long life and created a fine garden with garden manager, Michael Morrison, who will lead us on a garden tour. We’ll take a stroll to the lake and walk through herbaceous borders, the picking garden, shrub walks, rose garden and famous avenue of lemon scented gums that lead to the house.

Tonight we enjoy a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant. (Overnight Rydges Melbourne) BD

 

Day 10: Monday 1 April, Depart Melbourne

 

Inner-city Glen Iris garden with designer Jim Fogarty
Fiona Brockhoff’s city garden
Light Lunch at private residence with courtyard design by John Patrick

 

Transfer to Melbourne Tullamarine Airport
This morning we learn more about the process of garden design when we reconnect with ASA leader Jim Fogarty who will take us through a private garden he designed in Glen Iris.

Jim will take us through the owner’s design brief and explain how he came up with an attractive and traditional design that followed the owner’s instructions. They did not want a garden full of hedges like most gardens in their suburb and asked him to retain some of the mature trees, connect the front porch with the garden and reduced areas of red brick paving. We’ll get to see the results!

Fiona Brockhoff’s city garden which was built by her partner David Swann, is a small, leafy design in Toorak. Its three spaces include a gravel entry courtyard, a leafy side passageway and a rear courtyard. Timber screens on the home provide a simple backdrop to the garden which has a raised concrete tank swimming pool. It’s unusual plant palette includes striking plant combinations featuring big leafed plants like elephant’s ears, angel’s trumpets, castor oil plants and giant bird of paradise.

Following our visit, we enjoy a light lunch at a private home. The Victorian Terrace features a small courtyard designed by John Patrick.

Our tour officially ends at approximately 2.30pm on arrival at Tullamarine Airport. BL

Great Castles, Country Houses & Gardens of Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Wales

Great Castles, Country Houses & Gardens of Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Wales

 

The following itinerary describes a range of castles, country houses, museums and other sites which we plan to include. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meal.

 

ITINERARY

 

York, Yorkshire – 6 nights

 

Day 1: Tuesday 28 May, Manchester Airport – Adel – York

 

Arrive Manchester Airport and transfer to Leeds
York Gate Garden: Guided tour of gardens and afternoon tea
Light (2-course) evening meal

Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight are scheduled to arrive into Manchester Airport around midday. Upon arrival we transfer by private coach to York, where we spend the next six nights. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at the Manchester Airport Arrivals Hall – please contact ASA to arrange a suitable meeting time.

En route to York we visit the highly innovative ‘paradise’ garden of York Gate, a one-acre garden tucked away behind the ancient church in Adel, on the northern outskirts of Leeds. Created by the Spencer family during the second half of the 20th century, and in 1994 bequeathed to Perennial, the Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society (founded 1839), it is a garden of extraordinary style and craftsmanship, widely recognised as one of the most innovative small gardens of the period. The garden is divided by yew and beech hedges into a series of smaller gardens, each with its own theme and style. From the formality of the herb garden with its topiary, to the dell with its half-hidden pathways and stream, every area has an intimacy and charm of its own. Traditional materials are used with creativity and invention. From pretty paths to pergolas, detailing throughout is exquisite. Evergreens, clipped into strong architectural shapes, are used to spectacular effect throughout the garden. Tonight we enjoy a light (2-course) evening meal at our hotel. (Overnight York) D

 

Day 2: Wednesday 29 May, York – Harewood – Harrogate – York

 

Harewood House: Private tour, Thomas Chippendale and the Watercolours Collection
Spa Town of Harrogate
Evening Welcome Reception at Fairfax House (Exclusive private visit, to be confirmed in 2018)

This morning we travel through West Yorkshire to Harewood House. There we embark on a private tour of one of England’s greatest country houses, boasting architecture by John Carr (1772) and Charles Barry (1843), magnificent interiors by Adam, furniture by Thomas Chippendale, and a park designed by ‘Capability’ Brown. A particular focus of our tour will be the highly regarded watercolour painting collection.

We next visit the old spa town of Harrogate. Prior to the discovery of its iron- and sulphur-rich waters, Harrogate comprised two minor villages (High Harrogate and Low Harrogate), situated close to the historic town of Knaresborough. Harrogate’s first mineral spring was discovered in 1571 by William Slingsby, who found that water from the Tewitt Well possessed similar properties to that of the springs of the Belgian town of Spa (which gave its name to spa towns). The medicinal properties of Harrogate’s waters were widely publicised by one Edmund Deane, whose book Spadacrene Anglica, or The English Spa Fountain, was published in 1626 and Harrogate consequently developed considerable fame as a spa town.

This evening we walk from our hotel to Fairfax House, one of the finest Georgian houses in England. Here we enjoy the ambience of the house with beverages and canapés in a private reception, then take an exclusive tour of the house. (Overnight York) B

 

Day 3: Thursday 30 May, York

 

Guided Walking Tour of York, including York Minster
Afternoon at leisure

This morning we will take a walking tour of the historic centre of York. This vibrant city was founded by the Romans in 71AD. As Eboracum it was an important town in the Empire’s north and in 208 the entire Roman world was governed from here. After being virtually abandoned following the fall of the Roman Empire and the withdrawal of the army, the town saw a period of population by the Anglo Saxons. York was first invaded by the Viking army on 1 November 866 and a new era began. After a short period of invasion and conquest, the Vikings chose to settle in York (which they called Jorvik) rather than return to Scandinavia. Archaeological excavations have revealed a wealth of evidence of the successful metal-based industries that were developed here, as well as the city’s role in trade. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, York was second only to London in size and prosperity.

The next chapter in the city’s history is Norman, when William the Conqueror marched on York intent on making this wealthy town part of his kingdom. He established a garrison here and built two castles to control access to the town from the River Ouse. There was considerable resistance to the Norman occupation of the town, with attempts to overthrow the new power. This was brutally suppressed in what is known as the ‘Harrying of the North’, when William extracted his vengeance on the population and many thousands died in a period of violence and famine, whilst the lively Viking city was systematically destroyed. The Normans rebuilt York and it is to this period a number of the city’s churches belong.

The medieval period was a Golden Age for York, when the town was a centre of trade and religion. However, following the War of the Roses and the defeat of Richard III to Henry Tudor, the city underwent another period of decline. The Reformation had a tremendous impact on York and its many churches and important religious houses which operated schools, hospitals, hospices and employed local citizens. The Dissolution of the Monasteries left a large hole in the finances of the city, and many religious buildings fell into disrepair. Elizabethan York saw a return to prosperity which continued until the Civil War, when the city was used as a Royalist stronghold and was besieged by the Parliamentarian army. Once again, the religious and business focus of the town allowed it to rise again to regional prominence, and the Industrial Revolution brought new business opportunities to the region.

The Georgian period coincided with a building boom and York now boasts many fine Georgian mansions. Our guide will point out the many layers of the city’s rich history that can be seen in the buildings, roads, walls and churches.

Our walking tour includes a visit to York Minster, one of England’s greatest cathedrals, which has a long, intricate history. The present building, which has the finest medieval stained glass in England, had a number of precursors. In 1069, for example, the Normans destroyed the Anglo-Saxon cathedral and so in 1080 its Archbishop, Thomas, began a new cathedral that was completed in 1100. In 1137 its east end was destroyed by fire. A new Romanesque choir was built in 1175, a south transept added in 1220, and the north transept completed in 1253. In 1394 the present choir was begun, and the foundations of the Lady Chapel laid in 1361. In 1338, the Great West Window was completed. The Great East Window followed in 1405, and the Minster, now completed, was consecrated in 1472. Meanwhile, the Minster’s original west towers had collapsed. The Minster became caught up in the Reformation – Thomas Wolsey was archbishop here – and in the Civil War, York remained a centre of Catholicism in England. 18th-century damage by fire and 19th-century restoration further modified this great building. Major restoration occurred again after another fire in 1984; in consequence York University has become one of England’s most important architectural conservation centres.

After the conclusion of our visit to York Minster the remainder of the day is free to explore York further, at leisure. (Overnight York) B

 

Day 4: Friday 31 May, York – Fountains Abbey – Newby Hall – York

 

Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal: Tour of Cistercian Abbey & Georgian Water Garden
Church of St Mary
Church of Christ the Consoler
Newby Hall & Gardens

Today we visit England’s largest ruined monastery, Fountains Abbey, situated in the beautiful Skell river valley, in which the 18th-century water garden of Studley Royal is also located. The view of the Abbey from the cliff above Studley Royal became a definitive instance of the ‘Picturesque’: a ruined Gothic abbey, evoking an ancient, pious culture, seen from a ‘modern’ 18th-century site. Flanked by two vast lawns set against awe-inspiring cliff faces, with the Skell running under its buildings, the Abbey is a masterpiece of 12th-century building ingenuity. Our tour of the site will take in spaces like the cellarium in which the lay brothers ate and slept; it retains much of its sophisticated vaulting.

In 1132 Fountains was founded in its isolated valley by Thurston, Archbishop of York, for a community that wished to return to a strict form of Benedictine rule; isolation being an ideal of medieval monasticism. The valley was sheltered from the weather and had clean water, plentiful wood, and building stone of high quality. The Abbey subsequently came under reforming Cistercian rule. The Cistercians followed a rigorous daily regime, committed to long periods of silence and a subsistence diet. They wore habits of coarse un-dyed sheep’s wool that earned them the name ‘White Monks’. After Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries (1536-40), glass and lead from Fountains found their way to Ripon and York. Its buildings and parts of its estate were sold to Sir Richard Gresham, whose family subsequently sold them to Stephen Proctor, the builder of Fountains Hall. In 1767 the ruins were sold for £18,000 to William Aislabie, creator of Studley Royal.

The Aislabie family created Studley Royal Water Garden in a wild and well-wooded part of the valley. Its formal, geometric design and its extraordinary vistas constitute a very imaginative, free and individualistic interpretation of French formal garden tradition. Ground level views emphasise its sweeping horizontality, relieved by fabriques and the kind of statues favoured by Grand Tourists to Rome; from higher up the garden’s complex structure reveals itself. Fabriques include the Neoclassical Temple of Piety (dedicated to Hercules), a rusticated Banqueting House, a Gothic octagon tower and a Temple of Fame, and a rotunda with wonderful views across the garden where 18th-century visitors picnicked. Other garden features include the Rustic Bridge, Hermit’s Grotto, Half Moon Pond, Cascades, Canal, Fishing Tabernacles, Drum Fall and the Seven Bridges Valley in the Deer Park. Our garden tour climaxes at the end of the High Ride at ‘The Surprise View’, also called ‘Anne Boleyn’s Seat’, because of a headless statue to be seen there! It gives a magnificent panorama of the distant Abbey ruins.

Returning from the end of the water gardens we climb a path through the fields to William Burges’ St Mary’s Church, one of Britain’s finest Gothic Revival churches. From outside its chancel you can see all the way to Ripon Cathedral.

We next tour the house and gardens at Newby Hall, one of England’s renowned Adam houses; its exceptional interior decoration and fine Neoclassical sculpture collection represent the epitome of 18th-century taste. Built in the 1690s in the style of Sir Christopher Wren, it was later enlarged and transformed by John Carr and subsequently by Robert Adam. It was the home of the Compton family and much of its superb collection was acquired on a Grand Tour by a Compton ancestor, William Weddell. The collection includes tapestries in the magnificent Gobelins Tapestry Room, a renowned gallery of classical statuary, and some of Chippendale’s finest furniture. Its glorious garden was designed in the 1920s by Major Edward Compton, who was strongly influenced by the garden of Hidcote. Newby Hall’s garden has many rare plants, including the National Collection of Cornus (Dogwood). It is famed for its main axis of double herbaceous borders, amongst the longest in Europe. Flanking this axis are numerous formal, compartmented gardens including a Rose Garden, a Water Garden, Autumn Garden and even a Tropical Garden. (Overnight York) BL

 

Day 5: Saturday 1 June, York – Castle Howard – Thirsk – Markenfield

 

Hall – York
Castle Howard: Private Guided tour of house & morning tea
Market Town of Thirsk, the Darrowby of the late James Herriot
Markenfield Hall

This morning we will have a private tour of a masterpiece of the Baroque, one of England’s greatest country houses, Castle Howard, the setting for the BBC series Brideshead Revisited. The 3rd Earl of Carlisle commissioned the ‘castle’ (a term often used for country mansions with no military purpose) from the gentleman-dilettante Sir John Vanbrugh, a fellow member of the famous Whig Kit-Cat Club. Nicholas Hawksmoor, architect of a number of Oxford colleges, assisted Vanbrugh here and at Blenheim. Vanbrugh designed a Baroque structure with two wings projecting symmetrically on either side of a north-south axis.

Castle Howard’s crowning central dome over the Great Hall, where we have a morning tea of homemade shortbread, was added as an afterthought. The East Wing and the east end of the Garden Front, the Central Block (including the dome), and the west end of the Garden Front all received exuberant Baroque decoration of coronets, cherubs and urns. Doric pilasters are on the north front and Corinthian on the south. Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini, the Venetian Rococo painter, designed many of the house’s interiors when he was living in England between 1708 and 1713. Much of his painting was unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1940. The house remained incomplete on the death of the 3rd Earl in 1738, and Vanbrugh’s design was never completed. The West Wing was designed in a Palladian style for the 4th Earl by Sir Thomas Robinson and was not completed until 1811. Much of the house, including the central dome, was destroyed by fire in 1940. Most of the devastated rooms were restored and the house was opened to the public in 1952.

Castle Howard has extensive and diverse gardens, including a large formal garden immediately behind the house. The house, flanked by two lakes, is prominently situated on a ridge, which was exploited to create a landscape garden that lies beyond the formal garden and merges with the surrounding park. Occupying this landscape are the Temple of the Four Winds at the end of the garden and the Mausoleum in the park. Castle Howard also has an arboretum called Ray Wood, and a walled garden that contains decorative rose and flower gardens. The garden architecture at Castle Howard also includes the ruined Pyramid, an Obelisk and several follies and other motifs in the form of fortifications. Another huge arboretum, called Kew at Castle Howard, was established in 1975 as a joint venture between Castle Howard and Kew Gardens. Managed by the Castle Howard Arboretum Trust, it has one of the most important collections of specimen trees in the United Kingdom.

Many of us grew up watching the television series All Creatures Great and Small and late this morning we travel to the bustling market town of Thirsk, where the stories originated. James Alfred Wight (James Herriot) moved to Thirsk to work as a country vet with Donald Sinclair in July 1940. Here there will be some time at leisure for lunch and to explore the town on a Saturday, which is Market Day.

Our day’s program concludes with a private tour of Markenfield Hall, a charming medieval moated manor house. The privately owned home is tucked away down a mile-long winding drive and is the most complete surviving example of a medium-sized 14th-century country house in England. The earliest part of the house dates to c.1230, while the main sections were built 1310-1325 for John de Markenfield, Chancellor of the Exchequer to Edward II, with further additions and alterations in the 16th, 18th and 19th centuries. The history of the home has always been deeply intertwined with the fortunes of Fountains Abbey and it was one of the most important centres of the 1569 ‘Rising of the North’. The house has been lovingly restored and in 2008 it was the first recipient of the Sotheby’s/Historic Houses Association Restoration Award, a prize that recognises the finest restoration of a historic house in Britain in a way which respects and is in sympathy with the age and quality of the building. (Overnight York) B

 

Day 6: Sunday 2 June, York – Scampston Estate – Mansion Cottage – Burton Agnes Hall – York

 

Walled Garden of Scampston Hall
Mansion Cottage
Burton Agnes Hall

We begin this morning by driving to Scampston Hall, situated in peaceful North Yorkshire, to visit its famous Walled Garden. Sir Charles and Lady Legard’s stunningly beautiful contemporary garden is quite unlike any other. Opened to the public for the first time in 2004, it has been received with great acclaim by visitors from all over the world. Set within the 18th-century walls of Scampston’s original kitchen garden, today the Walled Garden has an exciting and unashamedly modern feel to it and complements the adjacent 18th-century ‘Capability’ Brown park. The garden had been derelict for nearly fifty years before Sir Charles and Lady Legard undertook the huge task of renovating. Having adopted a traditional approach to the restoration of the house and park, they here produced a stunning garden with a contemporary feel with the help of leading garden designer, Piet Oudolf.

We next visit the small, private garden of Chris and Polly Myers’ Mansion Cottage. This hidden garden offers beautiful views and a tranquil atmosphere. Lush, vibrant perennial planting is highlighted with grasses; features include a globe garden, mini hosta walk, 100-foot border, summerhouse, vegetable plot, cuttery, bee and butterfly border, ponds, decking areas and lawns.

Having visited two contemporary gardens we now travel back in time to visit Burton Agnes Hall, an exquisite Elizabethan house filled with fine art, furniture, porcelain and impressionist and modern paintings. Fifteen generations have filled the Hall with treasures over five centuries, from magnificent carvings commissioned when the Hall was built to French Impressionist paintings, contemporary furniture, tapestries and other modern artwork. Lawns and topiary bushes surround the Hall and its gardens contain a maze, giant games, a jungle garden, and more than four thousand plant species. Burton Agnes Hall’s walled garden won the Historic Houses Association and Christies’ Garden of the Year Award 2005. We shall be given a guided tour of this beautiful property before returning to York. (Overnight York) BL

 

Buxton, Derbyshire – 4 nights

 

Day 7: Monday 3 June, York – Renishaw Hall – Haddon Hall – Buxton

 

Renishaw Hall: Private Literary Tour of the Sitwell family home & gardens (to be confirmed in 2018)
Bakewell
Haddon Hall

We depart York early this morning and travel south to Renishaw Hall, a country house in Derbyshire where the Sitwell family has lived in this ancestral home for nearly four centuries. On arrival we take a tour of Renishaw’s beautiful Italianate garden, park and lake, that were created by Sir George Sitwell, father of Osbert, Edith and Sacheverall. Sir George spent much of his life in Italy, where he had bought the huge former palace-villa of the Florentine Acciaiuoli family, Montegufoni. In England, he wanted to create an Italian garden in contrast to Gertrude Jekyll’s ‘colourful’ designs. The use of water, fountains, temples, cave and avenues adds effect and shelter for tender specimen plants.

The interior of Renishaw Hall, which features an antechamber designed by Edwin Lutyens, is graced with many Italian artworks and pieces of furniture collected by Sir George. The painting collection includes Salvator Rosa’s Belisarius in Disgrace, a painting that was once much appreciated by Benjamin Franklin. Our tour will have a literary focus, as Renishaw Hall is a house ‘built on books’, with a wide range of literary interests and connections over a period of almost 400 years. Each Sitwell generation has made its unique contribution to the literary legacy of the house and the family, particularly the famous ‘literary trio’ – Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell. Our tour will follow the fortunes of the Sitwell family as wealthy book collectors in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and will include a special visit to the Renishaw Hall Library.

After free time for lunch in the small market town of Bakewell (famous for its pudding) we continue our tour of Derbyshire with a visit to Haddon Hall, arguably the finest example of a fortified medieval manor house in existence, and dating mostly from the 14th and 15th centuries. Originally owned by the descendants of William the Conqueror’s illegitimate son, Peverel, it was passed through marriage to the Manners family, later to become Dukes of Rutland, in whose possession it has remained. Haddon Hall affords a wonderful glimpse of English Early Modern country house design, because it remained closed and empty for two hundred years after the Dukes of Rutland moved to Belvoir Castle in the 17th century. The 9th Duke of Rutland reopened it in the 1920s. Because the grounds had escaped transformation into a landscape garden it influenced Edwardian gardeners deeply; its series of 17th-century terraces were particularly important. It embodies a vision of ‘old England’ symbolised by the rambling roses growing over its old stone walls. These roses are quite superb (some are 80 years old), and also impressive are the delphinium beds. There are recreations of 17th century box-edged parterres or knots, and below there are wonderful river meadows with a small and large stone bridge, which feature prominently in the 2006 BBC TV dramatisation of Jane Eyre. The approach to the house has a wonderful topiary garden.

The house itself has sections from a number of periods from the late 12th century to c.1620. The Banqueting Hall is medieval, but the house is predominantly Elizabethan, its pride being the oak panelled Long Gallery; the diamond panes of the gallery’s many windows are set at different angles to facilitate the entry of daylight. It also has a magnificent collection of English, Flemish and French tapestries, remains of a larger collection lost in a 1925 fire. Most important are five early 17th century English tapestries that may have belonged to King Charles I. The chapel has medieval frescoes, and the house also has a fine painting by Rex Whistler (1933), the artist of Plas Newydd.

Next we continue our journey to the elegant spa town of Buxton, which will be our base for the next four nights. Our hotel, built in 1550 by the Earl of Shrewsbury, the 4th husband of formidable Bess of Hardwick, is reputedly the oldest in England and has hosted during its long history such luminaries as Mary, Queen of Scots and Daniel Defoe. It is located in the centre of the town opposite one of the most exquisite Edwardian opera houses in the British Isles. (Overnight Buxton) B

 

Day 8: Tuesday 4 June, Buxton – Peak District – Castleton – Lyme Park – Buxton

 

White Peak District
Castleton Village, Peak District National Park
Lyme Park, House & Garden
Lecture by Sir Richard FitzHerbert: ‘Country Houses of Derbyshire’

This morning we enjoy the stunning and diverse scenery of Britain’s first designated national park, the Peak District National Park (1951). The Peak District is situated at the southern end of the Pennines in Central England and covers most of northern Derbyshire as well as parts of Cheshire, Yorkshire and Staffordshire. It has been prominent in numerous movies and TV dramas, including the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. A local guide will point out some of the locations used during filming whilst introducing Derbyshire’s bustling market towns, villages, and showing us its hills, dales and rivers.

Following lunch in Castleton, one of the most beautiful villages in the Peak District, we visit Lyme Park, the largest house in Cheshire. A Tudor house transformed into an Italianate palace, it is famous for its role as ‘Pemberley’, Darcy’s home, in the BBC’s 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice. Aficionados of the series will recall the scene of Lizzy meeting the dripping figure of Mr Darcy following his dip in the lake! Thomas Legh, an intrepid explorer and collector who made a pioneering journey through Egypt and up the Nile in 1816, saved Lyme Park from ruin. An extremely wealthy young man, he set Lewis Wyatt the huge task of reviving this vast, outdated family home. Wyatt’s remodelling, although extremely thorough, in no way compromised the 17th-century character of Lyme Park. The saloon, with its magnificent rococo ceiling and Grinling Gibbons-carved wood decorations, speaks amply of his sensitive approach.

This evening we are joined by Sir Richard FitzHerbert, who inherited Tissington Hall and the Estate from his uncle, the late Sir John FitzHerbert, at the age of 24 in 1989. Sir Richard will provide an illustrated lecture entitled ‘Country Houses of Derbyshire’. (Overnight Buxton) BL

 

Day 9: Wednesday 5 June, Buxton – Tissington Hall – Chatsworth House – Buxton

 

Tissington Hall & Gardens
Tissington Village & Norman Church of St Mary
Chatsworth House: one of the grandest Whig country houses (to be confirmed in 2018)

This morning we journey into Derbyshire to Tissington Hall, a beautiful Jacobean mansion where eight generations of the FitzHerbert family have lived. Tissington presides over a quintessentially English village, complete with duck pond and village green. This is one of the few remaining privately owned villages left in Britain. As it has no road markings or street lighting it is often used for filming period pieces, such as the BBC’s Jane Eyre (2006) and The Duchess (2007). We will take a guided tour of the hall and its gardens, as well as the village and the Norman Church of St Mary.

This afternoon we visit Chatsworth House, one of the grandest Whig country houses, situated in a spectacular landscape in the heart of the Peak District. It is the home of the 12th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, of the Cavendish family. The late Duchess, born Deborah Mitford (Debo) (1920-2014), the youngest of the famous Mitford sisters, revived the economy of the estate after it had been almost destroyed by death duties following the death of the 10th Duke in 1950 (the Chatsworth Settlement). The core of the house is from 1552, but its great days date from the 1690s, after the 4th Earl of Devonshire was created 1st Duke in 1694 for his part in the Glorious Revolution (1688). Generations of prominent Whigs followed and so Chatsworth represents the first phase of the great Whig country house (Stowe represents the second). The 1st Duke rebuilt the old house in stages, adding its fine Baroque façades, and it was substantially complete by 1707. The Painted Hall, whose ceilings and walls carry scenes of the life of Julius Caesar (1692-94) by Louis Laguerre, leads to a grand staircase. The State Apartments are the most important late Baroque presentation rooms in England, with ceilings by Laguerre and Mortlake tapestries made from Raphael’s tapestry cartoons now in the Victoria & Albert Museum. The chapel, designed by Cibber, is equally impressive, with illusionistic paintings by Laguerre and woodcarvings by Grinling Gibbons.

Chatsworth’s late Baroque gardens, like almost all great English Baroque gardens, were swept away when the 4th Duke commissioned Capability Brown to replace them (1760s). One survival is an Italianate cascade designed in 1696 by Grillet, a pupil of Le Nôtre. Thomas Archer, arguably the English architect who best understood the Italian Baroque, added the Temple or Cascade House above it in 1703. In the 19th century Joseph Paxton, the 6th Duke’s gardener, created a great glasshouse for exotic specimens; its revolutionary design led to his architectural triumph, London’s Crystal Palace. Paxton also built the Emperor fountain, whose jet rises 280 feet, and a vast rock garden. Newer additions to the garden include a serpentine hedge. (Overnight Buxton) B

 

Day 10: Thursday 6 June, Buxton – Quarry Bank – Buxton – Baslow Hall – Buxton

 

Quarry Bank Mill & Styal Estate
Walking Tour of Buxton, followed by time at leisure
Group Dinner at Fischer’s, Baslow Hall

This morning we drive to Quarry Bank Mill, a rare Georgian cotton mill that is both one of Britain’s most important industrial heritage sites as well as a working mill that produces over 9000m (10,000 yards) of cloth each year. Founded in 1784 by a young textile merchant, Samuel Greg, Quarry Bank Mill was one of the first generation of water-powered cotton spinning mills. By the 1830s Samuel Greg & Co. was one of the largest cotton manufacturing businesses in Britain with four other mills as well as Quarry Bank.

This mill reflects the earliest phase of the industrialisation of England, when manufacturing had not yet moved to great industrial cities, but rather occurred where water was plentiful. Such early industrial complexes often are built in a fine, simple architectural style not unlike some of the earliest colonial architecture in Australia. Our visit here offers a unique opportunity to see the two major sources of power available during the Industrial Revolution. The most powerful working waterwheel in Britain illustrates how power can be harnessed to drive machinery. A Boulton and Watt type beam engine (c.1830) and an 1880s Horizontal Engine powered by steam bring the past to life. Chief Engineer Barry Cook will be on hand to explain how everything operates. Time permitting, we also visit the three-hectare (8-acre) ‘Secret Garden’, the Greg family’s lovely, picturesque valley retreat adjoining the mill. Recently restored, it has now been opened to the public for the first time.

We return to Buxton for a short walking tour of the town, followed by time at leisure to continue exploring. Tonight we dine at Fischer’s Restaurant at Baslow Hall. The Michelin-starred dining room serves classical dishes created with balance and finesse, using the very best of fresh local and regional produce. The setting within a charming manor house further enhances this very special dining experience. (Overnight Buxton) BD

 

Chester, Cheshire – 3 nights

 

Day 11: Friday 7 June, Buxton – Little Moreton – Biddulph Grange Garden – Chester

 

Little Moreton Hall
Biddulph Grange Garden: Private guided tour of this amazing Victorian Garden

This morning we drive to Little Moreton Hall for a guided tour of one of Britain’s finest timber-framed, moated Tudor manor houses, which featured in David Dimbleby’s How we built Britain documentary (2007). Of particular importance is its magnificent Long Gallery that has unusual plasterwork. Its grounds feature a delightful knot garden.

This afternoon we take a private tour of Biddulph Grange Gardens. Biddulph is a treasure trove of 19th-century eccentricities and a rare surviving example of a High Victorian garden. Our private guided tour of the garden, to be opened specially for our group, leads us down tunnels and pathways taking us on a miniature tour of the world, with rare and exotic plantings and picturesque garden architecture, such as an Egyptian court and elegant Italian terraces. There is a unique Chinese garden with a temple enclosed within its own Great Wall of China. Some of the more eccentric features of the garden are an upside-down tree and strange stone sculpture. Biddulph also has an unusual geological gallery where the garden’s creator, James Bateman, showed his fossil and geological collection. It was arranged to correspond with the seven days of creation in the Genesis story and is contemporaneous with the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species (1859), a seminal work in scientific literature and a pivotal work in evolutionary biology.

We next drive a short distance to the city of Chester, lying on the River Dee, close to the border of Wales. (Overnight Chester) B

 

Day 12: Saturday 8 June, Chester

 

Walking Tour of Chester
Guided Tour of Chester Cathedral
Afternoon at leisure

A Roman legion founded Chester on the Dee River in the 1st century A.D. It reached its pinnacle as a bustling port in the 13th and 14th centuries but declined following the gradual silting up of the river. While other walls of medieval cities of England were either torn down or badly fragmented, Chester still has 3 kilometres of fortified city walls intact. The main entrance into Chester is Eastgate, which dates only from the 18th century. Within the walls are half-timbered houses and shops, though not all of them date from Tudor days. Chester is unusual in that some of its builders used black-and-white timbered facades even during the Georgian and Victorian eras.

This morning we take an orientation tour of this interesting medieval city, followed by a visit to Chester Cathedral. The present building, founded in 1092 as a Benedictine abbey, was made an Anglican cathedral church in 1541. Many architectural restorations were carried out in the 19th century, but older parts have been preserved. Notable features include the fine range of monastic buildings, particularly the cloisters and refectory, the chapter house, and the superb medieval woodcarving in the choir (especially the misericords). Also worth seeing are the long south transept with its various chapels, the consistory court, and the medieval roof bosses in the Lady Chapel.

The afternoon is free for you to further explore Chester at leisure. (Overnight Chester) B

 

Day 13: Sunday 9 June, Chester – Liverpool – Chester

 

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
Time at leisure at Liverpool’s refurbished Albert Dock
The Beatles sites: Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, Mendips and 20 Forthlin Road (exteriors)

Liverpool, with its famous waterfront on the River Mersey, is a great shipping port and industrial center and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. King John launched Liverpool on its road to glory when he granted it a charter in 1207. Before that, it had been a tiny 12th-century fishing village, but it quickly became a port for shipping men and materials to Ireland. In the 18th century, it grew to prominence because of the sugar, spice, and tobacco trade with the Americans. By the time Victoria came to the throne, Liverpool had become Britain’s biggest commercial seaport.

This morning we drive to Liverpool to visit the Walker Art Gallery, opened in 1877. Here, we focus on its Pre-Raphaelite collection and its Victorian sculpture. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, founded in London in 1848, consisted of seven young artists dedicated to the revival of styles that preceded the High Renaissance: John Millais, William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James Collinson, F G Stephens, Thomas Woolmer and William Michael Rossetti. Liverpool was the only provincial city with its own Pre-Raphaelite school (The Liverpool Academy). The Walker Art Gallery collection includes Rossetti’s Dante’s Dream (1871), Millais’ Isabella, Holman Hunt’s Triumph of the Innocents and one of the world’s finest corpora of Victorian sculpture.

We take a short walk to Liverpool’s recently refurbished Albert Dock, where there will be time at leisure to explore this precinct. Albert Dock features a number of museums, including the Merseyside Maritime Museum, the award-winning ‘Beatle Story’ and numerous restaurants and cafés. In your leisure time you may wish to visit the Tate Liverpool, which displays much of the National Collection of 20th-century art, complemented by changing art exhibitions of international standing such as the prints of Joan Miró or the sculptures of the iconoclastic British sculptress Rachel Whiteread.

Before returning to Chester we make a short tour to view a number of the sites associated with the Beatles including Penny Lane, Strawberry Field and the childhood homes of John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney. (Overnight Chester) B

 

Portmeirion, Wales – 3 nights

 

Day 14: Monday 10 June, Chester – Erddig Hall – Powis Castle – Portmeirion

 

Erddig Hall: private tour of house
Powis Castle and Garden
Dinner at Hotel Portmeirion

Early this morning we depart Chester and cross into Wales for a private tour of Erddig Hall. Located on the outskirts of Wrexham, Erddig is one of the finest and evocative country houses in Britain, reflecting the upstairs-downstairs life of a gentry family over 250 years. Mainly of the 18th century, it has fine furniture, textiles and wallpaper. The servants’ quarters are particularly well preserved.

We continue south to Powis Castle and have lunch here on arrival. Powis, a 13th-century border castle, features the rare 17th-century Baroque garden of William Herbert, first Marquess of Powis. Herbert, a Roman Catholic, went into exile with James II after the Glorious Revolution (1688). In 1703 the Herberts returned from exile, their taste shaped by great French gardens such as St Germain-en-Laye, where the Stuart court was located. This put them out of step with new directions in Whig landscape gardening. Their grand Baroque terraces survive, with an extraordinary yew hedge, planted in 1720, that is now old and irregular in a way never intended when it was first established. Powis did not escape change entirely. A Dutch-style water garden laid out in 1705 in the flat meadows below the castle was swept away in the 1770s, and in part of this area an Edwardian formal garden was laid out in 1912. The Baroque terraces enjoy magnificent views. Against them are spectacular herbaceous borders by Graham Stuart Thomas and Jimmy Handcock. There are rich flower displays in vases on the edges of the terraces and in its niches. They are lined with lead statues by John van Nost, examples of the early 18th-century taste for picturesque Italianate rustic garden figures. In the castle courtyard stands a lead statue of Pegasus bearing aloft the personification of Fame, original centrepiece of the lost Dutch water garden. Van Nost’s pupil, Andries Carpentiére, based it on Antoine Coysevox’s group of Fame at Louis XIV’s palace at Marly. South and east of the castle is a Wilderness with a fine collection of trees and shrubs planted in the 20th century.

A Herbert family member married into the Clive family in the 18th century and their descendants own Powis today. Powis’ Clive Museum displays superb Indian treasures collected by family members, including Robert, ‘Clive of India’. The castle interior has a fine Baroque staircase (1674-1685) with a ceiling by Verrio, its walls painted in 1705 by his pupil Gerard Landscroon, who also painted the library. G.F. Bodley’s dining room with fine panelled walls and Jacobean plasterwork and his Oak Drawing Room are fine examples of Edwardian taste. A grand Baroque state bedroom (1665-1685) is the only one in Britain with a bed railed with a balustrade in the manner of Louis XIV’s Versailles. A superb T-shaped Elizabethan Long Gallery (1587-1595) has original plasterwork and chimneypieces. The castle’s sculpture collection includes marble busts of Roman emperors and a Roman statue of a cat playing with a snake that Robert Clive acquired in Rome. An interesting painting collection includes a fine view of Verona by Bernardo Bellotto.

From Powis Castle we cross the mountains, rising above the treeline, before descending into Gwynedd, an area in north-west Wales. We make our way to the resort village of Portmeirion, our base for the next three nights. Portmeirion is the creation of the flamboyant Arts and Crafts architect and garden designer Sir Clough Williams-Ellis (1883-1978), a dedicated sailor who loved the Amalfi Coast, the Cinque Terre, and, especially, Portofino, and decided to create his own version of them in Wales. In 1925 he bought a spectacular Snowdonian peninsula site not far from his family house at Plas Brondanw, overlooking an estuary that forms a vast sandy beach at low tide. On the cliffs above Portmeirion’s only pre-existing structure (now Hotel Portmeirion) he built a range of picturesque buildings and towers as a kind of village-hotel. Many writers, including Evelyn Waugh, lived and wrote here in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s. These village houses surround a garden, forming a colourful, seaside version of Arts and Crafts taste. Many are tiny and are built using parts of demolished buildings. Clough later espoused a Romantic version of the Dutch 17th and 18th-century style. He was not afraid to create buildings in painted sheet metal, sometimes painted illusionistically to give a sense of relief, or to create buildings that had no other function than to look interesting: he built a domed building because he felt an Italianate coastal village should have one. Portmeiron also has interesting woodland walks, one of which takes you past a pet cemetery and ‘lighthouses’.

Williams-Ellis wanted to demonstrate that architecture could be both beautiful and fun but he was also a serious conservationist and town planner. He argued against uncontrolled suburban development (England and the Octopus), founded the Council for the Protection of Rural England, saved Stowe, and contributed to the planning of New Towns in post WWII Britain. His daughter created the Portmeirion pottery works, which is still run by the family. Tonight we enjoy a group dinner at Hotel Portmeirion. (Overnight Portmeirion) BLD

 

Day 15: Tuesday 11 June, Portmeirion – Caernarfon – Llanberis – Snowdonia National Park – Portmeirion

 

Caernarfon Castle: the greatest of the Edwardian Castles
Dolbardarn Castle (exterior only)
Snowdon Mountain Railway – excursion by diesel engine to summit
Dinner at Castell Deudraeth

This morning we head further north along the coast to reach Caernarfon, located at the southern end of the Menai Strait between north Wales and Anglesey. Caernarfon was considered a strategically excellent place to build a castle during Edward I’s invasions of Wales. Completed in 1330, the castle was built on a site that had once been a Roman fort and then a Norman motte and bailey; it was to become a symbol of English dominance in a region strong in Welsh tradition and anti-English feeling. To stamp his supremacy even further on the native population, Edward ensured that the birth of his son, the first English Prince of Wales, took place in the castle (1284) and the castle continues to be the setting for the Investiture of the Prince of Wales, the last being Prince Charles in 1969.

Following lunchtime at leisure, we view Dolbadarn Castle. Built for Llywelyn the Great in the 1230s, it features a massive round-towered keep. We then take the cogwheel railway train to the summit of Snowdon to enjoy the breathtaking views over the area. In the late afternoon we return to Portmeirion.

Tonight we dine at Castell Deudraeth, a Victorian castellated mansion Williams-Ellis bought from his uncle in 1931 with the intention of incorporating it into the Portmeirion hotel complex. The intervening war and subsequent building restrictions delayed its incorporation until 2001 when it was finally opened. Portmeirion is now owned by a charitable trust. (Overnight Portmeirion) BD

 

Day 16: Wednesday 12 June, Portmeirion – Harlech – Plas Brondanw – Portmeirion

 

Harlech Castle
Plas Brondanw Gardens
Afternoon at leisure in the village of Portmeirion

This morning we make a brief visit to Harlech Castle. Men of Harlech or The March of the Men of Harlech is a song and military march which is traditionally said to describe events during the longest siege in British history (1461-1468) which took place here during the War of the Roses. Edward’s tried and tested ‘walls within walls’ model was put together in super-fast time between 1283 and 1295 by an army of nearly a thousand skilled craftsmen and labourers. The structure boasts two rings of walls and towers, with an immensely strong east gatehouse. It was impregnable from almost every angle. Its secret weapon was a 200-foot (61m) long stairway which still leads from the castle to the cliff base. Access via the stairway to the sea and crucial supplies kept the castle’s besieged inhabitants fed and watered. When it was first built, a channel would have connected the castle and the sea. You could have sailed a boat up to the moat. Seven hundred years later, the sea has receded and you could say the castle appears almost stranded, waiting for the tide to turn once more.

Next we visit Plas Brondanw, the home of Clough Williams-Ellis between 1902 and 1960. It has one of the great Arts and Crafts gardens, noted for its structure of yew-hedged compartments. Inspired by stunning views of the mountains of Snowdonia, Clough cleverly ‘borrowed’ the peaks of the Snowdon and Cnight mountains visually by using the former to establish the chief axis of the garden, and revealing the latter through a window-opening cut in a hedge. Within the grounds of Plas Brondanw is Folly Castle, described on a plaque as ‘a wedding present from the Welsh Guards to Clough Williams-Ellis and Amabel Strachey in 1915. Located on a small hill, the folly affords good views of the surrounding landscape. It has featured in the film Inn of the Sixth Happiness and the Doctor Who film, The Five Doctors. We enjoy a light buffet-style lunch at Plas Brondanw before retuning to Portmeirion, where we have the afternoon and evening at leisure to explore the village and its beautiful gardens. (Overnight Portmeirion) BL

 

Bodysgallen Hall, Conwy, Wales – 3 nights

 

Day 17: Thursday 13 June, Portmeirion – Gwydir Castle – Bodnant Garden – Bodysgallen Hall

 

Gwydir Castle
Bodnant Garden
Gardens of Bodysgallen Hall
Dinner at Bodysgallen Hall

This morning we drive to Gwydir Castle beneath Carreg y Gwalch (Rock of the Falcon), the ancestral home of the powerful Wynn Family, descendants of the kings of Gwynedd, and one of the most significant families of North Wales during the Tudor and Stuart periods. The Castle is being sympathetically restored by the present owners, who will introduce us to their house and garden.

Following our tour of Gwydir Castle we travel to Bodnant Garden. Bodnant Garden occupies an 80-acre westward sloping site above the River Conwy that looks across the valley towards the Snowdonia range. Its spectacular garden was the inspired work of the second Lord Aberconway who in 1902, with his mother’s encouragement, conceived and constructed its great terraces and organised the mass planting of Chinese rhododendrons. Appointed in 1920, Bodnant’s head gardener, Frederick Puddle, undertook an extensive and successful rhododendron hybridising programme, a project continued until today by three generations of Aberconways and Puddles. It is the archetypal plantperson’s garden, where exotic species brought from China or the Himalayas were first cultivated in Britain.

The garden has two parts. The upper part surrounding the house consists of five Italianate terraces on which herbaceous borders surround informal shady lawns. Its most famous feature is the laburnum walk, a fifty-five metre long tunnel that becomes a mass of yellow blooms from late May to early June. Lower down is the Pin-Mill, a reconstructed garden folly. From here the ground drops away to a deep, damp valley, known as The Dell, along which rushes the river Hiraethlyn. Here, in the Pinetum and Wild Garden, grow Britain’s earliest plantings of the Metasequoia (Dawn Redwood), discovered only in the 1940s.

From Bodnant Garden we continue north to Bodysgallen Hall, which will be our base for the next 3 nights. Bodysgallen is a manor house in Conwy county borough, north Wales, near the village of Llanrhos. Since 2008 the house has been owned by the National Trust. We plan to arrive at the hall in time for you to enjoy a walk through the hall’s magnificent 200 acres of gardens before dinner. (Overnight Bodysgallen Hall) BD

 

Day 18: Friday 14 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Penrhyn Castle – Conwy – Bodysgallen Hall

 

Penrhyn Castle
Time at leisure in Conwy
Plas Mawr
Conwy Castle

This morning we journey along the coast to visit the enormous Penrhyn Castle, which sits beween Snowdonia and the Menai Strait. Built in 1820-35 in neo-Norman style, this is one of the most sumptuous country houses of its time. It features a one-ton slate bed made for Queen Victoria, elaborate carvings, plasterwork and mock-Norman furniture. It also has an outstanding collection of paintings. The stable block houses a fascinating railway museum.

Midday we travel to Conwy, and following some time at leisure for lunch we visit Plas Mawr, possibly the best preserved Elizabethan town house in Great Britain. It was built by Robert Wynn between 1576 and 1585 and its interior has elaborately decorated plaster ceilings and fine wooden screens.

Castle Conwy, which, like Caernarfon, was constructed by Edward I between 1283 and 1289 as one of the key fortresses in his ‘iron ring’ of castles to contain the Welsh, dominates the town. A World Heritage site, Conwy has no concentric ‘walls within walls’ because they were not needed. Its massive military strength springs from the rock on which it stands and seems to grow naturally. Soaring curtain walls and eight huge round towers give the castle an intimidating presence undimmed by the passage of time.

This evening we are at leisure. You may wish to dine at Bodysgallen Hall, or perhaps take a short taxi ride (approx. 10 mins) to the seaside town of Llandudno. (Overnight Bodysgallen Hall) B

 

Day 19: Saturday 15 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Anglesey Island – Bodysgallen Hall

 

Plas Newydd House & Gardens
Bryn Celli Ddu Burial Chamber
Farewell Dinner at Bodysgallen Hall

This morning we depart Bodysgallen Hall for an excursion to the Isle of Anglesey. Here we visit the house and gardens at Plas Newydd. James Wyatt redesigned this elegant old home in the 18th century in a Gothic style and its 1930s interior is famous for its association with Rex Whistler. Like Williams-Ellis, Whistler belonged to that underrated strand of mid 20th-century British culture that looked to the past with gusto. Uninhibited by modernist theory, they did not hesitate to revive the great traditions of the past. In the dining room, Whistler created his masterpiece, a vast mural for the sixth Marquess of Anglesey. This mural, eighteen metres wide, was executed on one enormous piece of canvas that Whistler had made on a special French loom. Within an Arcadian and Romantic coastal landscape are romantic allusions to Whistler’s unrequited love for Lady Caroline, the beautiful eldest married daughter. On the painting’s left side is a depiction of Romeo and Juliet in which the young Whistler (Romeo) languishes beneath the balcony of Lady Caroline (Juliet).

The mild climate of the coastal setting of the gardens at Plas Newydd is ideal for many woody plants from warmer temperate regions of the world. While the bones of the garden were set out in the late 18th century by leading landscape gardener Humphrey Repton, much has changed in the intervening centuries. A long and broad sweep of lawn fringed and broken by trees to the west of the house is known as ‘the West Indies’, and at the end of the Long Walk you arrive at an arboretum known as ‘Australasia’ that features, among other things, a collection of eucalyptus, added in the 20th century. A wild and exotic wood of rhododendrons was established in the 1930s by the sixth Marquess and added to by the ‘thinnings’ sent from Lord Aberconway of Bodnant as a wedding present to Lord Anglesey in 1948. For three seasons, lorry-loads of rhododendrons arrived with two gardeners to plant them.

Following a light lunch at Plas Newydd’s café, we visit the prehistoric site of Bryn Celli Ddu, meaning ‘the mound in the dark grove’. This is an impressive Neolithic chambered tomb with partially restored entrance passage and mound, on the site of a former henge monument.

In the late afternoon we return to Conwy, where we shall enjoy a farewell dinner together at Bodysgallen Hall. (Overnight Bodysgallen Hall) BLD

 

Day 20: Sunday 16 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Manchester Airport. Tour Ends.

Departure transfer to Manchester Airport
This morning we depart Bodysgallen Hall and travel to Manchester Airport for our return flight to Australia. The ASA ‘designated’ flight is scheduled to depart in the early afternoon. B

 

Physical Endurance & Practical Information

Physical Rating

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

 

This 20-day Cultural Garden Tour of England & Wales involves:

A large amount of walking (ranging from one to five kilometres per day) often up and down hills, flights of stairs, cobbled streets, and uneven ground (especially during some of the garden site visits), and/or standing, interspersed with coach travel.
Extensive coach travel, some on winding country roads.
Visiting a range of towns and villages on foot, involving walks uphill from bus parks to historic town centres and other sites.
Many early-morning departures (between 8.00-8.30am), concluding in the late afternoon (5.30-6.30pm).
Travelling to the United Kingdom during summer. June is the sunniest month of the year across England and Wales. While the average day-time temperature is 18-20°C, in recent years England has experienced heatwaves reaching up to 35°C.
This tour includes the use of audio headsets, which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.

Other considerations:

3- to 5-star hotels with three hotel changes; some hotels do not have in-room air-conditioning.
You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.
A trip on the Snowdon Mountain Railway (Diesel Service: Summit return – Day 15).
It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

National Trust Membership

It is a requirement that all travellers on this program have a current membership to the National Trust for the period of the tour. You will need to send a photocopy of your National Trust membership card to ASA prior to the start of the tour, and to carry your card with you throughout the tour program. Different types of National Trust membership are available (family, singles, etc) and the fees vary from state to state. For assistance in joining the National Trust and completing these formalities, please contact ASA.

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers: www.smartraveller.gov.au

Gardens of New Zealand with Helen Young

Gardens of New Zealand with Helen Young

 

Join garden writer Helen Young to explore the best of New Zealand’s springtime gardens, including the spectacular annual Taranaki Garden Festival.

New Zealand is a hidden gem of garden design, combining English landscape garden design with colonial heritage, indigenous flora and Māori reverence for the natural world.

Begin in Christchurch on the South Island and wander through Broadfield Garden and the elegant Ohinetahi. Visit Upton Oaks, Paripuma and Bankhouse near Blenheim and then cross the Cook Strait to the North Island to visit the annual Taranaki Garden Festival in New Plymouth, where scores of private gardens open their gates to visitors for just a few days in the year. Conclude in Auckland, with a visit to Ayrlies Garden, the ‘quintessential New Zealand garden’.

 

AT A GLANCE:

• In the Christchurch region, wander through the carefully structured Ohinetahi Garden and then visit Broadfield, which combines rhododendrons, lilies and daffodils with a forest of indigenous ferns and Kauri trees
• In New Plymouth, explore private gardens open only during the Taranaki Garden Festival, an annual showcase of more than 40 gardens, celebrity chef demonstrations and guided walks
• Visit the knot-garden of Upton Oaks in Blenheim, and the gardens of Barewood in Awatere, designed to complement a century-old homestead, and Ayrlies Garden in Auckland
• Enjoy the wine of New Zealand’s famed Marlborough region, one of the great Sauvignon Blanc producers of the world.

 

TOUR LEADER:

Horticulturist, garden writer, presenter and author, Helen Young has led more than 20 garden tours internationally and domestically. She is well known for her weekly columns in The Weekend Australian over the last 17 years, and as House and Garden magazine’s garden writer for more than 10 years. Sydneysiders know her as a long-term regular expert on ABC Sydney Radio’s Saturday morning gardening program, but she also runs her own successful horticulture business.

 

Friday 19 October 2018 / Arrive Christchurch

Suggested afternoon arrival in Christchurch. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements. In the evening join Helen and fellow garden lovers for a special welcome dinner. (D)

 

Sat 20 Nov / Christchurch

Today explore two outstanding gardens. First visit Broadfield New Zealand Landscape Garden, a 3.5 hectare showcase garden established in the 1990s. Many native plants are used formally and informally as are NZ-raised varieties of azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, maples, peonies and roses. It includes a Kauri forest with over 100 trees and scores of species of other forest trees, shrubs, climbers and ferns.
After lunch, visit Ohinetahi, a well-structured, carefully designed garden created by architect Sir Miles Warren which consists of a number of formal rooms, of differing style and character. The garden houses an important sculpture collection and a small art gallery. Hedges are used to shelter plants that would otherwise struggle in the high winds. Features include a herb potager, box-edged rose garden, herbaceous borders, a ‘Red Garden’, gazebo, rectangular pond, arched bridge and statues. There are spectacular views down to Lyttleton Harbour. Enjoy afternoon tea in the garden before returning to your hotel for an evening at leisure.(BL)

 

Sun 21 Oct / Christchurch – Greymouth

Enjoy a morning to explore the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Founded in 1863 with the planting of an English oak tree, over the years natural wetlands and sand dunes have been transformed into an elegantly cultivated 21 hectare park with more than 10 different gardens framed by mature trees and expansive lawns, which are mostly contained within a loop of the Avon River.

After lunch in the gardens, depart Christchurch for a scenic drive over the Southern Alps to Greymouth. Drive across the Canterbury Plain and climb to more than 900 metres through Arthur’s Pass National Park before descending to Greymouth. In the late afternoon, arrive in Greymouth, known for its gold mining heritage and pounamu (New Zealand jade). (BLD)

 

Mon 22 Oct / Greymouth – Blenheim

Depart Greymouth and travel along the scenic West Coast, stopping to see the New Zealand fur seal colony at Cape Foulwind and the Punakaiki pancake rocks and blowholes.

Begin your exploration of the Marlborough area and its gardens with Bankhouse Garden, one of the highlights of the Wairau Valley. Meander through the lower level into a shaded gully that hosts rhododendrons and bog plants. Continue towards the house and onwards to the upper level garden terraces where you find rambling roses and a variety of drought-resistant plants. In the afternoon, arrive in Blenheim, our base for the next three nights. (BD)

 

Tue 23 Oct / Blenheim

After breakfast, visit Barewood Garden for a guided tour and lunch. Recognised as a ‘Garden of National Significance’, Barewood garden is designed to complement the 100-year-old homestead, and features formal allées of hawthorn and Malus, plantings of unusual trees and shrubs and a classic potager featuring espaliered fruit.

Continue to Paripuma Garden, with its unique collection of indigenous and rare plant species that have created a haven for wildlife on what was once a bare sandy paddock.

Depart for a visit to Allan Scott Wines, the family-owned winery established by Allan and Catherine Scott. Enjoy a wine tasting and free time in the European-style courtyard with its exceptional gardens and vistas over the vineyards beyond. (BL)

 

Wed 24 Oct / Blenheim

Begin with a visit to Huguette Michel’s Hortensia House. The Monet-inspired garden is informal in design and is loosely themed on blue and yellow, capturing an essence of serenity and reflecting the colours of the house. Huguette’s favourite shade of hydrangea is blue and these, along with lavenders, forget-me-nots, love-in-a-mists and other plants provide the blue tones throughout the garden. Yellow is provided by varieties of roses, pansies, daisies, aquilegias and gazanias.

Following a wine tasting and lunch at a local winery, visit Upton Oaks, the English-inspired garden of Dave and Sue Monahan developed around a restored 1911 Victorian villa. Brick walls, ponds, perennial borders and a 17th century style ‘knot-garden’ are divided into sections by colour. Upton Oaks is also recognised as a ‘Garden of National Significance’.
(BL)

 

Thu 25 Oct / Blenheim – Wellington

After breakfast, depart for Picton and enjoy the scenic crossing on the Interislander ferry to Wellington. The three-hour journey is considered one of the most spectacular cruises in the world. Arrive at the hotel in the early afternoon and enjoy some free time in Wellington. (BL)

 

Fri 26 Oct / Wellington

Begin with a walking orientation tour of the vibrant city of Wellington, nestled around the harbour and surrounded by natural scenery. See the famous ‘Beehive’ and Parliament Buildings and visit Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

Drive out of Wellington into the picturesque Ohariu Valley to Pepped Warbeck garden, another ‘Garden of Significance’. The garden consists of a majestic entrance and long curving drive, planted with Marlborough daisies and many different native trees and shrubs. Extensive lawns sweep down to the re-modelled bog garden which features five adjoining ponds planted with primulas, bog irises, hostas and gunnera.

After lunch, return to Wellington for a visit to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, a fascinating centre dedicated to art, history and Māori culture. Its Māori name translates as ‘The Treasure Chest’. (BL)

 

Sat 27 Oct / Wellington – New Plymouth

Depart Wellington for a leisurely drive to New Plymouth. En route, stop for lunch and a visit to Nicki and Clive Higgie’s garden, Paloma, near Wanganui. This exotic ‘Garden of National Significance’ is landscaped with plants from all over the world, and is presented as several distinct zones, including the Palm Garden, the Desert House, the Garden of Death, the Bamboo Forests, the Jardin Exotique, the Wedding Lawn and the two Arboreta. In the afternoon, continue to New Plymouth, our base for the next four nights. (BL)

 

Sun 28 – Tue 30 Oct / New Plymouth (Taranaki Garden Festivals)

New Plymouth is home to the annual ten-day PowerCo Taranaki Garden Festival (formerly the Taranaki Rhododendron & Garden Festival), which showcases some of New Zealand’s most stunning private and public gardens.

The 2018 festival features over 40 diverse and inspiring gardens, including many ‘Gardens of National Significance’, newly-added gardens and more than a dozen special events. Nearly all of the gardens are private gardens and are opened exclusively for the duration of the festival.

The festival includes a mixture of events, including house and garden tours, celebrity chef demonstrations, guided walks, workshops and a diverse garden speaker series.

During this period, another garden festival also takes place in Taranaki region – the Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival. The Fringe Festival includes a selection of gardens from cottage gardens to native gardens, highly structured to informal gardens, and is presented with a distinctive laid-back Kiwi charm.

Helen and the festival organisers will curate a stimulating programme in both the PowerCo Taranaki Garden Festival and the Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival, from the huge range of gardens and events on offer over the three days we will spend here.

In addition to its beautiful parks and gardens, the city of New Plymouth is known for its sunny climate and art galleries, while the conical shape of Mount Taranaki provides a dramatic backdrop to the city. Meanwhile, down at the waterfront are Puke Ariki, an integrated museum-library-heritage centre, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Zealand’s first museum of contemporary art, and the Len Lye Centre, the country’s first museum devoted to a single artist. (B, L or D)

 

Wed 31 Oct / New Plymouth – Hamilton – Auckland

Depart New Plymouth for a leisurely day’s drive to Auckland. En route, stop in Hamilton to visit the Hamilton Garden. Often mistakenly referred to as a ‘botanic garden’, Hamilton Garden is rather a collection of themed gardens, exploring different civilisations and recreating historically important garden styles from around the world. In the afternoon, continue to Auckland. (BD)

 

Thu 01 Nov / Auckland

Spend the day in some of Auckland’s most interesting gardens. In the morning, visit Ayrlies, situated in the gently rolling country of east Auckland. This is one of New Zealand’s best-known gardens, characterised by sweeping lawns and informal but detailed plantings beside ponds and waterways. Then visit Eden Garden with its collections of perennials, vireyas, camellias, bromeliads and native New Zealand plants. Return to the hotel for an afternoon at leisure. In the evening, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner with Helen and fellow travellers. (BD)

 

Fri 02 Nov / Depart Auckland

Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements, including flights and post-tour accommodation. (B)

 

Note: At time of publication (April 2018), most but not all garden visits were confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than two to three months prior to the visit. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary.

Gardens in Spanish Culture

Gardens in Spanish Culture

 

**Filling**

 

ITINERARY

The following itinerary describes a range of gardens, heritage sites, museums and other sites which we plan to include. Some are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meal.

 

Seville – 3 nights

Day 1: Tuesday 14 May, Arrive Seville

Arrival transfer for participants arriving on the ASA ‘designated’ flight. On arrival at Seville’s airport, participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer by private coach to our hotel, ideally located just 250 metres from Seville Cathedral. If you are travelling independently please meet the group at the Hotel Inglaterra.

Seville gained great importance and prosperity in the 12th century when the Almohad dynasty of North African Berbers made it the capital of Muslim Spain (al Andalus); and again in the 16th century, when it became the Spanish entrepôt for silver and tobacco from the Americas. Its major monuments and most important works of art date from these periods and from the 13th and 14th centuries, when Ferdinand III of Castile wrested the province from the Muslims in 1248. Seville therefore boasts fine Muslim, Gothic, Mudéjar and Baroque monuments (‘Mudéjar’ is the term which denotes buildings built for Christians by Muslim craftsmen). In the 17th century it vied with Madrid as the centre of Spanish sculpture and painting. Zurbarán, Velázquez and Murillo all worked in Seville and the city produced a fine school of polychrome wood sculpture, examples of which are still used in processions for Holy Week (Semana Santa). In the 19th century, Seville became a picturesque setting for Northern European Romantic novels, artworks and operas, because of the popularity of Murillo’s paintings of street urchins, Seville’s famous bullfights, and the magnificence of its celebrations during Holy Week. (Overnight Seville)

 

Day 2: Wednesday 15 May, Seville

Welcome Meeting
Museum of Fine Arts (Museo de Bellas Artes)
Royal Alcázar of Seville
Welcome Dinner at a private 17-century palace

This morning, following a Welcome Meeting at the hotel, we begin with a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts of Seville, a large museum of Andalucian art which was refurbished for Expo ’92. The museum is located in the former convent of the Merced Calzada whose architecture exemplifies Andalucian 17th-century mannerism, designed around three patios and a large stairway. It opened its doors to the public in 1841 with the works from closed down convents and monasteries. Today it is one of the best fine arts museums in Spain, whose impressive collection extends from the medieval to the modern, focusing on the work of Seville School artists such as Francisco de Zurbarán, Juan de Valdés Leal and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.

Following some time at leisure for lunch, we visit Seville’s Alcázar, a fine Muslim palace built, not by the Islamic city’s Almohad dynasty, but by the Christian king, Pedro the Cruel, in the 14th century. This palace, its courtyards lined with fine stucco reliefs and coloured tiles, speaks of the cultural ambivalence of the Christian invaders who emulated the tastes of the vanquished Islamic princes. The Alcázar echoes the Alhambra (Granada) in its richness, and was, in fact, built in conscious imitation of that great group of mansions. The complex grew beyond Pedro’s original palace and eventually included, for example, the Oratory of the Catholic Monarchs, with splendid early 16th-century polychrome tiles, a fine garden with a subterranean bath, and rooms in which expeditions to South America were planned. Appended to the palace is one of Spain’s greatest and most interesting gardens. These began as a typical Almohad ‘paradise’ garden, and although little remains of the original because of successive plantings by Christian monarchs (especially in the 19th and 20th centuries), much of the Mudéjar architecture (pavilions), the lovely discrete walled gardens near the palace, the ubiquitous pools and gently bubbling fountains, all reflect Spain’s cultural debt to the Muslims. Magnolia grandiflora, pittorosporum, palms, peaches, roses and bitter oranges share this garden with fascinating Central- and South American species brought back to Spain when Seville prospered as the country’s gateway to its colonies.

This evening we enjoy an exclusive Welcome Dinner at an elegantly restored private 17th-century Casa Palacio (stately home) in the heart of Seville, a short walk from our hotel. (Overnight Seville) BD

 

Day 3: Thursday 16 May, Seville

Santa Cruz Quarter and the Hospital de los Venerables (Fundación Focus)
Cathedral and Giralda of Seville
Casa de Pilatos

Today we walk through the Santa Cruz quarter, Seville’s medieval ghetto. Despite its narrow winding streets, this precinct grew in popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries. Aristocrats built small palaces here, without disturbing its original, picturesque street plan.

We also visit the 17th-century Hospital de los Venerables. Originally one of Seville’s many charitable institutions, this is now a cultural centre. Of particular interest is its sunken courtyard, which is a fascinating fusion of a convent-cloister and a patio, a central court so characteristic of Spanish secular architecture. Arcaded galleries supporting the upper levels of the house surround this courtyard. Its design is a pleasant interplay of spaces of square and curved plan.

Our walk ends at Seville’s Cathedral. This huge building, which is the largest Gothic structure of its type in Europe, was built upon the foundations of the Almohad Friday Mosque by the Christian conquerors of the city. It retains the general plan and dimensions of the mosque and its courtyard that was used by the Islamic population for ritual ablutions. The courtyard, as its name – Patio de los Naranjos – suggests, is now dominated by a veritable forest of orange trees. Although now used primarily as a thoroughfare, the courtyard would once have provided Islamic students with a quiet shady place for the study of the Qur’an; plantings would have been more diverse at that time. The cathedral boasts what is arguably Spain’s greatest retablo mayor, a massive gilt and painted wood retable occupying the whole of the chancel wall. It also contains a number of major medieval, Renaissance and Baroque artworks and the tomb of Christopher Columbus.

The cathedral’s bell tower, originally the minaret of the Almohad Friday mosque, is in the same style as those at Rabat and Marrakesh in Morocco. It is a monumental, square tower that houses seven superimposed rooms. Access is provided by a ramp up which the Imam once rode a donkey five times a day to call the faithful to prayer. The exquisite brick patterns on its four façades assured its survival when Seville fell to the Christians. Upon it they placed a belfry (bells are anathema to Islam) and a weather vane, or Giraldillo, which gives the tower its modern name, ‘Giralda’.

Unlike their Parisian counterparts in that city’s aristocratic district, the Marais, Seville’s noble palaces are usually found, not in exclusive suburbs, but in the narrow streets of the city that in the past would have been inhabited by vendors, craftsmen, beggars, and Murillo’s street urchins. Their often bland façades, however, give on to lovely patios and gardens which, following Islamic tradition, are enclosed, secret paradises embedded in, but contrasting dramatically to, the noisy, dirty, smelly city outside the walls. This afternoon we visit a Sevillian mansion of the late-15th and 16th centuries, the Casa de Pilatos. Built by Fabrique de Ribera in 1519, it owes its name to a legend that it was modelled upon Pilate’s house in Jerusalem. Processions during Holy Week used to leave this building, winding their way out of the city to the Cruz del Campo, the distance believed to be exactly that from Pilate’s Jerusalem Praetorium to Golgotha, where Christ was crucified. The house, organised around a great patio, is a fascinating mix of Mudéjar, Flamboyant Gothic and Renaissance elements. An antique sculpture collection, adorning the main patio and the Jardín Chico (small garden), reflects the humanist tastes of its original owners. This garden also has a delightful pool, which was the water tank of the original house. This, and the Jardín Grande, have a marvellous variety of plants, including clusters of citrus and banana trees that thrive in Seville’s warm climate, and myriad flowers. The walls that enclose the gardens and their loggias are covered with brilliantly coloured bougainvillea and wisteria. Paths with yellow sand, also used in the bullrings of southern Spain, add yet more colour. Mature palms and figs give the gardens ample shade. (Overnight Seville) B

 

Córdoba – 2 nights

Day 4: Friday 17 May, Seville – Hornachuelos – Palma del Río – Córdoba

Gardens of the Palace of Moratalla, Hornachuelos
Lunch at the Monasterio de San Francisco, Palma del Río
Evening walking tour of the Patios of the Zona Alcazar Viejo, San Basilio District of Córdoba

Today we drive from Seville to Córdoba, capital of the great Caliphate of Córdoba, the earliest Muslim State in Spain (712-1031). Our first visit is to the gardens of the Moratalla Palace (‘the Moor’s Lookout’), near the Sierra Morena, the mountain range that separates the Guadalquivir Valley and Andalucia from the vast plain of La Mancha in New Castile. This was originally a 19th-century English landscape garden but has been transformed over the last 150 years, not least by the great French garden designer Jean-Claude Nicholas Forestier, who fused a French grand vista with Neo-Arab elements, such as patios with brickwork, tiles and low fountains. Cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens and Cupressus arizonica), oleanders and mimosas contribute to the (French) perspective that these Arab elements inflect. This garden, like the Casa de Pilatos, was a property of the famous Medinacelli family and the present proprietor, the Duke of Segorbe, takes a very dynamic approach, constantly transforming it. He believes the garden to be a living world and therefore a place where constant transformations may be made. He was a friend of Salvador Dalí, with whom he shared an interest in philosophy. The fruits of this friendship are seen in garden details like the spiral pool; the spiral is an age-old image of unity and infinity.

Nearby, we enjoy lunch at the Restaurante Monasterio de San Francisco, a religious foundation founded by the seventh Lord of Palma in the late 15th century.

Our visit to Córdoba has been planned to coincide with the Córdoba Patio Festival. This city has some of the loveliest small urban gardens in Spain, located in the courtyards of old Córdoban houses. Some of these houses are very, very old; everywhere in the ancient city fragments of Muslim dwellings built before the end of the 11th century can be found. Even if houses were constructed later, they follow earlier plans because their foundations (and many of their cellars) are the walls of older houses. Once a year, Córdoba opens its patios in an Andalucian version of our open garden scheme; prizes are given to the best exhibits. Many of the previous prize-winners are in the San Basilio district of the city near our hotel. (Overnight Córdoba) BL

 

Day 5: Saturday 18 May, Córdoba

Synagogue, Córdoba
Great Mosque, Córdoba
Time at leisure
Late afternoon walking tour of Córdoba Patios including the patios of the Palacio de Viana

After breakfast at our hotel located in the Jewish Quarter (Judería) of the city, we visit Córdoba’s delightful small synagogue. The Jews arrived in Córdoba before the Muslims and almost immediately made it a centre of learning. They established the Jewish Quarter after the city had become the capital of Muslim Spain. Its 14th-century synagogue is one of three surviving medieval synagogues in Spain. It has a women’s gallery, and the upper reaches of its walls are in the Mudéjar stucco style, with Hebrew inscriptions. These stuccoes, like those of many mosques, alternate geometrical and vegetal motifs.

We continue with a visit to the Great Mosque of Córdoba. The mosque (c.786-986), one of the earliest and finest still standing, was constructed by successive members of the Ummayad dynasty. Its outer façades boast exquisite geometrical and floral patterns set in the tympana of horseshoe arches and in panels above them. Within the prayer hall is a forest of columns supporting superimposed tiers of polychrome arches thought to have been modelled upon the Roman aqueduct at Mérida. The mihrab (prayer niche) is adorned with exquisite abstract designs in mosaic executed by a school of Byzantine mosaicists from Constantinople. These mosaics, and those of the domes above the mihrab, give meaning to Allah’s prescription to the prophet concerning images: that they should act as a simile to nature, not an abstraction of it; and that they should convey by their delicacy the notion that nothing material has meaning or permanence. The mosque is punctured by a huge cathedral; its minaret became the cathedral bell tower.

Following some time at leisure, we continue to explore the patios of Córdoba including a visit to the Palacio de Viana. Located on the northern edge of the old town, this traditional Andalusian mansion features twelve patios covering the Renaissance and Baroque periods with fountains, formal parterres, citrus trees, date palms and roses with a profusion of pots, pebbled floors and elegant arches. (Overnight Córdoba) B

 

Ronda – 1 night

Day 6: Sunday 19 May, Córdoba – Ronda

Puente Nuevo, Ronda
Bullring, Ronda
Casa del Rey Moro, Ronda

Private palace garden, Ronda (by special appointment)
This morning we depart early for the magnificent Andalusian ‘white town’ of Ronda, dramatically sited on sheer cliffs above a deep ravine, with grand panoramic views framed by mountains. The early 19th-century artists David Roberts and J.F. Lewis both painted the picturesque view of the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) which spans the deep ravine, ‘El Tajo‘, separating the two parts of Ronda, the old Muslim town and the Christian district, the Mercadillo. The Guadelvin River cut this ravine, and the high bridge which spans it was built in the late 18th century. Of Roman origin, Ronda became an almost impregnable Muslim fortress city until the armies of Ferdinand and Isabella took it in 1485.

In 1493, eight years after the Christian capture of the city, the Maestranza, a Company of Knights was formed here for the supervision of bullfighting. Ronda’s bullring, the second oldest in Spain after that of Seville, was built here in 1794. In the 18th century Ronda’s greatest matador was Pedro Romero, who is believed to have developed the classical bull-fighting style of the School of Ronda. We shall visit the bullring in the Mercedillo.

The old town preserves its Muslim street plan. Here we visit the Casa del Rey Moro, the Moorish King’s House. The present 18th-century palace purportedly occupies the site of a palace of one of the petty Muslim kings of Ronda, and has a fine garden with steps leading down to the river below. The splendid small Hispano-Moresque garden (hortus conclusus) was originally designed by the great 19th-century gardener Jean-Claude Nicholas Forestier for the house’s owner, the Duchess of Parcent. Forestier (1861-1930), a botanical and forestry expert, town planner and garden designer, was extremely influential in Spain, Cuba and Central America. He became conservateur of the promenades of Paris and developed an arboretum at Vincennes and the gardens of the Champ-de-Mars below the Eiffel Tower. He also influenced the layout of Havana and Buenos Aires. He is renowned for his innovations, including the ‘Neo-Arab’ or ‘Neo-Sevillian’ garden. His own gardens and those inspired by his innovations are to be found throughout Spain, amongst them are the Park of María Luisa in Seville and Montjuïc in Barcelona. His gardens in Ronda combine Islamic features like ceramic tiles with the formality of a European garden. A wide variety of carefully combined trees such as palms, laurel, cedar, oleander and myrtle form a verdant canopy under which a profusion of flowers gives colour and fragrance.

This evening we enjoy special access to one of Ronda’s finest stately residences. The Palacio is an 18th-century renovation of an earlier 16th-century building, gifted to the current owner’s family by the Reyes Catolicos. Its impressive Baroque entrance displays sculpted figures believed to represent natives of South America. Its delightful hidden garden includes a rare 200-year-old pinsapo (evergreen fir). Abies pinsapo is a species of fir native to southern Spain and northern Morocco. Related to other species of Mediterranean firs, it is considered the Andalusian National Tree. In Spain, it appears at altitudes of 900–1,800 metres in the Sierra de Grazalema in the province of Cádiz and the Sierra de las Nieves and Sierra Bermeja, both near Ronda in the province of Málaga.

Tonight we dine together in the restaurant of the Parador de Ronda, which serves Andalusian specialties and fresh local produce. (Overnight Ronda) BD

 

Málaga – 1 night

Day 7: Monday 20 May, Ronda – Málaga

Visit and lunch at a private country house hosted by the owners, province of Málaga
Centre Pompidou Málaga

This morning we drive through the hills above the Mediterranean coast to Málaga. En-route we visit an outstanding example of a Mediterranean classical garden created with cypresses and geometric hedges in terraces. The owners, who are keen gardeners, will give us a tour of their creation and host a delicious lunch of Andalucian and Catalan specialties.

We arrive in Málaga in the early afternoon and check in to our hotel, conveniently located opposite the cathedral and a few minutes’ walk from Málaga’s waterfront.

Málaga, (malaka: fish salting place), was founded by the Phoenicians around 800 BC. The city grew to become a major port in Roman times, exporting olive oil and garum (fish paste), as well as copper, lead and iron from the mines in the mountains around Ronda. Málaga continued to flourish under Moorish rule from the 8th century AD and became a prosperous port of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada. The city held out against the invading Christian armies until 1487 and displayed equal tenacity against Franco’s fascists during the Spanish Civil War.

In the afternoon we visit a branch of Paris’ famous Pompidou Centre, which opened on Málaga’s waterfront in 2015. Housed in an extraordinary post-modernist coloured glass cube, the Centre, like its Parisian parent, has a collection of 20th century art, including works by Robert Delauney, Vassily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger, René Magritte and Frida Kahlo, and also holds interesting temporary exhibitions. (Overnight Málaga) BL

 

Granada – 3 nights

Day 8: Tuesday 21 May, Ronda – Málaga – Granada

Walking tour of Málaga including the Museo Picasso
Visit and lunch at a private Andalucian farmhouse hosted by the owners, Málaga
Historical-Botanical Garden La Concepción, Málaga

We spend the morning visiting key sites in Málaga. Our walking tour will take in the Renaissance Cathedral with its fine Baroque façade, the remains of the Roman theatre and the exterior of Málaga’s Alcázar (citadel).

We also visit the Picasso Museum, housed in a fine 16th-century palace built on 2500-year-old Phoenician remains. Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga in 1881 and in 2003 a Picasso Museum was established here in response to the artist’s desire for his work to be exhibited in his city of birth; it features 233 paintings, sculptures and ceramics created between 1892 to 1972. This rich collection was donated by Christine and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, the artist’s daughter-in-law and grandson. The opening of the Picasso Museum initiated a revival in the cultural life of the city.

We then drive south of the city to a traditional Andalucian cortijo (country estate), owned by one of Spain’s most well known literary families. The estate features a lush subtropical garden with an outstanding Phytolacca dioica tree and an alley of Pecan trees. Following a tour of the garden, we enjoy a sumptuous lunch of local specialities hosted by the owners and learn about the estate’s literary history.

Nearby we visit Málaga’s La Concepción garden, begun in 1889 by Thomas Livermore, who was the British consul in this city. La Concepción, which at one point commands views down over the city, is an important example of a Mediterranean coastal garden.

We continue our drive through the Sierra Nevada, which acted as a barrier, protecting Spain’s last Muslim kingdom, Granada, from Christian incursions. We shall gain a deeper understanding about the way the mountains isolated Granada from the grand views we will encounter along this road. (Overnight Granada) BL

 

Day 9: Wednesday 22 May, Granada

Alhambra and Generalife
Carmen of the Fundacion Rodriguez Acosta
Dinner at the Mirador de Morayma Restaurant

Today we visit the Alhambra (1354-1391) and Generalife (summer palace and villa of the Nasrid rulers) to study the architecture and garden design of Nasrid Granada. We visit palaces and villas in the complex that centre upon the Court of the Myrtles, the Court of the Lions, and the Generalife. The first complex – comprising of the Patio de Machuca, the Mexuar, the Patio del Cuarto Dorado, and the Patio de Comares (Court of the Myrtles) – gives a sense of the disposition of an Islamic palace, the discrete, hermetic spaces of which bespeak Islam’s emphasis on privacy. This complex combines areas where the ruler sat in court or received ambassadors with a harem designed to isolate the royal household from the outside world. In essence the palace is introverted, its main façade secreted within the Patio del Cuarto Dorado, rather than turning outwards to announce to the outside world the palaces within, in the way of a Western façade. The Hall of the Ambassadors is an example of the spatial rhetoric of power, while the Patio de Comares used a great pool and trees (later replaced by hedges of myrtle) to create a paradisal, secluded core to the complex. Next to this group is the villa of the Nasrids, built about the Court of the Lions, whose fine stucco arches and slender columns are, some scholars argue, the architectural evocation of an oasis. Here we find rooms decorated with exquisite detailing, such as the Abencerrajes Gallery, the Sala de los Reyes, and the Sala de las Dos Hermanas, two of which have extraordinary stucco domes reproducing star bursts in the desert sky. Beneath this villa there is yet another villa, to which are attached the Royal Baths.

We then walk out across the pine-forested hills of the Alhambra Mountain to the Generalife, an exquisite villa retreat and hunting lodge of the Nasrids. Here we see gardens to rival the Villa d’Este outside Rome, with fine fountains whose sounds were intended to provide a poetic counterpoint to the architectural aesthetics of the Arab palace or villa.

Finally, we shall visit the Alcazaba, the fortress of the Alhambra, which has a broad panorama of the Sierra Nevada. The Alhambra and Generalife complexes sit within what could almost be termed a ‘forest’ that covers their hills. Watered by conduits from the Sierra Nevada, this lush environment enabled not only the inimitable orchestration of buildings and plants in the main complex, but also a proliferation of fine small villas with gardens called carmenes. A carmen is a typical house of the old quarter of Granada that has a walled garden, the counterpart of, but different to the patios of Córdoba. The word comes from the Arabic word for garden: karm. These villas became fashionable in the 16th century when wealthy Christians purchased a number of old, Islamic, town houses and demolished parts of them to make a walled garden. They often employed Moorish craftsmen to design and decorate them. The carmenes of Granada were, of course, both inspired by, and measured, the great Islamic palace and villa complex of the Alhambra.

Just a short walk away is the Carmen of the Fundación Rodríguez-Acosta, arguably the best Spanish example of interplay between early modern architecture and gardening. Built by the painter José María Rodríguez-Acosta, a native of Granada and friend of the musician de Falla, this fine modernist house develops the local carmen tradition to create a unique interplay of simple brilliant white architecture and the various greens of the garden. The garden, inspired by the Generalife, is made up of a number of terraces oriented towards the plain and the Sierra Nevada in which the fragments of walls and columns in the purest modernist style interplay with cypress hedges whose shapes are ‘architectural’ in their composition, massing and the precise lines of their profiles. The Foundation, which occupies the original house, has works collected by Acosta supplemented by an important collection of Manuel Gómez Moreno composed of works from most periods of Spanish art history.

Tonight we shall dine together at the restaurant Mirador de Morayma, in Granada´s ancient Moorish quarter, the Albaicín, with breathtaking views of the Alhambra. This elegant restaurant housed in a traditional carmen, features traditional local cuisine and ecological wine produced at the restaurant’s own country estate in the Alpujarra region. (Overnight Granada) BD

 

Day 10: Thursday 23 May, Granada

Albaicín quarter
Muslim Baths
Capilla Real
Cathedral
Corral del Carbón
Afternoon at leisure

We begin this morning by exploring Granada’s most important residential quarter, the Albaicín which nestles below the Alhambra. The Albaicín was the last refuge of the Muslims of Granada and traces of its Islamic heritage remain to be discovered, including a beautiful and tranquil bathhouse, and fragments of minarets converted into church towers.

We shall also visit Muslim and Christian sites in the centre of Granada. The Capilla Real (Royal Chapel), built in flamboyant late Gothic style, houses the magnificent Renaissance tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella, their daughter Joan ‘the Mad’ and her husband Philip ‘the Handsome’. In the adjacent Sacristy is a dazzling collection of royal regalia and Flemish paintings. We then walk to the cathedral, one of Spain’s last, which was envisaged by its founder, Charles V, as a model of the heavenly Jerusalem.

We end our tour at the market centre of Islamic Granada where we shall visit the Corral del Carbón, a 14th-century warehouse and inn for merchants, which is the only one of its type to have survived in Spain. Despite recent restoration, the ground plan, the central water trough for animals, and the delicately carved brick and plaster gateway date to the Middle Ages. From here we shall make our way through the Alcaicería, an area of narrow gridded streets which were once part of the covered market (Arabic: al-Qaysariyya) of the Muslim rulers of Granada.  The afternoon will be at leisure. (Overnight Granada) B

 

Toledo – 2 nights

Day 11: Friday 24 May, Granada – Toledo

Toledo Cathedral

Evening reception at private palace garden by landscaping and garden design studio Urquijo-Kastner, Toledo
Today we drive north, through the Sierra Morena, into the vast, arid plain of La Mancha, famed for its association with Don Quixote, and for its dry wine and Manchego cheese. Toledo, located on a promontory created by a bend in the River Tagus or Tajo, is another Spanish city with a multi-layered past. Inhabited at least from Roman times onwards, Toledo (Toletum) was a provincial town until the Visigothic period when it became an important ecclesiastical centre, and in the mid-6th century AD, the Visigothic capital. Visigothic Toledo was dominated by its castle, and although it is long gone, the Alcázar, its successor, stands on its original site.

Toledo was conquered by Arabo-Berber armies in 712 AD and became part of the Umayyad state of Córdoba. The inhabitants of the city regularly revolted against their Umayyad masters and in the early 11th century when the Umayyad Caliphate collapsed, Toledo, like many other cities, became the seat of a Ta’ifa (petty) kingdom. During this period, Toledo became the centre of the Mozarabic Church, whose Visigothic rituals and liturgy were deeply influenced by Muslim culture. It also played an important cultural role in transmitting the rich syncretic literary and scientific heritage of al-Andalus to the Christian north of the Iberian peninsula and on to northern Europe. Toledo was captured by Alfonso VI of Castile in 1085 and was thus one of the first major Muslim cities to fall to the Christians.

Culturally, however, Toledo remained ‘Islamic’ for centuries after the imposition of Christian rule. Large Muslim and Jewish subject communities remained, and they were employed by their new Castilian rulers to emulate earlier Muslim art and architecture, creating a distinctively Toledan Mudéjar style. This style is a blend of Roman, Visigothic, Umayyad and later Almohad styles characterised by decorative screenwork realised in brick on the exteriors of churches and bell towers. Toledan Mudéjar can also be found in the former synagogues of the Judería (ghetto), Santa Maria la Blanca and El Tránsito, which contain stuccowork decoration that mimics Almohad and Nasrid styles respectively. The cathedral, built on the site of the great mosque, also bears many traces of Toledo’s multi-cultural character, whilst the narrow twisting streets of the old city and its absence of open squares and public spaces perpetuate Muslim urban-planning.

This afternoon, we begin our tour of this splendid city with a visit to Toledo’s Cathedral, a Gothic cathedral modelled upon Bourges Cathedral in France. Its construction began two centuries after Toledo’s capture by Alfonso VI of Castile in 1085, and until then the Christians worshipped in the re-dedicated great mosque of the city. In the 14th century the great mosque was finally torn down and a Gothic cathedral constructed on its foundations. Later monarchs and state dignitaries embellished the cathedral by the addition of a rich choir, decorated with reliefs recounting the conquest of Granada, and sumptuous chapels. We shall look at both the exterior and interior of the cathedral, noting in particular the opulent retablo mayor, the choir and the lateral chapels.

The Cathedral Museum holds a range of works by El Greco, Titian, Zurbarán, and Ribera, and the Almohad banners captured by the Castilians at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. In the Treasury we shall see an illuminated manuscript given by St Louis of France to Alfonso X and a massive Gothic gold monstrance in the shape of the intricate flèche of a cathedral.

This evening, we meet Spanish landscape designer Miguel Urquijo, who will show us a beautiful palace garden in the heart of Toledo with magnificent views of the Cathedral. Miguel and his partner Renate Kastner restored the garden in 2008, working from a previous structure of patios, terraces, fountains and paved walks that perfectly represent the classic Spanish urban garden. Cypresses, Canary Palm, pomegranates and olive trees, together with trimmed box hedges, mix in a harmonious chaos punctuated by prickly pears, delicate calas and the essential and colourful geranium. The palace itself encapsulates the overlap of cultures, where Muslim elements coexist with the Jewish and the Christian, and holds an exquisite collection of art and antiques; in this magical setting, we shall enjoy an aperitif hosted by the owners. (Overnight Toledo) B

 

Day 12: Saturday 25 May, Toledo

El Tránsito
Santo Tomé Church
Museo El Greco
Santa Maria la Blanca
Afternoon at leisure

This morning we continue our guided tour of Toledo with visits to the two former Mudéjar synagogues of Santa María la Blanca and El Tránsito. Santa María la Blanca is a 13th-century building which bears a strong similarity to contemporary Almohad architecture further south, whilst El Tránsito is a 14th-century structure with stucco panels of a similar style to those in the Alcázar of Seville and the Alhambra. El Tránsito also houses a small museum that catalogues the Jewish presence in Spain. A highlight of today is the Church of Santo Tomé, home to El Greco’s famous The Burial of Count Orgaz (c.1586). The nearby El Greco museum displays a great collection of the painter’s works, including several of his portraits of apostles and saints, as well as the View and Plan of Toledo.

The afternoon is at leisure for you to explore this splendid city and you may wish to visit the nearby Franciscan monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, originally intended, before the capture of Granada, as the mausoleum of Ferdinand of Aragón and Isabella of Castile. The mausoleum church itself will remind you of the Capilla Real in Granada. (Overnight Toledo) B

 

Jarandilla de la Vera – 2 nights

Day 13: Sunday 26 May, Toledo – Jarandilla de la Vera

Visit and lunch at a private organic farm hosted by the owners, Toledo province

From Toledo in Castile, we head to the western frontier region of Extremadura, famous for its conquistadors like Francisco Pizarro, who conquered much of South America. We travel through an area of undulating hills where traditionally the noble Trujillanos had their olive groves and vines producing oil and wine for their own consumption. Today the region of Extremadura produces approximately 3.3% of the total olive oil produced in Spain. The types of olives that are cultivated in this region for the production of oil include Cornicabra, Carrasqueña and Morisca.

We visit an organic farm that specialises in free-range livestock (sheep and cattle), fresh produce, and specialty products such as extra virgin olive oil, sheep and goat cheeses, and organic wheat products. We shall take a tour of the property and enjoy a lunch of fresh seasonal produce and homemade treats hosted by the owners.

Tonight we stay at the countryside Parador of Jarandilla de la Vera. Housed in a 14th-century castle, this parador retains many historic features including Gothic galleries, a fireplace specially built for Emperor Charles V, and an ancient garden featuring a fountain famous for bringing good fortune. (Overnight Jarandilla de la Vera) BL

 

Day 14: Monday 27 May, Jarandilla de la Vera – Monfragüe

National Park – Jarandilla de la Vera
Monfragüe National Park
Visit and lunch at ‘La Lancha’ – private farm of Eduardo Mencos & Anneli Bojstad, Jarandilla de la Vera

This morning we explore Monfragüe National Park, a UNESCO listed Biosphere Reserve. Accompanied by a local naturalist, we shall study the many species of Mediterranean plants and trees, and visit a number of observation blinds located along the course of the river Tagus in order to view (with the aid of telescopes) the park’s magnificent variety of birds of prey. Monfragüe is an outstanding site for raptors, with more than 15 regular breeding species, including the world’s largest breeding concentration of the Eurasian Black Vulture, a large population of Griffon Vultures, and several pairs of Spanish Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle and Bonelli’s Eagle. During our tour we shall also view a number of the park’s geological and cultural landmarks including the ‘Bridge of the Cardinal’ the ruined Castle of Monfragüe; and the Penafalcon, an impressive rock face carved by the river Tagus.

Famed Spanish landscape designer, writer and photographer Eduardo Mencos considers the Spanish countryside to be this great ‘maestro’ and source of inspiration. On the grounds of his 30-hectare country farm ‘La Lancha’, Eduardo has produced his version of an 18th-century ‘ornamental farm’ – a landscaped working farm with decorative features such as arbours, antique wells, water reservoirs, ruins. You won’t see a single wire or a water deposit (they are hidden underground). Here Eduardo and Anneli grow organic olives and breed Merino sheep, which roam free around the property. Following a leisurely lunch, we tour the farm and learn about Eduardo’s work and passion for the gardens of his native Spain. (Overnight Jarandilla de la Vera) BL

 

Segovia – 2 nights

Day 15: Tuesday 28 May, Jarandilla de la Vera – Ávila – Segovia

Visit and lunch at private garden by landscaping and garden design studio Urquijo-Kastner, Ávila
Romeral de San Marcos, Segovia

Near the walled city of Ávila, we visit a newly established garden by talented design duo Miguel Urquijo and Renate Kastner. Miguel fell in love with gardening in England while studying biology at the University of Buckingham in the 1980s. Renate has a Master’s Degree from the Technical University Munich/Weihenstephan, Germany’s premier school of Landscape Architecture. Their Ávila garden is particularly interesting for their successful cultivation of the olive tree, a traditional Mediterranean plant, in an area subjected to a harsh continental climate of cold winters and scorching summers. In this rugged landscape, they have planted over 40 olives trees, the owner’s favourite, along with cypresses, giving a distinctly Mediterranean character to the garden. Carefully worked stone walls create terraces and make up the main structure, while Mediterranean shrubs and perennials provide seasonal interest.

In the afternoon we drive to Segovia, where we visit the beautiful Romeral de San Marcos, situated below limestone shelves on the Eresma river at the foot of Segovia’s great castle. The famous landscape architect, Leandro Silva, created this intimate half-acre garden to echo the paradisal feel of an old Segovian huerta (orchard or market garden). Its sheltered position creates a microclimate that protects a wide variety of plants that would not normally prosper in the tough Segovian climate. At times, this small garden bursts into colour provided by a feast of different flowers.

We then check in to our hotel ideally located in the centre of Segovia. (Overnight Segovia) BL

 

Day 16: Wednesday 29 May, Segovia

Alcazar of Segovia
Evening reception at a private palace overlooking Segovia’s Roman aqueduct
Dinner at Mesón de Cándido Restaurant, Segovia

We spend the morning exploring Segovia, a city settled since Roman times. During the early Islamic period, Segovia stood in the marches between the Kingdom of the Asturias and Umayyad Córdoba and may have been temporarily deserted. In the 10th century, the Umayyad caliphs constructed a frontier fortress here. Segovia subsequently became part of the Ta’ifa kingdom of Toledo, and Castilian after the fall of Toledo. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Muslim fortress was rebuilt as a Christian castle and in the 16th century, a Gothic cathedral with unusual Classical domes was constructed. Segovia’s Roman aqueduct, a remarkable dry-stone structure, was partially destroyed in the Middle Ages and rebuilt by Isabella of Castile in the 15th century.

This evening we enjoy exclusive access to a private palace overlooking Segovia’s aqueduct, where we shall be hosted by the owners and enjoy a glass of Sangría in the garden.

We then dine at a Segovia institution, El Mesón de Cándido, to feast on the town’s local speciality, roast suckling pig. (Overnight Segovia) BD

 

Madrid – 3 nights

Day 17: Thursday 30 May, Segovia – Madrid

Prado Museum

This morning we make our way to Madrid and spend the afternoon visiting the Prado Museum. One of the gallery’s key collections comprises the works of Hieronymus Bosch and the Flemish School from the collections of Philip II. The extraordinary apocalyptic visions of Bosch were once housed at the Escorial in the Philip II’s private apartments, but were stored away during the Enlightenment because they were considered too extreme. It was Goya who revived interest in them. We shall also look at the collections of Dürer, Titian and Rubens before moving on to the works of the Spanish Baroque. Our encounter with works by Velázquez and Zurbarán, El Greco and Goya will explore the strange mix of realism and fantastic distortion which distinguishes the Spanish tradition. We shall study the grand portrait tradition, works by Velázquez, such as Las Meninas, and the extraordinary mystical visions of El Greco. We also trace Goya’s development from the early tapestry cartoons through the royal portraits, and horrific visions of the war with the French, to the so-called ‘Black Paintings’ of his old age. (Overnight Madrid) B

 

Day 18: Friday 31 May, Madrid

Patrick Blanc’s Vertical Garden, CaixaForum, Madrid
Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid

Lunch at private landscaped rose garden near Madrid
Private garden by landscape designer Fernando Martos
We make a brief visit to Madrid’s CaixaForum to view an example of Patrick Blanc’s vertical gardens. This is not only the first to be installed in Spain but also the largest implemented to date on a façade without gaps, as it has a planted surface area of 460 m2. The vertical garden forms an impressive natural tapestry made up of 15,000 plants of 250 different species that have transformed one of the buildings adjoining the developed area of the CaixaForum Madrid into a surprising garden.

Nearby are the Royal Botanical Gardens, established by Charles III and designed by Francesco Sabatini and Juan de Villanueva, architect of the Prado. It is understandable that the ruler of a great empire in the Americas should be interested in collecting exotic species. Charles III, in fact, financed plant-collecting expeditions to Mexico, Columbia, Peru and Chile. Despite the fact that the garden lost many valuable trees in a tornado in 1886, most of its important exhibits remain. The garden is shaded by large specimens of tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), cork oaks, camphor trees, eucalyptus, olives, European field elms and mulberries, walnuts, nettle trees and crape myrtle, among many others. In 2005 a modern addition designed by well-known Spanish landscape architect Fernando Caruncho, with architect Pablo Carvajal, was commissioned to house the extensive bonsai collection of former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González. The new garden called the ‘Terraza de los Laureles’ consists of an elevated avenue, a central square with a pond and a small greenhouse, and provides a grand panorama of the historic gardens below.

We then visit a landscaped rose garden created as an oasis in the city by its owner, a ‘rose expert’ and artist specialising in painting botanical motifs on ceramics and porcelain, as well as an exceptional cook. We shall tour the rose beds and enjoy lunch in the gardens.

This afternoon we meet young Spanish landscape designer Fernando Martos. After studying at the School of Landscaping and Gardening in Madrid, Fernando continued his training as a gardener at Newby Hall in Yorkshire, where he fell in love with the seasonal changes and the English style of gardening. Inspired by Beth Chatto and her gardening with drought resistant plants, he began experimenting at his family’s property in the south of Spain. Traditionally, Spanish gardens have followed French or Italian models, but Fernando is quickly being recognised for his talent and innovation by “trying to get the English look using Mediterranean-climate plants.” Fernando will show us one of his latest projects. (Overnight Madrid) BL

 

Day 19: Saturday 1 June, Madrid – Guadalajara – Madrid

Private gardens and farewell lunch hosted by Eduardo Mencos’ family

Today we enjoy visits to the private gardens of one of Spain’s great gardening families. Here we explore how they have changed the arid meseta near the nation’s capital with their distinctive gardens. We drive across the empty plains of Guadalajara province and through the sun-baked olive-covered hills of La Alcarría, to reach the garden created by the Marquesa of Casa Valdés, Eduardo Mencos’ grandmother and author of the seminal book Jardines de España (Gardens of Spain), which has had a profound influence on modern Spanish gardening. Against the advice of many, the Marquesa of Casa Valdés created her garden in 1945 in a particularly arid terrain subject to extreme temperatures. It became a triumph in tempering the environment and a landmark in the development of modern Spanish gardens. We shall enjoy a private tour of the garden, which now belongs to Beatriz Valdés Ozores (Condesa de Bornos), one of the author’s daughters. The Condesa’s sisters, María and Micaela (Eduardo’s mother), will also welcome us to visit their own gardens nearby and kindly host our farewell lunch. (Overnight Madrid) BL

Day 20: Sunday 2 June, tour ends, Madrid

Departure transfer to Madrid’s Airport for participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
The tour ends in Madrid. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport to take their flight home to Australia. Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay in Spain. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

 

Physical Endurance & Practical Information

Physical Rating
The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, six to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 20-day tour involves:

A moderate amount of walking, often up and down hills (e.g. steep inclines in Granada and Ronda) and/or flights of stairs, along cobbled streets and uneven terrain
Standing during museum and other site visits
Moderate coach travel, often on minor roads
Early-morning departures (between 8.00-8.30am), concluding in the late afternoon (between 5.30-6.30pm)
The use of audio headsets which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.
Other considerations:

4-star hotels with seven hotel changes
You must be able to carry your own hand-luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person
Evening meals are generally not served until 8-8.30pm.
It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Practical Information
Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers see: www.smartraveller.gov.au

 

Plant Identification App

During the tour you may wish to consider using a plant identification app. Tim Entwisle suggests “that for a garden tour of Europe that two apps be considered. Download Pl@ntNet for free and use its ‘Western Europe’ dataset, then consider investing $1.03 for the Flowerchecker+ app, which gives you three free identifications from an expert then 1USD for any subsequent identification. Pl@ntNet is probably the most useful for someone just curious about a few plants along the way but it won’t help you with all the garden plants that come from outside Europe (although it does have a couple of other datasets – South America, for example – which might be very useful).” For further information see Tim Entwistle’s review at: www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-11/plant-recognition-apps-no-replacement-for-botanists/8251280

Glorious Gardens of Great Britain with Julie Kinney

Glorious Gardens of Great Britain

CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW, SALISBURY, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, OXFORD
with Julie Kinney

 

20 May – 04 June 2019 (16 days)

HIGHLIGHTS…

 

Delight in the springtime bloom at the best of Great Britain’s flower exhibitions, country estates and private gardens in the company of gardening author Julie Kinney.

In London, spend a day at the world-renowned Chelsea Flower Show before travelling to East Sussex to homes and gardens once owned by members of the Bloomsbury group, including the home of Virginia Woolf. Explore the privately-owned Chisenbury Priory in Wiltshire and, near Salisbury, the house and grounds of Highclere Castle, setting of television series Downton Abbey. Discover ornamental country gardens in Wales, before finishing in Oxford with a visit to Waterperry Gardens, former site of the celebrated Waterperry School of Horticulture.

 

AT A GLANCE…

 

• Enjoy a special day of members-only access into the Chelsea Flower Show, before it opens to the public
• Visit more than a dozen private gardens of manors, monasteries and castles
• Explore the estate of Highclere Castle and the market town of Bampton, setting of the television series Downton Abbey
• Spend a day in Bath, amongst the rich heritage of the Roman, Regency and Georgian eras
• Uphold a British culinary tradition at a Pudding Club dinner in Mickleton, Gloucestershire
• Journey through picturesque countryside and quaint villages in England and Wales, replete with Medieval architecture, rolling hills and historical landmarks

Note: At time of publication (April 2018), most but not all garden visits were confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than 2 to 3 months prior to visit. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary. [Appears on first page, underneath Tour Leader biography]

 

SUNDAY 19 MAY 2019 / DEPART AUSTRALIA / NEW ZEALAND

 

Suggested departures on Emirates flights from Australia or New Zealand to London. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements

 

MON 20 MAY / ARRIVE LONDON

Arrive in London and make your own way to the hotel. Tour arrangements begin at 15:00. Join Julie and fellow travellers and enjoy a quintessential English afternoon tea before an evening at leisure. (T)

 

TUE 21 MAY / LONDON

Today, visit the glorious Chelsea Flower Show, with exclusive members’ access ahead of its opening to the public. Held for over 100 years on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, this prestigious horticultural show exhibits innovative garden designs, rare plants, emerging garden trends and ideas for the home gardener. Wander at your own pace through the award-winning displays and dazzling floral tapestries. The remainder of the afternoon and evening are at leisure. (B)

 

WED 22 MAY / LONDON – ALFRISTON

This morning, depart London for Sissinghurst Castle in Kent. Created in the 1930s by Vita Sackville-West, gardening author and member of the early 20th century Bloomsbury Group, the castle gardens are considered among the most famous in England with its ‘garden rooms’ and use of colour themes in the planting design. Enjoy a talk and explanation of the grounds by Vita’s granddaughter, author Juliet Nicolson, before the gardens’ public opening.

Next, travel to Great Dixter, the former home of garden writer Christopher Lloyd, for a tour by one of the gardeners. A patchwork of perennials, annuals, shrubs and climbers, Great Dixter’s plantings are bold experiments of colour and form. Afterwards, continue to the village of Alfriston. Check in to the hotel, reputed to be one of the country’s oldest inns dating back to the 13th century, with dinner at the hotel. (BD)

 

THU 23 MAY / ALFRISTON

After breakfast, visit Charleston House, home of Bloomsbury artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, for a special private garden tour. Later, wander through Monk’s House, the home and garden of Virginia Woolf. With ornamental blooms, narrow garden paths and views over the Downs, the garden was Woolf’s inspiration for her short story The Orchard.

After lunch at a local pub, return to Alfriston, stopping en route at a small church in Berwick where murals painted by the Bloomsbury artists cover the nave walls and chancel arch. The remainder of the day is at leisure, with the opportunity to take a walk on the Sussex Downs or pay a visit to Alfriston Clergy House. (BL)

 

FRI 24 MAY / ALFRISTON – SALISBURY

Depart Alfriston for Colemore House, an exquisite private garden with woodland walk, arched roses and thatched pavilion. Explore the Norman church next door, which dates from the 12th century.

In the afternoon, visit Upton Grey Manor, a private home with a garden designed by British horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll. With a ‘Wild Garden’ and a ‘Formal Garden’, the gardens are considered the most faithfully-restored of Jekyll’s designs. Continue on to Salisbury and arrive at the hotel, which was originally built to house draughtsmen working on Salisbury Cathedral. Dinner is at the hotel. (BD)

 

SAT 25 MAY / SALISBURY

Enjoy a morning at leisure to discover the sights of Salisbury or amble through the famous Salisbury charter markets.

Later in the day, enjoy a tour of the private Chisenbury Priory garden, with its unusual plants, herbaceous borders and orchard. Then, visit Caen Hill Locks, a spectacular engineering feat along the Kennet and Avon Canal. In the late afternoon, travel to Wudston House, where the formal structures of the garden blur into the perennial meadows beyond. Dinner is at a local pub en route back to Salisbury. (BD)

 

SUN 26 MAY / SALISBURY – BATH

Check out of the hotel and depart for the private garden of Iford Manor. The Italianate garden, created by architect Sir Harold Peto in the early 20th century, is characterised by its structural use of cypresses and terraces, cloister garden and statues. Enjoy a tour of the Peto gardens followed by the private Walled garden, normally closed for the family’s exclusive use.

After lunch, visit Hanham Court Gardens. Previously owned by garden designers Isabel and Julian Bannerman, the traditional English gardens feature Romantic elements of rambling roses, bubbling streams, miniature parkland and wildflower meadows. Of particular note is its stumpery, similar in style to the stumpery created for the Prince of Wales at Highgrove by the Bannermans. Arrive in Bath in the late afternoon. (BL)

 

MON 27 MAY / BATH

Enjoy a day at leisure in the town of Bath, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site with a legacy from the Roman, Regency and Georgian eras. Spend a day exploring its boutique shops and cafés, its plethora of museums or relax in the thermal waters of its Roman baths. (B)

 

TUE 28 MAY / BATH

Today, explore the gardens and estate of Highclere Castle, the filming location of award-winning television series Downton Abbey. Home to the Earls of Carnarvon since the mid-17th century, the sweeping parkland was designed by 18th century landscaper Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, with the grounds containing 250-year-old cedars and several follies, including a Temple of Diana and an Etruscan temple. (B)

 

WED 29 MAY / BATH (MONMOUTHSHIRE)

Today, cross the border into Monmouthshire in Wales. En route, visit the Special Plants Nursery, owned by British garden author Derry Watkins, renowned for its collection of plants from Bulgaria, South Africa and Nepal. Arrive at High Glanau House in Monmouthshire for lunch and a tour of the Arts and Craft-style garden. Designed in the 1920s by Henry Tipping, a former editor of Country Life magazine, the four-hectare garden draws inspiration from the style of Gertrude Jekyll, with spectacular views across the valleys.

Next, travel to the unique and unusual gardens of Veddw House on the Welsh border. With its grass parterre, wave-shaped hedges, and dramatic reflecting pool, the contemporary garden incorporates an interest in the local landscape history and modern ecological gardening practices. (BL)

 

THU 30 MAY / BATH – CHIPPING CAMPDEN

Check out from the hotel and travel north to the town of Barnsley. Stop en route at Tetbury, a historic wool town with medieval cobbled streets and original 16th century merchants’ houses. Arrive in Barnsley for a visit to the garden at The Little House, the first private garden created by renowned British designer Rosemary Verey.

 

Following free time in Bibury, a village once described by William Morris as “the most beautiful village in England”, visit Kingham Hill House, where the geometrical garden designed by Verey features avenues of maple trees, stepped pools and yew hedging. Check in to the hotel in Chipping Campden, and in the evening delight in a Pudding Club dinner, a culinary extravaganza which celebrates the traditional British pudding, officiated by a Pudding Master and featuring a delectable Parade of Puddings. (BD)

 

FRI 31 MAY / CHIPPING CAMPDEN

Begin the day with a tour and talk at Upton Wold, a private garden with undulating landscapes, open vistas and an innovative walnut arboretum. Continue on to the privately-owned Westwell Manor, where an imaginatively-designed garden surrounding the 16th century manor features multiple garden rooms, including the Kitchen Garden, Breakfast Garden and Moon Garden.

Afterwards, enjoy a scenic stop at Bampton Village, the market town used as a setting in Downton Abbey. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant. BD)

SAT 01 JUN / CHIPPING CAMPDEN – OXFORD

This morning, travel to the private cottage garden of a leading British garden journalist for morning tea, before heading to Hidcote Manor Gardens, considered one of the best gardens of the Arts and Crafts movement and a strong influence on the design of many significant gardens, including Sissinghurst Castle (visited earlier in the tour).

Then, explore another Arts and Craft garden at Kiftsgate Court Gardens, the creation of three generations of female gardeners and famous for its Kiftsgate rose, a scented climbing rose claimed to be the largest rose in Britain. Arrive in Oxford in the late afternoon for check-in and dinner at the hotel. (BD)

 

SUN 02 JUN / OXFORD

Spend a morning at leisure in Oxford, a city with architecture and history reaching back to Saxon times, and a rich selection of botanical and college gardens interwoven through the sandstone buildings of the city.

At midday, strike out for a scenic journey across Oxfordshire. Arrive at Waddesdon Manor, a grand French Renaissance château, built for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in the 1870s. Enjoy a tour of the gardens and explore the house at your own pace before partaking in an afternoon tea in the former Servants’ Hall. The evening is at leisure. (BT)

 

MON 03 JUN / OXFORD

In the morning, travel from Oxford to Waterperry Gardens, the previous site of Beatrix Havergal’s Waterperry School of Horticulture for Ladies. A formal knot garden, a waterlily canal and a famous herbaceous border are just a few of the garden’s highlights across its three hectares of ornamental gardens.

Conclude your garden explorations with a visit to a rarely opened private home and garden, which has been described by Britain’s garden writers as the finest garden and restoration in the country. Return to Oxford in the early afternoon for time at leisure.

In the evening, enjoy a cruise on the Thames and a special farewell dinner with Julie and fellow travellers. (BD)

 

TUE 04 JUN / OXFORD – LONDON – DEPART LONDON

Check out from the hotel in the morning and depart Oxford.

For those leaving today, transfer to London Heathrow Airport in time for flights departing from 14:30 (transfer included in tour price).

For those continuing on to London, transfer to central London, arriving at approximately 12:00 (transfer included in tour price). Tour arrangements conclude on arrival at Heathrow Airport or in central London.

Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including post-tour accommodation. (B)

 

 

Natural Landscapes & Gardens of the Channel Islands: Jersey, Guernsey, Herm, Burhou & Sark

Natural Landscapes & Gardens of the Channel Islands: Jersey, Guernsey, Herm, Burhou & Sark

 

**2 rooms remaining**

 

ITINERARY

The following itinerary describes a range of sites which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight & ferry schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches and evening meal, indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch & D=evening meal.

 

St Helier, Jersey – 6 nights

 

Day 1: Friday 24 May, Arrive Jersey

Welcome Meeting
Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer from the airport to the hotel in St Helier on the island of Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at the Pomme d’Or Hotel.

St. Helier stands in St Aubin’s Bay on the southern side of the island and is named after Jersey’s first and most famous saint, a 6th century ascetic hermit who was martyred on the island in c. AD 555. The town is the capital of Jersey and has a population of about 28,000 – roughly one third of Jersey’s total population. While St Helier has a distinctive British atmosphere, the town retains numerous French influences as attested by the many streets that carry old French names and numerous shop fronts still displaying the names of their island founders. In the evening we will gather for a Welcome Meeting before time at leisure for dinner. (Overnight St Helier)

 

Day 2: Saturday 25 May, Jersey

Walk around St Helier: Royal Square, Central Market & Church of St Helier
Eric Young Orchid Foundation
Mont Orgueil Castle, Grouville
Welcome Talk by Tim Liddiard, Natural Environment Officer for the States of Jersey: An introduction to the unique ecology of the Channel Islands
Welcome Dinner

 

Today we begin with a short orientation walk around the cosmopolitan harbour town of St Helier. Our walk includes a visit to the Central Market, where we may purchase ingredients for our picnic lunch. This Victorian covered market includes a stunning array of overflowing flower stalls, fresh fruit and vegetables, cakes, wines and chocolates, dairy products made from the famous Jersey cow, and local specialties including des mèrvelles (small doughnuts), de nièr beurre (apple preserve) and cabbage loaf (bread baked wrapped in cabbage leaves). We visit the Royal Square, where at its centre a stone commemorates the Battle of Jersey, which took place in 1781. We also visit the pink granite Church of St Helier, the largest of the parish churches. The seafront used to come right up to the church, and the square tower served as a useful observation post. The stretch of land between here and the sea was reclaimed from the end of the 18th century for town housing and warehouses.

We then travel by coach to the Eric Young Orchid Foundation. Nestled in the heart of the beautiful parish of Trinity and sitting within its own wonderful landscaped garden, this nursery and display complex houses one of the world’s finest collections of orchids. Jersey orchid breeders are considered amongst the best and this collection has won many awards.

We next turn our attention to a medieval site, Mont Orgueil Castle. This iconic landmark commands a prime position overlooking the picturesque harbour at Gorey and the Royal Bay of Grouville. Blue Badge Guide Sue Hardy will guide our visit here, explaining how construction of the castle was begun in the 13th century after King John lost control of Normandy and how for 600 years Mont Orgueil Castle protected the island against French invasion. Although Elizabeth Castle replaced Mont Orgueil as the island’s premier defence station when it was decided an inland setting was safer to protect, Mont Orgueil remained the island’s secondary defence until it was decommissioned in 1907.

This evening we will have a special lecture by Tim Liddiard, Natural Environment Officer for the States of Jersey, that introduces the unique ecology of the Channel Islands. This will be followed by a welcome dinner at the hotel, where we will enjoy a taste of Jersey’s marvellous local produce. (Overnight St Helier) BD

 

Day 3: Sunday 26 May, Jersey

Le Clos du Chemin, St Peter
Jersey War Tunnels, St Lawrence
Grey Gables, St Brelade
Parish Church and Fishermen’s Chapel of St Brelade’s Bay

This morning we travel to St Peter to visit Le Clos du Chemin, the private garden of Mrs Susan Lea. Colour and texture reign in this garden, set on a hillside overlooking the bay. It features a glorious herbaceous border; a bed filled with plants in shades of silver; around twenty different types of magnolias; and an extraordinary ‘foxglove tree’ that sports vivid violet flowers in the spring.

The five years of German occupation of the Channel Islands during World War II has had a significant impact on islander psyche. This, along with the material legacies left by the German occupation, is now reflected in tourism on the islands. During their occupation the Germans built hundreds of reinforced concrete bunkers and gun emplacements, anti-tank walls and tunnels – all constructed for an invasion that never came. Such was Hitler’s belief that England would try to regain the islands, he sent to the Channel Islands over 20 percent of the material allocated to the so-called ‘Atlantic Wall’ – a line of massive defence works which stretched from the Baltic to the Spanish frontier – to turn them into ‘impregnable fortresses’. Following Germany’s defeat, islanders began the job of decommissioning and destroying this legacy, but now they are recognised as important heritage sites and considerable energy and money has been expended on conserving and interpreting them.

We visit the Jersey War Tunnels, originally constructed as an ammunition store and artillery barracks, but were converted into a casualty clearing station known as Hohlgangsanlage 8 (often abbreviated to Ho8) or the German Underground Hospital. A huge workforce was needed to build the 1-kilometre network of tunnels and this was supplied by the Organisation Todt. More than 5000 slave labourers were brought over to Jersey – Russians, Poles, Frenchmen and Spaniards. Conditions were terrible, although Russian and Ukrainian POWs were treated the worst, with cases of malnutrition, death by exhaustion and disease among them becoming common. Today the site is a museum, which through interactive displays tells the story of the Occupation.

This afternoon we visit the extensive gardens of Grey Gables, located in a peaceful, elevated position above La Haule Hill in St Brelade. Developed by the late Mrs Celia Skinner, the garden consists of a mixture of terraced and formal gardens with large areas of natural wood banks featuring many mature indigenous and specie trees including Australian tree ferns. There is also a well-stocked greenhouse, a herb garden and a vegetable area with fruit trees.

At nearby St Brelade’s Bay we visit the Parish Church and La Chapelle des Pecheurs (locally known as the Fishermen’s Chapel), which occupy the site of an original wooden church built by St Brelade in the 6th century. In the early centuries of Christianity it was common for a community, or a wealthy local family, to fund a chantry chapel. Here a priest could be paid to say prayers to keep the devil at bay and guarantee a path to heaven for the righteous. Originally it was thought that the name derived from the fishing guilds of the island, although it is also possible that pecheurs (‘fishermen’ in French) is a corruption of péchés (‘sinners’). A wooden structure may have existed on this site as the first church, however these churches were often burned down by pagan invaders. While the chapel appears older than the adjacent church, recent archaeological work suggests that it was constructed afterwards, probably during the 12th century. The chapel is built from the same material as was used in the parish church. Limpet shells from the bay were crushed and dissolved with boiling seawater. Until the 19th century, when the military fortifications were built in Jersey, it housed cannon for the local militia. It therefore survived the destruction of chapels at the time of the Reformation. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

Day 4: Monday 27 May, Jersey

La Maison des Près, St Peter
Rozel Valley

We begin today with a visit to La Maison des Près, the private garden of Lord and Lady Brownlow. Its fine selection of trees includes a tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, and a Metasequoia (dawn redwood). A walk through the wildflower meadow allows us to note the lime trees around the border and the different windbreaks. After the informality of the meadow and orchard, there is a complete change as you enter the more formal garden. Here we find a giant Romneya coulteri (Californian tree poppy) and a delightful semi-circular summerhouse leading into Lady Brownlow’s ‘secret garden’, guarded by two actual-size reproductions of the celebrated terracotta warriors which were excavated in Xi’an, China.

We then travel by coach to Rozel Valley. After a light pub lunch we will walk through the grounds of La Ferme, one of the largest dairy farms on the island, and on to the north coast cliff path. From here we will be able to see L’Etacquerel Fort before returning to the coach. (Overnight St Helier) BL

 

Day 5: Tuesday 28 May, Jersey

Wildlife walk with Mike Stentiford: Le Noir Pré Orchid Field
Creux Baillot Cottage Gardens, Leovill, St Ouen
Tour of St Ouen’s Manor Gardens with Ned Malet de Carteret, brother of the current Seigneur
St Matthew’s Church, (Glass Church), Millbrook

The favourable climate of the islands, warmed all year around by the Gulf Stream, ensures that the Channel Islands have dynamic ecosystems, and each provides a sanctuary for a rich variety of flora and fauna. This morning we take an environmental wildlife walk with the ‘Birdman of Jersey’, naturalist Mike Stentiford, who will introduce you to some of Jersey’s abundant flora and fauna. Mike was awarded an MBE in 2000 in recognition of the work he has done in promoting and introducing Jersey’s natural heritage to visitors to the island.

We begin early this morning with a visit to Le Noir Pré Orchid Field, whose meadows fringing St Ouen’s Pond burst into colour at the end of May with over 40,000 blooming orchids. Often known simply as ‘the Orchid Field’, this unique site is one of the last remaining strongholds of the Jersey or loose-flowered Orchid (Orchis laxiflora), which also occurs in Guernsey, but is absent from the rest of the British Isles. In addition, three other species, the southern marsh (Dactylorhiza praetermissa), common spotted and heath spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza maculata), occur at the site. The meadows also contain a wide variety of other plant species, many of which have become increasingly uncommon in Jersey. During May and June, the meadows are a riot of colour, with the stunning deep purple of the Jersey Orchids contrasting with the various shades of pink, through to white, of the remaining species. Other notable wildflowers include the ragged robin, yellow bartsia, parsley water-dropwort, common knapweed, square-stalked St. John’s-wort and tufted vetch. A wide range of insects can also be seen in the meadows, especially butterflies of various species, such as the orange tip, whose caterpillars feed on cuckooflower, and dragonflies, including the spectacular emperor dragonfly. Small mammals such as voles, mice and shrews attract the kestrel, the barn owl and other predatory birds, and the rare marsh harrier can sometimes be observed hunting over the site.

We then visit the private garden of Judith Quérée at Creux Baillot Cottage. Judith and her husband Nigel bought the traditional stone house over 30 years ago. They’ve gradually created a glorious garden, crammed with unusual species of plants that thrive in the mild local climate. There are strange flowers that drip nectar, roses the colour of clotted cream, a burgundy-coloured buddleia and a mysterious mandrake: “Folklore says you should only pull it up at night when the spirit of the plant is asleep,” says Judith. Her garden is divided into different ‘rooms’, with a cool boggy area complete with a rowing boat, and a hot, dry border that attracts scores of butterflies. Hanging from a mature tree are some ropes – a playground for the local red squirrels, which still thrive on the island. This garden is featured in both Hidden Gardens of the Channel Islands and 1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die.

After time for lunch at leisure in Greve de Lecq, we take a guided tour of St Ouen’s Manor Gardens. The traditional home of the Seigneur of St Ouen, and the ancestral home of the de Carteret family since the 11th century, the garden features an ancient colombier (traditional dovecote) and walled garden. The walled garden and landscaped gardens are surrounded by a moat and stream flowing down to a wooded valley. The dramatic entrance arch next to the lodge leads to an avenue of majestic trees with huge trunks of ash, beach and oak above green verges.

Our day finishes with a visit to St Matthew’s Church at Millbrook. While the exterior of this church scarcely merits a second look, its interior is a work of such beauty that even the Germans took care not to damage it during their occupation of the island. Often referred to as the Glass Church, St Matthew’s has wonderful Art Deco glass fixtures and fittings designed in 1934 by René Lalique (1860-1945). The work was commissioned by Florence Boot, Lady Trent, Lalique’s neighbour in the South of France. Lady Trent’s principle residence, however, was in Millbrook on the island of Jersey and the work was commissioned to honour her late husband Jesse Boot, founder of Boots the Chemist. Opalescent panels, a magnificent altar cross, a glass font – perhaps the only one to be found anywhere – the Jersey lily motif, and Art Deco angels make the church one of the Island’s treasures and arguably some of the finest work Lalique ever produced. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

Day 6: Wednesday 29 May, Jersey

The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Introduction to Jersey’s Prehistoric Sites by archaeologist Olga Finch
La Hougue Bie: prehistoric mound and dolmen
La Hougue Bie Museum & the ‘Jersey Hoard
La Pouquelaye de Faldouet, Neolithic Passage Grave

We begin our day with a visit to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, formerly the Jersey Zoo. Located in a 16th-century manor house and surrounded by 32 acres of park and farmland, Jersey Zoo was the realisation of a dream by naturalist and author Gerald Durrell (1925-1995) to create a safe place for his animals. From the outset the Jersey Zoo was dedicated to breeding endangered species to ensure their survival. Many zoologists denounced Gerald’s early efforts at captive breeding but they are now universally acknowledged as an important weapon in the fight to save animals from extinction.

In 1963, Gerald turned his ‘zoo’ into a charitable trust, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, which has established breeding groups of many species of endangered mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians and has pioneered the return of their progeny to the wild. In Jersey, in the 50 plus years of the Zoo/Trust’s operation, it has achieved many major breeding firsts. These include: Alaotran gentle lemurs, Rodrigues and Livingstone’s fruit bats, Rodrigues fodys, Madagascan flat-tailed tortoises, Round Island boas and Montserrat mountain chicken frogs. While most of us think of Gerald Durrell in connection with his best-selling book, My Family and Other Animals, which documented his earliest animal adventures and the antics of his family on the island of Corfu, Durrell’s greatest legacy has undoubtedly been in the field of animal conservation and the Trust he created on Jersey.

Durrell met his second wife, Lee McGeorge Durrell, in 1977 when he lectured at Duke University; she was studying there for a PhD in animal communication. They married in 1979. She co-authored a number of books with him, including The Amateur Naturalist, and became the Honorary Director of the Trust after his death.

This afternoon archaeologist Olga Finch joins us to explain what the various Neolithic sites on Jersey signified to the indigenous population. Jersey became an island at the end of the second Ice Age as the land that once linked it to France was flooded. Neolithic people from the Mediterranean started to move north through France up to the coast of Brittany and eventually settlements appeared around the coast of Jersey. These early settlers brought with them a megalithic tradition of erecting stone monuments, known as dolmens or menhirs. They also introduced ‘passage’ graves, where a narrow entrance and passageway led to a burial chamber providing a focus for spiritual beliefs.

We will have the special opportunity to visit the La Hougue Bie Museum with one of the conservators who has been working on one of the newest and most important discoveries to be made in the Channel Islands – the Grouville Hoard. More commonly known as the ‘Jersey hoard’, this is a collection of over 10,000 Celtic and Roman coins that was found in 2012 by two metal detectorists. Work on the find is ongoing, but at this stage it is believed that the hoard belonged to the Curiosolitae tribe from Brittany, who came to Jersey fleeing the armies of Julius Caesar in approximately 50 BC.

We conclude the program by visiting the 6,000-year-old burial site at La Hougue Bie. This prehistoric mound and dolmen is one of Europe’s finest Neolithic passage graves. Particularly significant at La Hougue Bie is the placement of its entrance; it points directly east and during the Equinox sunlight penetrates the passageway illuminating the chamber deep in the mound. The discovery of the Equinox alignment demonstrates how important this time of year was to this past farming community and how critical cycles of nature were to its survival. (Overnight St Helier) BL

 

St Peter Port, Guernsey – 7 nights

 

Day 7: Thursday 30 May, Jersey – Guernsey

Flight from Jersey to Guernsey
Clematis Greenhouses of Raymond Evison

This morning we depart Jersey and take a flight to Guernsey, where we will be based for the next six days. From 933 AD Guernsey was part of Normandy, forging a link between Britain and France that survives locally on the island in Norman Law, surnames and D’gernésiais, the local language. When in 1066 William of Normandy (‘William the Conqueror’) became King of England, Guernsey was linked to the English Crown. Guernsey remained an English possession after King Philippe Augustus of France took back the mainland of Normandy from King John in 1204. Guernsey prospered particularly from the 18th century when its port became free from British import duties. Wine and brandy were stockpiled here and taken to Britain in small quantities when prices were good. Referred to as ‘Free Trade’, the practice legitimated what was in effect little more than smuggling.

On our arrival at St Peter Port we will check in to our hotel before visiting the greenhouses of renown plantsman Raymond Evison where we shall learn about his extraordinary collection of clematis. Raymond had devoted five decades to breeding and cultivating this exquisite plant. He won the first of his 28 Chelsea Gold medals while still in his early twenties and he has won gold each year from 2003. (Overnight St Peter Port) B

 

Day 8: Friday 31 May, Guernsey

La Petite Vallée, St Peter Port
L’Etiennerie Farm, Castel

Today we visit the private gardens of Mrs Monachan, La Petite Vallée, with a wide range of exotic and traditional planting on terraces and slopes leading down to the sea. Here we will have the chance to explore the seasonal cloisters, herbaceous borders, woodland walk and a tropical area with a number of unusual plants and water flows.

Following lunch at the Fleur du Jardin Hotel, we walk to L’Etiennerie Farm, home of Tim and Eleanor Henderson. This informal country garden features herbaceous borders, a pond, potager, a wild flower meadow and stunning views over the Fauxquets Valley and surrounding countryside. (Overnight St Peter Port) BL

 

Day 9: Saturday 1 June, Day Excursion to Sark

Ferry to and from Sark
Guest talk by Dr Richard Axton on Sark’s prehistoric finds and Sark in the 16th century
Guest talk by the Seneschal of Sark, Jeremy La Trobe-Bateman (subject to confirmation in 2019)
Guided tour of La Seigneurie Garden
Lobster lunch at Hathaways Brasserie
Tour of the island by horse and carriage

This morning we take a 45-minute ferry ride to Sark. The island is only 5 kilometres long and a little over 1.5 kilometres wide, but boasts 64 kilometres of picturesque coastline. Although it has a population of just 600, Sark is a self-governing Crown Dependency and was the last European territory to abolish feudalism in 2008. The Head of Government is the Seigneur, a hereditary position dating back to 1565 and currently held by John Michael Beaumont.

Sark consists of two main parts, Greater Sark and Little Sark to the south: they are connected by a narrow, razor-edged isthmus called La Coupée, which is 90 metres long and has a drop of 100 metres on each side. Two bays flank the isthmus: La Grand Grêve to the west and Convanche Bay, part of Baleine Bay, to the east.

We will be given a talk on two periods of Sark’s history – the Prehistoric era and the 16th century – by Dr Richard Axton. Subject to confirmation, we will also be joined by Jeremy La Trobe-Bateman, the Seneschal of Sark (President of Chief Pleas and Chief Judge), who will explain the history and politics of the island.

We will then visit the gardens of La Seigneurie, the home of the Seigneurs of Sark. With its colourful borders and stone walls, this is one of the finest gardens in the Channel Islands. There is also a potager, a pond, a restored Victorian greenhouse and a recently extended fruit and vegetable garden. The walled garden dates to the mid-19th century, complete with some of its original Victorian lay out. The high walls give protection from the wind and the island’s almost frost-free climate allows many tender and half hardy plants to thrive.

Sark is renowned for its local lobster, and we will partake of this delicacy at a special lunch in the beautiful surrounds of the gardens. We will spend the remainder of our time in Sark visiting sites on Greater Sark. As there are no cars on Sark, our tour of the island will be made the old-fashioned way – by horse and carriage. (Overnight St Peter Port) BL

 

Day 10: Sunday 2 June, Alderney

Flight to Alderney
Boat cruise of the Alderney Ramsar Site: including Burhou Island for puffin watching & viewing of gannet colonies on Les Etacs and Ortac
A guided walk to Fort Tourgis

Today we take a flight to Alderney, the third largest of the Channel Islands, situated at the mouth of the Channel, 11 kilometres due west of Cap de la Hague in Normandy. From Alderney a boat trip takes us on a tour of the Alderney Ramsar Site (1,500 hectares of important wetlands, accredited under the Ramsar convention in 2005) to view the Puffins on Burhou, as well as the impressive gannet colonies on Les Etacs and Ortac and the Atlantic seal colony near Burhou Reef.

Burhou Island is just 2.25 kilometres northwest of Alderney. Despite being only about one kilometre long and half a kilometre wide, Burhou is a bird sanctuary which is home to eleven species of breeding birds. The island is best known for its colony of Atlantic puffins, which may be viewed between March and July. The Atlantic puffin is one of four species of puffin and the only one found in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a member of the auks (Alcidae) family of sea birds which includes guillemots, the razorbill and auklets. Today there are 143 pairs of Burhou puffins, having declined from a total of many thousand birds in the last twenty years. The puffins spend most of the year out in the Atlantic Ocean. They only return to land at the end of March to breed and raise their young. On Burhou the puffins build their nests in old rabbit burrows or on the side of the cliffs. Other nesting birds on Burhou include the oystercatcher, storm petrel, shag, greater and lesser black-backed gull and herring gull.

Les Etacs and Ortac rocks support more than 2 per cent of the world’s gannet population. These colonies are the most southerly within the gannet’s range, with over 6,000 breeding pairs recorded. Gannets feed primarily on fish such as mackerel, sand eels and herring, which they find by diving to depths of up to 20 metres of scavenging along the surface of the sea.

Before returning to Guernsey, we will take the opportunity to visit the charming town of St Anne before taking a guided walk to Fort Tourgis. Fort Tourgis was built in the Victorian era, and although not the largest fort on the island, it is an impressive structure with a fascinating history. (Overnight St Peter Port) BL

 

Day 11: Monday 3 June, Guernsey

Le Vallon, private garden of Major and Mrs A. Philippi
Sausmarez Park (Garden and Folk Museum (optional))
Les Nicolle Prison Garden

This morning we visit Le Vallon, a 10-acre garden surrounded by gentle rolling parkland that is split into a magnificent formal area, a natural wooded area adorned with the English Bluebells dissected with moss pathways and a stream running into a large pond, surrounded by Lysachitum americanum. At the centre of this garden is a walled kitchen garden.

From Le Vallon we transfer to Saumarez Park. The Saumarez family arrived in Guernsey between 1200 and 1254. Since their arrival on the island they have been in and out of its affairs, holding such positions as Bailiff, as well as being Hereditary Seigneurs.

A few parts of the house date from the late 12th or early 13th centuries, but most of it is a result of the many facelifts it has received throughout its history. Major changes were made in Tudor, Queen Anne, Regency and Victorian times but the facade is its most impressive feature: it is considered the finest example of Queen Anne Colonial architecture in Britain. Befitting Saumarez’s house and its rich history is its wonderful sub-tropical garden – possible because of the warm Gulf Stream. As you wander through its winding paths and jungle glades you will see why it has been written up in many publications, including 1001 Gardens to visit Before You Die. Growing here are ginger (Hedechium), giant geraniums and echiums, palm trees in profusion, drifts of bamboo, yams (Collocasia & Alocasia), several types of banana and a variety of tree ferns and camellias, as well as birds of paradise plants, (Strelitzia) Arum and Canna Lillies. We also visit the National Trust Folk Museum. Costumes, implements and artefacts dating from the 17th century to the current day provide a fascinating insight to Guernsey’s heritage in the home, in local industries, farming and fishing.

In the afternoon we visit Les Nicolle Prison Gardens, opened as part of the island’s open garden scheme. “Prisoners are more relaxed generally, not just here but we’ve got full employment in the prison, prisoners are gainfully employed, they’re in purposeful activity, they are learning, they are gaining qualification and they are preparing for release ….. Working outside somewhere like this its a privilege t come into prison and work on a project like this.” Comments David Matthews, Prison Governor. (Overnight St Peter Port) B

 

Day 12: Tuesday 4 June, Excursion to Herm

Ferry to and from Herm
Guided tour of Herm’s award-winning gardens with chief gardener, Brett Moore
Cliff Path Walk of the South Coast
Lunch at the Mermaid Tavern

The Island of Herm is a 20-minute ferry ride from St Peter Port. Like Sark, it has no cars, and visitors tour the island on foot. This tiny island, covering just 550 acres, is a subtropical paradise supporting beautiful gardens laden with native and exotic plants. From spring onwards wildflowers take over the island with violets, red campion, primroses and daffodils lining the coastal cliff paths and carpeting the woodland. The fragrance of Burnet rose drifts across the heathland by June whilst the southern cliffs are sprinkled with sea pinks, rock samphire and heather.

The island rarely suffers from frost and has few native trees, having been cleared for sheep grazing. After the First World War, Sir Compton MacKenzie took over the lease of Herm and set about restoring the gardens. Trees were then introduced by the next resident, Sir Percival Perry, chairman of the Ford Motor Company, who realised that Monterey pines, holm oaks and Monterey cypresses would offer shelter from the prevailing sea winds and allow subtropical plants to flourish. Today, all the displays and gardens on the island are successfully looked after by a head gardener with an assistant, who have won numerous awards for their efforts. This morning we join Herm’s head gardener, Brett Moore, for a private tour during which we will learn about the unique plant life and challenges associated with gardening on Herm.

We will take a walk around the island to explore the beauty of its coastline, and then return to Guernsey. (Overnight St Peter Port) BL

Day 13: Wednesday 5 June, Guernsey
Royal Bank of Canada Garden, Les Cotils
Candie Gardens
Private garden of Mr & Mrs Cummings
Grange Court, St Peter Port
Farewell Dinner
Today we will walk along an ordinance line to visit four very different gardens. The 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold medal-winning Royal Bank of Canada garden has found a permanent home in the grounds of Les Cotils, a not-for-profit hotel and conference centre. Its relocation is in partnership with Floral Guernsey and it forms part of a new floral trail through St Peter Port. Designed by Hugo Bugg, the garden explores the role of water and is divided into three zones – a ‘dry garden’ without irrigation, a water harvesting zone and an edible garden with a seating area.

We then walk through the restored Victorian Candie Gardens that offer the best view across St Peter Port harbour and over to the sister islands of Herm, Sark and Jethou, along with a rare example of a late 19th-century public flower garden. They are home to the oldest known heated glasshouses in the British Isles, which date back to the late 18th century.

We continue our floral trail with a visit to the charming private garden belonging to Mr and Mrs Cummings, and Grange Court – the private gardens of Mr and Mrs Pat Johnson, which featured in the April 2013 edition of The English Garden magazine. Set in the heart of town, Grange Court is a 2-acre garden with a mix of formal and informal styles, containing many exotic and rare plants. A mature private town garden, it is shaded by majestic old trees, including a magnificent copper beech. Features of the garden include the remains of an elegant old stone orangery which forms the backdrop to the rose gardens, and an impressive Victorian ‘cactus’ greenhouse. Mixed shrub and perennial borders provide colour all year round in this immaculately maintained garden.

There will be time to return to the hotel before we head out to a local restaurant to share a farewell dinner. (Overnight St Peter Port) BD

 

Day 14: Thursday 6 June, Depart Guernsey

Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight

Our tour concludes in St Peter Port today. After breakfast, group members taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred to Guernsey Airport. Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay in the Channel Islands. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

Physical Endurance & Practical Information

Physical Rating
The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

 

This 14-day Cultural Garden Tour of the Channel Islands involves:

A moderate amount of walking, often up and down hills and/or flights of stairs, along cobbled streets and uneven terrain, and/or standing, interspersed with coach travel.
Moderate coach travel on minor roads.
Many early-morning departures (between 8.00-8.30am), concluding in the late afternoon (5.30-6.30pm).
A morning birdwatching walk on Jersey.
The use of audio headsets which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.

Other considerations:
3- to 4-star hotels with one hotel change.
You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.
Ferry boat transfers between Guernsey & Sark, Guernsey & Herm and Alderney & Burhou.
Flight transfers between Jersey & Guernsey and Guernsey & Alderney.
It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

 

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers: www.smartraveller.gov.au

 

Plant Identification App

During the tour you may wish to consider using a plant identification app. Prof Tim Entwisle, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, suggests “that for a garden tour of Europe that two apps be considered.

Download Pl@ntNet for free and use its ‘Western Europe’ dataset, then consider investing $1.03 for the Flowerchecker+ app, which gives you three free identifications from an expert then 1USD for any subsequent identification. Pl@ntNet is probably the most useful for someone just curious about a few plants along the way but it won’t help you with all the garden plants that come from outside Europe (although it does have a couple of other datasets – South America, for example – which might be very useful).” For further information see Tim Entwistle’s review at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-11/plant-recognition-apps-no-replacement-for-botanists/8251280

 

Gardens of Italy: The Italian Lakes, the Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria & Rome

Gardens of Italy: The Italian Lakes, the Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria & Rome

 

**3 rooms remaining**

 

ITINERARY

 

The following itinerary describes a range of gardens, villas and palaces which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meal.

 

Moltrasio – 2 nights

 

Day 1: Monday 29 April, Arrive Milan – Transfer to Moltrasio

Introductory meeting
Light (2-course) Dinner, La Cascata restaurant

The ASA ‘designated’ flight is scheduled to arrive at Milan’s Malpensa airport in the morning of 30 April. Those arriving on this flight will be transferred by private coach to Moltrasio. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at the Grand Hotel Imperiale. Private transfers from the airport to the hotel can be arranged for those arriving independently; please contact ASA for further information.

Grand Hotel Imperiale is situated on the shores of Lake Como with panoramic views of the Grigne Mountains. We shall meet in the evening for a brief introduction to the tour, followed by a light dinner at the hotel’s La Cascata restaurant. (Overnight Moltrasio) D

 

Day 2: Tuesday 30 April, Moltrasio – Tremezzo – Bellagio – Moltrasio

Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo
Villa Melzi, Bellagio (optional)
Villa del Balbianello, Bellagio
Welcome Dinner, Imperialino restaurant

This morning we cruise across Lake Como to 18th-century Villa Carlotta, a garden with a huge botanical collection and a traditional Italian formal design, unlike most lake gardens that were heavily influenced by the more fluid layouts of English landscape gardening; it thus has a wide variety of architectural features – parterres, stairways, ponds, fountains, etc. In April and May Villa Carlotta offers a sea of multi-coloured azaleas shaped in high, rounded cushions alongside the garden paths.

During the lunch break there will be some time at leisure to visit Villa Melzi (optional).

This afternoon we visit Villa del Balbianello, an exquisite villa set in woods of pine, soaring cypress and oak with pollarded plane trees and manicured lawns and flowerbeds. Facing the promontory of Serbelloni, from the Lavedo point it boasts unparalleled views down the three branches of the lake. The first villa was built in 1540, but was later moved to a new site inland to protect it from flooding. Cardinal Durini erected a casino with a loggia in 1790, open to the sun and breezes; today it is trellised with Ficus pumila (creeping fig) and flanked by a library and music room.

This evening we meet in the hotel’s Imperialino restaurant for our Welcome Dinner. (Overnight Moltrasio) BD

 

Stresa – 2 nights

 

Day 3: Wednesday 1 May, Moltrasio – Bisuschio – Casalzuigno – Stresa

Villa Cicogna Mozzoni, Bisuschio
Villa Della Porta Bozzolo, Casalzuigno

We depart Moltrasio to visit Villa Cicogna Mozzoni, located on a steep hillside in the village of Bisuschio. Its garden looks out upon sweeping views, with a glimpse of Lake Lugano. Founded in the 15th century, the villa took its present form in the 16th century. The Cicogna family, who inherited it in 1580, still owns this lovely villa. The formal gardens rise on 7 narrow terraces and adjacent to them is a small sunken garden with formal box parterres and patches of lawn. We tour the villa residence, which houses a fine antique collection. Above the villa is a great terrace with Renaissance grottoes offering shade in summer, and a magnificent water stair. Flowing water was an essential feature of Italian formal gardens, offering a cooling spectacle and a lively, burbling sound.

After lunchtime at leisure we visit Villa Della Porta Bozzolo, which is unusual for Lombardy because its measured stately design is laid out upon a steep slope. Parterres, terraces with stone balustrades and grand stairways flanking fountains rise to an octagonal clearing, or theatre, surrounded by a thick ring of cypresses and woods. The perspective rises further to the villa, set to one side in order not to interrupt the silvan view. We continue to our hotel located on the shores of Lake Maggiore. (Overnight Stresa) B

 

Day 4: Thursday 2 May, Stresa – Lake Maggiore – Lake Orta – Stresa

Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore
Isola Madre, Lake Maggiore
Orta San Giulio & Isola San Giulio, Lake Orta

We take the ferry across Lake Maggiore to Count Carlo Borromeo’s Isola Bella (1632), one of Italy’s most extraordinary Baroque gardens. Located on an island off Stresa, it appears to float like a palatial barge, with 10 terraces rising like a ship’s prow from the reflecting waters. It shares the island with the Borromeo palace and its adjacent village.

We also visit Isola Madre, with semi-tropical plantings amongst which white peacocks roam. In 1845, Flaubert wrote, “Isola Madre is the most sensual place that I have ever seen in the world”. It has a fine swamp cypress, citrus fruit trees, crape myrtle, hibiscus, leptospermum and acacias. The landscape woods have groves of native trees – aromatic cypress, bay and pine – interplanted with camphor, pepper trees and styrax. Its pathways are lined with magnolias, camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas.

This afternoon we visit Lake Orta, to the west of Lake Maggiore, a tiny jewel surrounded by hills and mountains acting as a great natural theatre enveloping local towns and villages. The most beautiful of these is Orta San Giulio, whose town hall has a frescoed façade. Its narrow streets are lined with Rococo houses. We take a ferry to Isola San Giulio to visit the 12th-century Romanesque church whose pulpit is one of the outstanding masterpieces of medieval sculpture in northern Italy. (Overnight Stresa) B

 

Turin – 4 nights

 

Day 5: Friday 3 May, Stresa – Poirino – Turin

Tenuta Banna, Poirino (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed)

This morning we make our way south from Stresa to Poirino, 30 kilometres south-east of Turin. After lunch at a local restaurant in Poirino, we make our way to nearby Tenuta Banna. This private estate is owned by Marchese and Marchesa Spinola and is home to the Spinola-Banna Foundation for Art. In the 1990s Paolo Pejrone, leading Italian landscape architect and host of our program on Day 8 of our tour, designed a modern garden around the property’s large farmhouse and adjoining church and castle. He created a series of enclosed gardens ‘organised like a Persian carpet’; they include a secret garden planted with wisterias and peonies, a potager, and a rose garden with an abundance of colour and variety. Following lunch, we will drive to Turin, Italy’s first capital city after unification and home to the House of Savoy. (Overnight Turin) BL

 

Day 6: Saturday 4 May, Turin

Orientation walk of Turin, including guided visits to the Palazzo Reale, Cathedral & Palazzo Madama
Afternoon and evening at leisure

This morning we will enjoy a guided orientation walk of the city’s centre with a local guide. Our walk will include a visit to Turin’s Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace), seat of the House of Savoy (1646-1859) and of Vittorio Emanuele II, King of Italy (1860-1865). This grand palace, a major essay in Italian Baroque and Rococo, has sumptuous decorations and furniture from all periods. We will also visit Turin’s Palazzo Madama, a medieval castle behind a Baroque façade, with a major art collection that includes Antonello da Messina’s Portrait of a Man. This afternoon and evening we will be at leisure to enjoy Turin. (Overnight Turin) B

 

Day 7: Sunday 5 May, Turin – Moncalieri – Turin

Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli
Villa Silvio Pellico – including lunch (exclusive private visit)

Today we visit the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli. Giovanni Agnelli was in 1899 one of the original founders of what became the Fiat motor company. The Agnelli family, ‘the Kennedys of Italy’, are also known for their ownership of Ferrari since 1969 and as majority owners of the Juventus Football Club. Donna Marella Agnelli, of the Italian noble house of Caracciolo, is a renowned style icon, garden designer, author and photographer, as well as art collector. The Pinacoteca, opened in 2002, displays 25 masterpieces from Giovanni and Marella Agnelli’s private art collection. We shall visit the gallery known as the ‘Scrigno’, or ‘treasure chest’, which houses twenty-three paintings and two sculptures, including works by Matisse, Balla, Severini, Modigliani, Tiepolo, Canaletto, Picasso, Renoir, Manet and Canova. The space itself is a work of art, having been designed by Renzo Piano inside Turin’s historic industrial complex of Lingotto. Our specially-arranged tour allows us a visit to the former Fiat test track on the building’s roof. Our viewing of the Agnellis’ remarkable collection is not only an experience in itself, but also a fitting prelude to tomorrow’s visit to the famous gardens of the Agnelli property at Villar Perosa.

Villa Silvio Pellico, a fine Neo-Gothic mansion (1780) with a Russell Page garden, arguably one of his three masterpieces. Page had gained an understanding of the Italian and French formal tradition of gardening from Edith Wharton and Geoffrey Jellicoe. On an ill-kempt hillside in the 1950s he created a fine terraced garden on two axes divided by pools; Page was particularly sensitive to the use of water in gardens. Symmetrical hedges create a series of ‘rooms’ of different designs, using diverse vegetation and ground patterns, as well as sculptures. The present owner, Raimonda Lanza di Trabia, daughter of the last Prince of Trabia (Sicily), and her husband Emanuele Gamna, will host us for lunch. (Overnight Turin) BL

 

Day 8: Monday 6 May, Turin – Villar Perosa – Revello – Moncalieri – Turin

Program hosted by garden designer Paolo Pejrone (Gardens of Casa Agnelli & Bramafam; to be confirmed)
Gardens of Casa Agnelli at Villar Perosa (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed in 2019)
Bramafam, Paolo Pejrone’s private experimental garden (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed)
Private Garden of Silvana and Alberto Peyrani (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed in 2019)

We are particularly privileged today to accompany Paolo Pejrone on two very special garden visits. This morning we visit the exquisite gardens of Casa Agnelli, set on a private estate which has been home to the Agnelli family since the early 1800s. In 1955 Marella Agnelli commissioned Russell Page and together they transformed the gardens. The swimming pool area was designed by renowned architect Gae Aulenti and other parts of the garden were developed by Paolo Pejrone. The grounds offer a range of styles: Italianate formal gardens; a water garden with interconnecting lakes; an English-style woodland walk, a romantic garden, sculpture gardens and more. We are particularly fortunate to have been granted a visit to this most extraordinary of gardens.

Paolo Pejrone will then accompany us on a visit to his own, very private garden, designed not so much for its aesthetics, but rather as a laboratory in which the master is constantly experimenting with new plantings. Set on a steep escarpment near a ruined medieval rampart from which ‘Bramafam’ takes its name, the garden and its owner’s discussions with you will give precious, unique insights into his ideas and practice.

We continue to Moncalieri to visit the private garden designed by Paolo Pejrone for Silvana and Alberto Peyrani. Pejrone surrounded their villa with extensive new gardens, including decorative orchards and a fine potager. We are very grateful that the Peyranis have graciously consented to allow us to explore their private domain. (Overnight Turin) B

 

Lucca – 2 nights

 

Day 9: Tuesday 7 May, Turin – Santa Margherita Ligure – La Cervara – Lucca

Abbey of San Girolamo al Monte di Portofino (La Cervara)
Group Dinner at Gli Orti di Via Elisa Restaurant

We drive southeast along the grand Ligurian coast to the magnificent Abbey of San Girolamo al Monte di Portofino. Located in a strategic position atop a rocky headland that overlooks the Tigullio Gulf, it was founded as a Benedictine monastery in 1361. The monks’ former vegetable garden was transformed into what is now the only monumental Italian formal garden in the Liguria region. It extends over two levels connected by arbors and steps. On the lower level, hedges of boxwood (buxus sempervirens) are trimmed into ornate stepped cones, an important example of topiary art. The hedges surround a 17th-century marble fountain in the form of a putto, whose underlying basin is tinged with pink water lilies in summer.

After visiting this grand garden, we continue to Lucca and check in to the Hotel Ilaria, which occupies the restored stables of the Villa Bottini inside the city walls. In the evening we dine together at Gli Orti di Via Elisa Restaurant located near the hotel. (Overnight Lucca) BD

 

Day 10: Wednesday 8 May, Lucca

Orientation tour of Lucca incl. Cathedral of San Martino, San Michele, San Frediano and the Piazza del Mercato
Palazzo Pfanner
Afternoon at leisure

Italian Opera Evening at the Church of San Giovanni
Lucca is one of the most beautiful of all Italian cities, with city walls graced by grand plantations of trees and one of the finest sets of Romanesque churches in Italy. We visit the Cathedral of St. Martin, with a lovely Jacopo della Quercia tomb. The Church of San Michele has a spectacular façade made up of complex blind galleries with capricious sculptures of beasts. It was built in the ancient forum of the city; Lucca’s medieval street plan follows the original Roman plan. The oval Piazza del Mercato’s medieval palaces were built into the structure of Lucca’s Roman amphitheatre. San Frediano, meanwhile, has a distinctive façade mosaic and a unique baptismal font that was once a medieval fountain.

After lunch we visit the privately owned 17th-century Palazzo Pfanner, where parts of Portrait of a Lady were filmed (1996). The palace’s owner, Dario Pfanner, will introduce his palace and its Baroque garden, a fine example of an urban garden that includes various statues of Olympian deities and a fountain pond. Its elegant lemon house (limonaia) inflects a space defined by boxwood and laurel hedges. Bushes of peonies and hortensias, roses and potted geraniums gain shade from yews, pines, magnolias and an old camellia. Inside, the palace’s piano nobile (main reception room) features Pietro Paolo Scorsini frescoes (c.1720).

The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. You may wish to walk a section of Lucca’s 17th-century city walls, the best preserved in Italy. The Lucchesi planted trees atop these walls to form a promenade enlivened by small gardens and lawns. We attend an evening concert with a selection from Italian operas, including some by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), a native of Lucca, in the Church of San Giovanni. (Overnight Lucca) B

 

Florence – 4 nights

 

Day 11: Thursday 9 May, Lucca – Camigliano – Capannori – San Piero a Sieve – Florence

Villa Torrigiani, Camigliano
Lunch at a Tuscan osteria
Medici Castello del Trebbio, San Piero a Sieve

During the Renaissance, the wealthy merchant families of Tuscany built grand villas on the plains of Lucca. We visit 17th-century Villa Torrigiani, named after the camellia that was introduced to the gardens in the early 18th century. The garden’s Baroque layout, attributed to André Le Nôtre, features symmetrical reflecting pools in front of the villa. Most outstanding is the secret garden (Giardino di Flora), with regular beds, topiary and pools. The garden features 19th-century trees, magnificent magnolias, cypresses and umbrella pines. The 18th-century avenue of cypresses leading to the villa from the village of Borgonuovo reflects the past grandeur of estates in this region.

We eat a traditional Tuscan lunch at nearby osteria before continuing our journey eastward toward Castello il Trebbio in San Piero a Sieve.

“Set on a hilltop in the Apennines north of Florence, a few kilometres west of San Piero a Sieve, Castello del Trebbio is one of the oldest villas built by the Medici, who came from the Mugello and chose their native region for their first villas. The head of the Medici clan, Giovanni di Bicci, owned the property from the late 14th century, and upon his death in 1428, the villa was inherited by Cosimo the Elder, who commissioned Michelozzo di Bartolomeo to rebuild the original castle.

Set in an excellent strategic position, dominating the Sieve Valley below and near a cross roads (Trebbio derives from the Latin trivium), the castle was surrounded by woods and a huge estate which bordered on the Cafaggiolo property. Although Vasari suggests otherwise, Trebbio was the first of the Mugello castles to be rebuilt by Michelozzo. Immediately after 1428, the building work began, incorporating the existing watchtower into a solid, compact defensive construction surrounded by a moat and drawbridge. The defensive role was necessary on account of the castle’s position, however novel features were also introduced to satisfy the requirements of the patron.

The walled garden set on two terraces to the right is noteworthy as it was among the first of its kind to be designed for a villa. The upper terrace of the well-preserved garden, a veritable hortus conclusus, is decorated with a long pergola made up of a double row of columns and sandstone capitals in various styles (ionic and decorated with foliage motifs), which support a thick covering of vines. As can be seen in the lunette painted by Giusto Utens between 1599 and 1602, there was a second pergola (now lost) on the lower terrace, which retains the original layout of a vegetable garden with a pond, as well as planting designed by Michelozzo to satisfy not only defensive requirements, but also Cosimo’s spiritual desire for a contemplative life.” (The Medici Villas: Complete Guide by Isabella Lapi Ballerini & Mario Scalini).

In the late afternoon we arrive at our hotel in central Florence. (Overnight Florence) BL

 

Day 12: Friday 10 May, Florence – Fiesole – Florence

Villa Medici in Fiesole
Villa Le Balze (to be confirmed)
Lunch at Fattoria di Maiano
Villa di Maiano & Gardens

Unlike the grand villa gardens we have visited near Lucca, Florence and its vicinity have a number of small intimate urban gardens that we visit today. Many of these offer glimpses of the city, a counterpart to the spectacular views afforded by their grander Florentine counterparts. Such views offer a reminder that Florentine villas were seen as retreats from this metropolitan powerhouse. We make an early morning visit to elegant Fiesole in the hills overlooking Florence where Boccaccio set his Decameron, model for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; Boccaccio’s protagonists told stories to while away their days in a Fiesole villa in which they had escaped from the plague ravaging Florence. Our first visit is to the garden of 16th-century Villa Medici in Fiesole. The garden, showing Cecil Pinsent’s influence, is divided into three terraces with a limonaia. We shall then walk to neighbouring Villa Le Balze. Now a University of Georgetown study centre, it has a small formal garden and olive grove designed by Englishman Cecil Pinsent, with breathtaking views over Florence.

After some time to explore Fiesole’s town centre at leisure, we transfer a short distance by coach to nearby Fattoria di Maiano, where we shall partake in a a Tuscan lunch together. The Fattoria is the organic farm and olive grove of Villa di Maiano; here we shall indulge in local specialties such as cheeses, cold cuts, and risotto al Chianti.

The Villa di Maiano can count Queen Victoria among its guests; it has also provided the set for numerous films, including James Ivory’s A Room with a View and Franco Zeffirelli’s Tea with Mussolini. Among the villa’s past owners are members of the famous Sforza and Pazzi families. However, it was wealthy Englishman Sir John Temple Leader who, after acquiring the property in 1844, renovated the villa, its gardens and the surrounding structures. We’ll take a guided tour of the Villa, including a special visit to the first floor, and the Gardens. (Overnight Florence) BL

 

Day 13: Saturday 11 May, Florence

Palazzo Corsini al Prato: Visits to the garden & palazzo; Refreshments
Afternoon at leisure

Today we visit two contrasting palazzi and discover more about the way in which urban Florentines lived. We begin our day with a visit to to the Giardino Corsini al Prato, a Florentine urban garden that illustrates the deep connection between nature, science and beauty in the Renaissance sensibility. Alessandro Acciaioli, a passionate 16th-century botanist, conceived the garden. Unable to finish his residence, he was forced to sell the property to Filippo di Lorenzo Corsini, who completed the Italian garden that remains unchanged to this day. Completely concealed from the street by the façade of the palazzo, this urban garden reveals pink and red rock roses, peonies, cherry trees and lavender along with elegant lemon urns and a central axis of solemn marble statues. After our tour of the gardens, Princess Giorgiana Corsini has kindly arranged for us a tour of her palace, followed by refreshments.

The afternoon is at leisure to explore Florence’s many monuments and museums. (Overnight Florence) B

 

Day 14: Sunday 12 May, Florence

Chapel of the Magi, Palazzo Medici Riccardi
Museo di San Marco
Afternoon at leisure

We depart from the hotel on foot and make a visit to the Palazzo Medici Riccardi to view Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes of the Procession of the Magi in the small Magi Chapel. The sumptuous procession, which includes representations of Medici family members, is set in an ideal Tuscan landscape, which forms a fascinating comparison to the gardens we visit and countryside through which we drive.

Our next visit is to the monastery of San Marco, where Dominican monks contemplated the faith in images by Fra Angelico. Here, Cosimo de’Medici had his own cell for religious retreats, and commissioned Michelozzo to design the monks’ cloister and the reading library for his manuscripts. The monastery holds numerous artistic treasures, including a Last Supper by Ghirlandaio in the refectory, and Fra Angelico’s famous Annunciation.

We have another afternoon at leisure to enjoy Florence. (Overnight Florence) B

 

Siena – 2 nights

 

Day 15: Monday 13 May, Florence – Settignano – Pianella – Siena

Villa Gamberaia, Settignano
Villa di Geggiano, Pianella – including buffet lunch (exclusive private visit)

We drive to Siena via two famous Tuscan villas. At Settignano we visit the Villa Gamberaia, with arguably the most famous of Florentine villa gardens. The Capponi family initiated the present garden in 1718. In 1896, Princess Ghika of Serbia created the main water parterres in front of the villa. The Marchi family has recently restored the garden. It features magnificent topiary, two fine grottoes, and wonderful old cypresses and pines. By special arrangement, we also tour the interiors of the villa which combines interesting architectural features of both an urban palazzo and suburban villa.

This afternoon we cross to the opposite side of the Sienese hills to the enchanting Villa Geggiano. Here, centuries-old cypress, potted lemons and clipped box hedges adorn a garden boasting a unique ‘greenery theatre’, late Baroque sculptures, a kitchen garden with topiary art and a semi-circular fishpond that forms an elegant terrace overlooking Siena. The villa itself contains original 13th-century furnishings. A small chapel faces the garden. Lunch features crostini with porcini mushrooms and truffles, pasta, various locally cured meats and Pecorino cheeses, followed by plum jam tart, all washed down with Villa di Geggiano Chianti Classico, mineral water and coffee.

In the afternoon we continue to our hotel on the outskirts of Siena, a villa surrounded by gardens. (Overnight Siena) BL

 

Day 16: Tuesday 14 May, Siena

Orientation tour of Siena, including Palazzo Pubblico, Cathedral & Museum
Afternoon at leisure

Siena is the quintessential medieval city. We explore Lorenzetti’s fascinating paintings of Good and Bad Government in the Civic Museum, located in the Palazzo Pubblico, and Duccio’s masterpiece, the Maestà, in the Cathedral Museum. We examine Nicola and Giovanni Pisano’s great pulpit in Siena Cathedral. We also visit medieval quarters (contrade) dominated by palaces still occupied by the families who built them. The contrade compete in the famous palio horse race twice a year. Protected by the Virgin Mary, Siena is a city of Trinitarian symbolism. Built on three ridges, it has three major sectors (terzi) that each elected three members of the city council, and interpreted its very architectural fabric in such symbolic terms. The afternoon is at leisure to explore Siena’s many monuments and museums. (Overnight Siena) B

 

Perugia – 1 night

 

Day 17: Wednesday 15 May, Siena – Chianciano Terme – Castel del Piano Umbro – Perugia

Villa La Foce, Chianciano Terme (by special appointment; to be confirmed)
Private gardens of Villa Aureli, Castel del Piano Umbro
Orientation Walk, Perugia, including Cathedral & Fontana Maggiore

We drive south to the Renaissance Villa La Foce, home of Iris Origo, author of the famous Merchant of Prato. Origo’s two autobiographies, Images and Shadows and War in Val d’Orcia, vividly describe life on the estate in the mid-20th century. La Foce overlooks the Orcia valley and Amiata Mountains, maintaining a distinctive harmony between its spectacular landscape setting and the formal style of surrounding gardens. Terraces with cherries, pines, cypress and wild herbs gently climb its hillside setting. Now a centre for cultural and artistic activities, it hosts the distinguished Incontri chamber annual summer music festival in the Castelluccio, a medieval castle on the property.

Count Sperello di Serego Alighieri, a descendent of Dante, will host us for a light lunch and show us his lovely Villa Aureli. Shaded by lime trees and oaks and decorated with many late antique vases containing citrus trees, the villa dates to the middle of the 18th century, when a Perugian nobleman and artist, Count Sperello Aureli, transformed a 16th-century tower into his country residence. Of particular note is the orangery, whose high roof is reminiscent of the hull of an upturned ship.

We continue to Perugia for a gentle orientation walk to include its Cathedral and Fontana Maggiore. We spend the night in the luxury Hotel Brufani Palace, located on a hilltop within Perugia’s historic core. (Overnight Perugia) BL

 

Viterbo – 1 night

 

Day 18: Thursday 16 May, Perugia – Bagnaia – Viterbo

Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, Perugia
Villa Lante, Bagnaia

We begin by viewing masterpieces, including works by Perugino, in the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria before departing Perugia to visit the great Villa Lante and its garden. Villa Lante is the consummate example of Italian Mannerist garden design. Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola’s exemplary essay in fine scale and proportion centres on a fountain and water parterre. Vignola was influenced by the Vatican gardens, the Villa d’Este, Hadrian’s marine theatre and the Boboli Gardens (Florence). Its theme, humanity’s descent from the Golden Age, is based upon Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Water flows from the Grotto of the Deluge at the summit down a stepped cascade and through a channel at the centre of a vast stone table used for banquets, inspired by Pliny’s description of an imperial garden table using water to cool wine and fruit. In the late afternoon, we drive a short distance to our hotel located in the countryside outside Viterbo. (Overnight Viterbo) BD

 

Rome – 4 nights

 

Day 19: Friday 17 May, Viterbo – Calcata – Vignanello – Rome

Gardens of Paolo Portoghesi, Calcata (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed)
Castello Ruspoli, Vignanello

This morning we visit the private garden of distinguished architect and scholar Paolo Portoghesi. The garden reinterprets Baroque elements and Borrominian forms, and fuses geometry with nature to produce a garden which is both spectacularly modern and at the same time, reverent toward the traditions upon which it draws.

Castello Ruspoli occupies the site of a mid-9th century Benedictine convent later converted to a military stronghold. Ortensia Baglioni transformed it into a villa, designed by the great architects Sangallo and Vignola, and succeeding generations created one of Italy’s most beautiful parterres, composed of hedges of bay, laurel and box, which articulate a vast rectangular space. The Princess Ruspoli today maintains the gardens. (Overnight Rome) B

 

Day 20: Saturday 18 May, Rome – Ninfa – Cisterna – Rome

Giardini di Ninfa
Private Gardens of Torrecchia Vecchia (to be confirmed)

We depart this morning at approximately 8.00am for the Giardini di Ninfa. The magnificent gardens of Ninfa, south of Rome, are some of the most remarkable in all of Italy. Today, their gates will open for a special private visit for our group. The town of Ninfa is but a memory of a once prosperous medieval commune owned by the Caetani family since the mid-13th century. In the early 20th century the family began to regenerate its ruins, taking advantage of a microclimate greened by rich spring water. Thousands of species were introduced from all over the world under the guidance of botanical experts. Lelia Caetani, the last of her ancient family, died in 1977 and bequeathed her property to the Foundation Caetani that maintains the wonderfully atmospheric gardens. Today plants weave themselves over ruined towers, ancient archways and churches, while ducks and swans glide on the castle’s moat. Highlights include a walled garden, small orchard and diverse plantings in which roses, banana trees and maples thrive together in this unique and beautiful landscape.

Nearby, we enjoy a picnic lunch and visit the dreamy gardens of Torrecchia, one of Italy’s most beautiful private gardens. Nestled against the crumbling ruins of a medieval village and castle, perched on a volcanic hilltop just south of Rome, they command spectacular views of the unspoilt 1500-acre estate. Owned by Carlo Caracciolo (the late owner of the Italian newspaper L’Espresso) and Violante Visconti, the gardens were originally designed by Lauro Marchetti, the current curator of the Giardini di Ninfa, and further developed by the English garden designer Dan Pearson and later by Stuart Barfoot. (Overnight Rome) BL

 

Day 21: Sunday 19 May, Rome – Tivoli – Rome

Villa d’Este, Tivoli
Group Lunch at Ristorante Sibilla, Tivoli
Time at leisure in Rome

Set among the hanging cliffs of the Valle Gaudente, the Villa d’Este and its surrounding gardens and waterworks has undergone a series of innovative extensions in layout and decoration, including those of Bernini in the late 17th century. This UNESCO world heritage site boasts an impressive concentration of nymphaea, grottoes and fountains, including the famous hydraulic Organ Fountain that still operates. The Villa d’Este’s use of water and music became the definitive model for Mannerist and Baroque gardens across Europe.

We remain in the town of Tivoli for lunch at Ristorante Sibilla, a famous restaurant specialising in regional dishes. Marble plaques on the walls list the members of royalty and other famous people who have come here to dine for more than 250 years. After lunch, we return to Rome to enjoy time at leisure. (Overnight Rome) BL

 

Day 22: Monday 20 May, Rome – Castel Giuliano – Ladispoli – Rome

Palazzo Patrizi, Castel Giuliano (exclusive private visit)
Farewell Lunch at The Cesar Restaurant, La Posta Vecchia Hotel, home of the late J. Paul Getty (to be confirmed)

The estate of Castel Giuliano, surrounded by a beautiful century-old park, occupies the site of an Etruscan and Roman settlement at the foot of the Tolfa Mountains. The Patrizi family has owned it since 1546 and its present owners have restored its ancient buildings and park to their former splendour. On its wide, gently sloping turf terraces, pines, cluster oaks, and century-old Lebanon cedars tower above sweet-scented herbs and flower-laden bushes, contrasting unruly nature with human interventions. The park has numerous Etruscan tombs and ruins of Roman walls covered in ferns and lichen. Truly unique, it is one of Italy’s most important private rose gardens; in May it hosts the famous ‘Festival of the Roses’. Climbing roses soften the austere lines of the ancient castle walls, which are surrounded by combinations of shrubbery and foxglove, myrtle and pale blue ceanothus.

We finish our tour with a special dining experience at The Cesar restaurant. With a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean, The Cesar is the restaurant of luxury hotel La Posta Vecchia. The dishes, designed by renowned chef Antonio Magliulo, are traditional Italian style with a contemporary twist. They are prepared with fresh local ingredients, including produce from the property’s organic garden. The opulent villa, which houses the hotel, is richly furnished, decorated with precious artwork and surrounded by manicured gardens. It was bought by J. Paul Getty in the 1960s and sumptuously restored. Built in the 17th century to house visitors to the neighbouring Odescalchi Castle, the villa remained in a state of disrepair for decades until Getty purchased it and restored it to its former glory. During excavations for a swimming pool, the foundations of an ancient Roman villa – said to be the weekend retreat of Julius Caesar – were discovered, and Getty spared no expense in preserving the remains. On the lower level of the villa is a museum in which the mosaic floors, walls, pottery and first-century artefacts are on display. We take a stroll around this extraordinary property and say our farewells as we return to Rome. (Overnight Rome) BL

 

Day 23: Tuesday 21 May, Depart Rome

Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
The tour ends in Rome. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport to take their flight home to Australia. Alternatively, you may wish to extend your stay in Italy. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

 

Physical Endurance & Practical Information

Physical Rating

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

 

This 23-day Cultural Garden Tour of Italy involves:

Moderate walking and standing during site visits; walking tours may include steep slopes, flights of stairs, cobbled streets, visits to hill-top towns and uneven ground during garden visits.
Moderate travel by air-conditioned coach.
Visiting a range of towns and villages on foot, walks uphill from bus parks to historic town centres and other sites
The use of audio headsets which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.
3- to 5-star hotels with eight hotel changes.
You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.
Excursions by ferry in the northern Italian Lakes District.
It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers: www.smartraveller.gov.au

Let’s Visit Spain and Morocco

Let’s Visit Spain and Morocco with Kim Woods Rabbidge

 

Itinerary

 

Day 1 Mon 16 April Arrive Barcelona

Arrive at Barcelona, group transfer to your hotel in the heart of the city (Individual transfers can be arranged on request). The remainder of the day is at leisure.

 

Day 2 Tue 17 April Barcelona

Day excursion in Costa Brava. We explore the terraced, botanical gardens of Cap Roig, extending from the castle to the sea. On the way back, in Lloret de Mar, we visit Santa Clotilde Garden perched on a cliff-top. (B)

 

Day 3 Wed 18 April Barcelona

Enjoy a city tour in Barcelona visiting Gaudi’s amazing Sagrada Familia & the Palau de la Música Catalana. Evening is at leisure. (B)

 

Day 4 Thu 19 April Barcelona-Casablanca-Marrakech

Leave Barcelona this morning on a flight to Casablanca, Morocco. After traveling by air-conditioned coach to Marrakech, our next form of transport will be calèches (horse-drawn carriages) to Marjorelle Gardens where vivid colours contrast with the villa’s bright blue façade. As dusk falls wander through Djemma El Fna square amongst jugglers, story-tellers, snake charmers and acrobats performing beneath the magnificent, illuminated backdrop of the Koutoubia Mosque. (B, D)

 

Day 5 Fri 20 April Marrakech

Morning tour to the Bahia Palace, the Menara Gardens, the Medrasa and souks (market). The Menara gardens, with a backdrop of the ancient Atlas Mountains, were built in the 12th century by the Almohad ruler Abd al-Mu’min. Lunch at Terrasses d’Epices in the heart of the Medina.

After evening drinks at the famous Mamounia Hotel enjoy a lavish Moroccan feast at the renowned Yacout restaurant. (B, L, D)

 

Day 6 Sat 21 April Marrakech-Ourika Valley-Marrakech

Sip refreshing mint tea in the herbal gardens of Ourika Valley. After lunch return to Marrakech via the Saffron Gardens where you’ll discover the processes of saffron production. Be tempted with herbal teas and Moroccan pastries. (B, L, D)

 

Day 7 Sun 22 April Marrakech-Beni Mellal-Fes

Travel to Fez through the Atlas Mountains, lunch on route in Beni Mellal. We’ll pass Berber villages of Imouzer and Ifrane, and arrive in Fes late afternoon. (B, L, D)

 

Day 8 Mon 23 April Fes

Rich in traditional culture, we’ll explore the UNESCO world-heritage listed medinas of Fes, the oldest of Morocco’s Imperial cities, and the country’s symbolic heart. Visit new town, Fes J’did, the old Kasbah des Cherarda, the souqs, the Royal Palace and the Blue Gate.

Lunch at a local restaurant before visiting the famous cobalt blue pottery of Fes and we also learn about colourful, tribal Moroccan carpets. (B, L, D)

 

Day 9 Tue 24 April Fes-Tangier

On route to Tangier we stop at Volubilis, the largest and best preserved Roman ruins in Morocco. Then onto the magnificent Imperial City Meknes where we’ll lunch before continuing to Tangier. (B, L, D)

 

Day 10 Wed 25 April Tangier

This morning learn about this fascinating port city with special visits to the American Legation Museum, followed by lunch at a local restaurant.

You’re free this afternoon to wander into the Kasbah where Betty Hutton (Woolworths Heiress) lived, and soak up the history and exotic tales associated with the Continental Hotel. (B, L, D)

 

Day 11 Thu 26 April Tangier-Algeciras-Ronda

After breakfast we transfer to Tangier Med port. We’ll take a ferry across the Gibraltar Strait entering Spain, through Algeciras Port. Our coach will be waiting to take us to Ronda, where we spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the atmosphere of this captivating town. (B)

 

Day 12 Fri 27 April Ronda-Granada

This morning we’ll be escorted through Rhonda. We’ll visit the Puente Nuevo, Bullring Square, Casa del Rey Moro and Palacio del Marqués de Salvatierra.

On route to Granada, we’ll visit the beautiful, historical Jardín Botánico de la Concepción in Málaga. (B, D)

 

Day 13 Sat 28 April Granada

With our guide, this morning we’ll explore the world famous Alhambra, described by Moorish poets as ‘a pearl set in emeralds’, and the more recent gardens of the Generalife. Afterwards, we’ll relax over lunch in a local restaurant, then enjoy a leisurely afternoon. (B, L)

 

Day 14 Sun 29 April Granada-Seville

Today we visit Corral del Carbón, then the Royal Chapel of Granada and adjacent Cathedral. After lunch, we’ll depart for Sevilla, where you can either relax, wander, or shop. (B, L)

 

Day 15 Mon 30 April Seville

Walking shoes on for a visit to the Cathedral, and gardens surrounding Alcázar, of Seville, developed by Moorish Muslim kings, and still used as a residence of Spain’s Royal family.

Afterwards, we’ll lunch in a local restaurant. Evening at leisure. (B, L)

 

Day 16 Tue 01 May Seville

Today we take a panoramic tour in Seville: Torre del Oro, Real Maestranza, Expo del 92, Expo del 29, Plaza de España y Parque de María Luisa. Evening is at leisure. (B)

 

Day 17 Wed 02 May Seville-Cordoba

Depart by coach to Cordoba. Enjoy a walking tour of the Patios of the Zona Alcazar Viejo, San Basilio District of Córdoba, including entrance to the Cathedral (former mosque). Evening at leisure. (B, D)

 

Day 18 Thu 03 May Cordoba

Today we will visit the Synagogue, Great Mosque, Alcázar of Córdoba Gardens, Palacio de Viana and Córdoba Patios. Afternoon at leisure. (B)

 

Day 19 Fri 04 May Cordoba-Madrid

Transfer to the train station for the high speed train to Madrid. Check in to your hotel located in the heart of the old city. The reminder of the day at leisure. (B)

 

Day 20 Sat 05 May Madrid-Segovia-Madrid

A full day excursion to UNESCO World Heritage Segovia, a city that demonstrates Roman architectural mastery. Visit the famous Alcázar and La Granja de San Ildefonso to see the baroque palace that was built for Philip V. of Spain and set in gardens in the French formal style with fountains. (B)

 

Day 21 Sun 06 May Madrid

Enjoy a full day city tour in Madrid and visit to the Prado Museum before our farewell dinner. (B, D)

 

Day 22 Mon 07 May Depart Madrid

After breakfast, group transfer to airport (Individual transfers can be arranged on request). (B)

 

Sardinia & Sicily: Hidden Gardens, Classical Ruins & Vibrant Culture

Garden Tour – Sardinia & Sicily: Hidden Gardens, Classical Ruins & Vibrant Culture

 

Hidden Gardens, Classical Ruins and Vibrant Culture

 

TOUR ITINERARY:

Day 1 Tue 08 May Arrive Naples
Mediterranean pines and the volcano Mount Vesuvius are the iconic landmarks of Naples – the city with a terrific history, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Check in to the hotel before our welcome dinner. (D)

 

Day 2 Wed 09 May Caserta
The Royal Palace of Caserta, erected during the 18th century, is the largest royal residence in the world. You will discover this monumental complex created by the Bourbon King Charles III in the mid-18th century to rival Versailles and the Royal Palace in Madrid. Afterwards, you will be transferred to Naples airport for your flight to Palermo. (B, L)

 

Day 3 Thu 10 May Palermo
In the morning you will take a walking tour through the charming city of Palermo, including the traditional street markets and in the afternoon discover the beautiful Villa Tasca. After the visit continue to Monreale to visit the cathedral and the garden. (B, L)

 

Day 4 Fri 11May Bagheria and Palermo
Today you will have the privilege to visit one of the most charming Villas of Bagheria, and meet its owner: the Princess Vittoria Alliata di Villafranca e Valguarnera. Journalist, writer and the only Italian translator of J.R. Tolkien, she will open the doors of her house and garden, Villa Valguarnera, for an exclusive tour and lunch. In the afternoon, the Director of the Botanical Garden of Palermo will take you on a private tour of this urban oasis. To conclude the day, you will visit the Palazzo Alliata di Pietratagliata, a prestigious gothic building erected around the second half of the fifteenth Century. (B, L)

 

Day 5 Sat 12 May Palermo and Agrigento
In the morning you will meet with Massimiliano Marafon Pecoraro, Researcher in the Department of Historic and Artistic Studies at the University of Palermo who will show you the secrets behind one of the most striking buildings of Palermo: the Palazzina Cinese (The Chinese Palace). Afternoon transfer to Agrigento. (B)

 

Day 6 Sun 13 May Agrigento and Ragusa
Today, visit one of the most outstanding examples of Greater Greece art and architecture: the Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples). Included in the UNESCO Heritage Site list, the area is the largest archaeological site in the world with its 1,300 hectares. The Valley includes remains of seven temples, all in Doric style, including the Temples of Concordia, Hera and Zeus. After visiting the Greek temples you can enjoy a moment of relaxation, or a stroll along the ruins of a historic garden from 500 B.C.: the Giardino della Kolymbetra. (B, L)

 

Day 7 Mon 14 May Ragusa and Modica
Today’s walking tour will explore two symbols of the Sicilian Baroque: Ragusa and Modica. The next stop will be Modica, a small gem that lies nestled in a deep valley.(B)

 

Day 8 Tue 15 May Taormina
This morning we enjoy a walking tour of the Florence Trevelyan garden. This unique garden is the second biggest tourist attraction in Taormina. After the morning walk you will visit some of the most characteristics monuments of the town, including the Greek-Roman amphitheatre, you will have free time to enjoy the atmosphere of this Sicily’s most famous touristic destinations. The rest of the day is free. (B)

 

Day 9 Wed 16 May Siracusa
This morning you will say farewell to Taormina and travel to Siracusa. En route, visit to Villa San Giuliano and lunch. (B, L)

 

Day 10 Thu 17 May Siracusa
The day will start with a visit to the island of Ortigia, the historical heart of Siracusa. The tight lanes are pleasant for strolling, so you will wander down narrow medieval lanes, Baroque palaces and churches. In the afternoon you will visit the Neapolis Archeological Park which includes the Greek theatre, and the Roman amphitheatre. Afternoon is at your leisure. (B)

 

Day 11 Fri 18 May Catania-Cagliari
It’s time to say goodbye to Sicily and fly to Sardinia. You will land in Cagliari, the main city of the island. You will be met on arrival and transported to the hotel, to relax and freshen up. (B, D)

 

Day 12 Sat 19 May Cagliari
During this walking tour around the old town of Cagliari we will evoke the crucial events that took place in the most important city of Sardinia. In the afternoon the Landscape Architect Maurizio Usai will wait for you in his own private garden, La Pietra Rossa. He will guide you in an exclusive tour of his garden that he started to create when he was 17 years old. Extremely passionate about roses, his private collection counts over 250 varieties. (B)

 

Day 13 Sun 20 May Barumini-Oristano-Bosa
In the morning you will leave Cagliari and travel north-west to Bosa. A first stop will be the prehistoric archaeological site of ‘Su Nuraxi’. A second stop will be the nursery ‘I campi’ in Milis, specialized in drought tolerant plants and gardens. Continue to Oristano and Bosa. (B, L)

 

Day 14 Mon 21 May Alghero
Alghero is one of Sardinia’s most beautiful medieval cities: with its animated historic centre is a terrific place to hang out. In the afternoon you will visit the Neptune’s Grotto. Within the grotto, tourists can visit a 120-metre-long saltwater lake. (B)

 

Day 15 Tue 22 May Stintino and Asinara Isand
Fine, white sand, breathtaking panoramas, waters that range from hues of azure to turquoise, and one of the most beautiful seascapes of the entire Mediterranean: welcome to Stintino, renowned touristic destination on Sardinia’s north-western extremity. It started out as a fishermen’s village, when the Island of Asinara was made a penal colony. Isolated for almost a century, it has become an oasis of rare and sometimes-almost-extinct species of plants and animals, such as the white albino donkey. (B)

 

Day 16 Wed 23 May Telti
Today you will have the pleasure to meet again the Landscape Architect Maurizio Usai who will guide you through a beautiful private garden: Il giardino dei Fontanili. After lunch and a visit to the small town Tempio, you will continue to Olbia, where you can finally relax after a hectic few days of sightseeing. (B, L)

 

Day 17 Thu 24 May Olbia
In the morning you will take a walking tour for discovering every hidden corner of this old town, including the oldest Romanic church in Sardinia (San Simplicio) and the Archaeologic Museum where you will learn about the early Greek foundation of Olbia. In the afternoon you will meet again with the Landscape Architect Maurizio Usai who will take you for a private and exclusive tour of Villa Certosa, a 168-acre estate formerly owned by the ex-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Farewell dinner tonight. (B, D)

 

Day 18 Fri 25 May Depart Olbia
Your tour ends after breakfast. (B)

 

Autumn Country Gardens of NSW with Julie Kinney

Autumn Country Gardens of NSW – Southern Highlands and Blue Mountains with Julie Kinney

 

Amble through some of Australia’s most beautiful gardens, where English design finds a home in the Australian landscape, as Autumn’s brush paints the leaves gold and crimson.

In the Southern Highlands, visit grand, cool-climate gardens, including the unique Red Cow Farm (‘a garden for all seasons’) and explore a selection of private gardens in this delightful region famous for its flower shows and kaleidoscope of autumnal colour. After a day in the gardens of Crookwell, continue to the city of Orange for a peek at some of the picturesque gardens of the Central West. Then ascend to the Blue Mountains where the spectacular gardens of Mayfield, Mount Wilson and the Everglades display all the blazing glory of the Autumn season.

 

AT A GLANCE:

• Spend three nights at the Hydro-Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains, a beautiful Art Deco building originally used as a hydropathic health spa

• Discover the private gardens of the Southern Highlands, from Wildes Meadow to Bundanoon, Bowral, Mittagong and Berrima

• Explore the Everglades, designed by Danish-born landscape gardener Paul Sorensen, and spend a day in the picturesque 19th century gardens of Mount Wilson

• Travel to Orange via Crookwell, and experience the hospitality of the best local gardeners, where each garden displays the personality of its owner

• Explore the 2.5 hectare Red Cow Farm, comprising some 20 different garden ‘rooms’ created around a simple 1820s cottage

• Wander through Mayfield Garden, a 64 hectare landscape garden set in the middle of a 2,000 hectare cattle farm

 

ITINERARY

MONDAY 23 APRIL 2018 / SYDNEY – BOWRAL

Meet Julie and fellow travellers at the Ibis Hotel Darling Harbour, 70 Murray Street, Pyrmont, Sydney at 10:00. (Pre-tour accommodation available at this hotel.)

Strike out for the Southern Highlands, travelling south along the coast on the Grand Pacific Drive. Turning inland, enjoy lunch in Robertson, formerly a major centre for cheese-making, and now known for its gardens.

Continue to Bowral, the largest town in the Southern Highlands, and once the summer retreat of the Sydney gentry. Enjoy a welcome dinner with Julie and fellow travellers. (LD)

 

TUE 24 APR / BOWRAL

After breakfast, visit Carisbrooke Garden in Bowral, which reflects memories of a country homestead garden and includes a woodland of unusual trees, a rose garden, a ‘borrowed view’ of the golf course beyond the croquet lawn, and a trio of summer houses. Travel to Coombewood Garden in Mittagong and wander through avenues of trees in brilliant autumn tones in this 3.2-hectare garden developed over the last 30 years.

Enjoy free time for lunch at the Sturt Café and explore the Sturt Gallery, established in 1941 by the former Headmistress of Frensham School and now a centre of excellence for craft and design education.

After lunch, continue to Greenbrier Park for a tour of their garden which fuses English design and Australian native eucalypts, followed by a special wine tasting. Return to Bowral for dinner. (BD)

 

WED 25 APR / BOWRAL

In the morning, travel to Berrima for the ANZAC Day service held near the spreading branches of an oak tree planted in 1890 by then-Premier of NSW Sir Henry Parkes.

Continue to Milton Park for lunch and a visit to the private garden. Built in the beginning of the twentieth century by the Hordern family of retail and pastoral fame, the formal gardens at Milton Park were laid out by Mary Hordern in ‘The English School of Landscape’ and are considered amongst the finest in Australia. Australia’s oldest and largest Variegated Tulip tree, Weeping Beeches, Elms and oaks are a feature of this spectacular property.

In the afternoon, visit Harper’s Mansion, a historic Georgian-style homestead completed in 1834 for District Constable James Harper, and later used as a presbytery for the priests of St Francis Xavier. Its recently restored gardens replicate the original planting, replete with a wealth of early 19th century rose varieties.

After a visit to the private garden of Old Rose Cottage, return to Bowral for an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

THU 26 APR / BOWRAL

After breakfast, depart for 5th Chapter Winery and Garden near Fitzroy Falls. Explore the Japanese and enclosed parterre gardens, flower beds, fountains and water features and taste their wine, evocative of the cool climate of the Southern Highlands. Visit the garden of Yarrawin in Burradoo, estate of the late philanthropist Paul Ramsay AO, where gracious English-style lawns stretch between plantings of eucalyptus.

Enjoy time in Bowral for lunch (own expense). After lunch, travel to Red Cow Farm near Sutton Forest, an abundant 2.5-hectare garden developed around a historic 1820s cottage. Red Cow Farm features 20 different garden ‘rooms’, including a monastery garden, an abbess’s garden, a cottage garden, a kitchen garden and other gardens themed around woodlands, beech trees, classic roses, lakes, bogs and orchards.

Return to Bowral for an evening at leisure. (B)

 

FRI 27 APR / BOWRAL – ORANGE

Check out from your hotel and travel to the town of Crookwell in the Southern Tablelands to explore a range of private gardens. Well known for its enthusiastic gardening culture, each garden in Crookwell displays the distinctive personality of its owner.

Following lunch at a local restaurant, visit another private garden in Crookwell, and then continue to Orange in the Central West.

Dinner at the hotel. (BLD)

SAT 28 APR / ORANGE

Spend a day in a selection of private gardens in and around Orange. The region is famous for its orchards, producing apples, pears and stone fruits, and its climate of warm summers, cool winters and evenly-spread rainfall also allows gardeners in Orange to grow a range of different flora and create unique and beautiful gardens of their own.

Dinner at a local restaurant. (BLD)

 

SUN 29 APR / ORANGE – BLUE MOUNTAINS

landscape garden set within a 5,000-hectare working cattle farm. One of the world’s largest privately-owned cool climate gardens, Mayfield boasts a water garden, a cascade, a walled kitchen garden, an orchard, a maze, a rose garden, a croquet garden, an aviary and a set of ‘deluxe hen houses’.

After a day exploring this magnificent garden, check in to the Hydro Majestic Hotel in Medlow Bath. First established as a hydropathic health spa, this beautiful hotel was built in a charming and unique amalgam of architectural styles encompassing Federation style and Art Deco.

Dinner at the hotel. (BLD)

 

MON 30 APR / BLUE MOUNTAINS

After breakfast, depart for a full-day tour to the gardens of Mount Wilson, which are lit up in a blaze of crimson and gold in the Autumn. Explore the estate of Bebeah, where neatly-clipped hedges of box and laurel frame elegant white gravel drives. Continue to Nooroo Garden, established in 1880 and home to a wealth of oaks, ash, beech, chestnut and maple trees. Wander through Merry Garth Garden, where native sassafras, coachwood, ferns and banksias meet beech trees, the orange-barked Chinese paperbark maple and the rare Rimu pine from New Zealand.

In the afternoon, visit Windyridge Garden, a landscape garden displaying a collection of sculptures amongst pin oaks, maples, copper beeches, ginkos and tupelos. (BL)

 

TUE 01 MAY / BLUE MOUNTAINS

In the morning, travel to Foggy Dew Garden in Leura, a small private garden with a wisteria arbour, laburnum walk, pond and a large rockery. Continue to the Everglades, one of Australia’s foremost heritage gardens, designed by Danish-born landscape gardener Paul Sorensen in the 1930s. Spanning 5.3 hectares, the Everglades combines traditional European-style terrace gardening with the distinctively Australian panorama of the Blue Mountains.

After lunch (own expense) and time to explore Leura, visit a private garden in Leura before returning to your hotel. In the evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner with Julie and fellow travellers. (BD)

 

WED 02 MAY / BLUE MOUNTAINS – SYDNEY

Check out from the Hydro Majestic Hotel and descend from the Blue Mountains to Sydney. On the way, explore the 252-hectare Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mount Tomah, where the rich basaltic soil has nurtured Australia’s finest cool climate garden, featuring a wealth of native plants and Eurasian species such as oak and birch.

For those departing Sydney, tour arrangements conclude on arrival at Sydney airport at 15:00 for flights departing from 16:30 onwards.

For those remaining in Sydney, tour arrangements conclude on arrival in central Sydney at 16:00. (BL)

Note: At time of publication (April 2017), most but not all garden visits were confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than 2 to 3 months prior to visit. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary.

 

Discover the Flora and Culture of New Caledonia

Discover the Flora and Culture of New Caledonia with Dr Peter Weston

 

This tour for passionate plant lovers and hunters will be escorted by Dr Peter Weston, who has just recently retired as Senior Principal Research Scientist with the NSW Herbarium. He will be taking you into the national parks of New Caledonia where you will discover the amazingly diverse flora of our tropical neighbor.

 

Itinerary …At a Glance

 

DAY 1 SATURDAY 4 NOVEMBER – DEPART SYDNEY/ARRIVE NOUMEA

DAY 2 SUNDAY 5 NOVEMBER – DAY TRIP TO MOUNT KOGHI

DAY 3 MONDAY 6 NOVEMBER – NOUMÉA TO PROTECTED BLUE RIVER NATIONAL PARK

DAY 4 TUESDAY 7 NOVEMBER – VISIT MADELEINE WATERFALL AND PLAIN OF LAKES

DAY 5 WEDNESDAY 8 NOVEMBER – TO THE NORTH AND SARRAMEA

DAY 6 THURSDAY 9 NOVEMBER – THE GREAT FERN PARK

DAY 7 FRIDAY 10 NOVEMBER – WALK TO THE DOGNY PLATEAU

DAY 8 SATURDAY 11 NOVEMBER – TO POINDIMIÉ VIA BOURAIL AND HOUAILOU

DAY 9 SUNDAY 12 NOVEMBER – VISIT KANAK VILLAGE

DAY 10 MONDAY 13 NOVEMBER – WALK IN LES ROCHES DE LA OUAÏÈM

DAY 11 TUESDAY 14 NOVEMBER – HIENGHÈNE TO BOURAIL VIA KONÉ

DAY 12 WEDNESDAY 15 NOVEMBER – VISIT GUARO DEVA AREA.

DAY 13 THURSDAY 16 NOVEMBER – TRIP CONCLUDES. FLY NOUMEA TO SYDNEY

OR JOIN

OPTIONAL EXTENSION TO THE ISLE OF PINES.

Nature Lovers Tour of Borneo

Nature Lovers Tour of Borneo with Mary-Lou Lewis

 

TOUR ITINERARY

 

Day 1 Sun 24 Sep Arrive in Kuching
Arrive in Kuching, Sarawak, check in to Hilton Kuching.

 

Day 2 Mon 25 Sep Kuching

Visit the famous Kuching Museum, ride sampans to cross the Sarawak River. Pass the white rajah’s residence, see the orchid garden on the other side of the Kuching Waterfront. Make an offering at a Chinese Buddhist temple. Visit the night market. Sample the famous offerings of satay, kolo mee and other Kuching favourites. After dinner stroll beneath wide trees along the romantic big lazy riverfront. Colonial buildings with the old shops of the bazaar enrich the experience. Overnight at Hilton Kuching. (B)

 

Day 3 Tue 26 Sep Kuching-Bako National Park

Bus to Kampong Bako. Take a long boat to Bako National Park arriving through the mangroves. Immediately encounter unusual plants, tropical littoral abundance. See wildlife such as naughty macaques and proboscis monkeys, wild pigs, an incredible variety of birds and insects. Spot light for shy jungle creatures at night. Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (B,L,D)

 

Day 4 Wed 27 Sep Bako National Park

Walk the Lintang trail where practically all vegetation types at Bako can be seen. Forest types range from mangrove to kerangas (heath forest), tropical swamp vegetation, cliff vegetation and beach vegetation. There are several side trails to follow inside the park depending on level of fitness and interest. All the trails have a great variety of vegetation, from mighty 80-metre dipterocarp trees such as Shorea species to dense mangrove forest. Unusual carnivorous pitcher plants and interesting symbiotic relationships are found on the Lintang trail. The park’s coastline is dotted with small bays, coves and beaches. Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (B,L,D)

 

Day 5 Thu 28 Sep Bako National Park

Hike the boardwalks through wetlands, swim in secluded jungle pools and on beaches of the South China Sea. Watch proboscis monkeys feeding on jungle fruits. Look for the Rufous-backed Kingfisher, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Red-crowned Barbet, Woodpeckers, Broadbills, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, Babblers, and owls.
Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (B,L,D)

 

Day 6 Fri 29 Sep Bako National Park-Kuching

Proceed back to Kuching. En-route, we will visit to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre to catch the feeding time of the orang utans. Along the way, we will pass by the ethno-botanical gardens, with their unique collection of rain-forest plants. Arrive in Kuching and check in Hilton Kuching for overnight. (B,L)

 

Day 7 Sat 30 Sep Kuching-Mulu National Park

Morning flight to Mulu National Park. This World Heritage-listed area allows canopy walks and treks that reveal exotic creatures, spectacular caves and stunning limestone karst formations. There is Deer Cave, which can fit five cathedrals the size of London’s Saint Pauls. The massive caves here are home to millions of bats and cave swiftlets that swarm out into the jungle in great clouds every evening at dusk! It is an extraordinary sight.
Overnight and dinner at Mulu Marriott Resort. (B,L,D)

 

Day 8 Sun 01 Oct Mulu National Park

After breakfast, we depart by longboat to explore Wind Cave with a stopover at the Penan Longhouse. Later we proceed to explore Clearwater Cave, the longest cave in Southeast Asia. Overnight and dinner at Mulu Marriott Resort. (B,L,D)

 

Day 9 Mon 02 Oct Mulu National Park

After breakfast in the resort, we proceed to Mulu Canopy Skywalk. The Skywalk is the longest tree canopy walk in the world. Relax at the jungle café. Overnight and dinner at Mulu Marriott Resort. (B,L,D)

 

Day 10 Tue 03 Oct Mulu National Park-Kota Kinabalu

Free at leisure until our flight to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (the Land Below the Wind). In the evening, we explore the Phillipino night Market. Overnight at Grandis Hotel Kota Kinabalu.(B,L)

 

Day 11 Wed 04 Oct Kota Kinabalu

Today is free for you to explore Kota Kinabalu at your own pace. Overnight at Grandis Hotel Kota Kinabalu.(B)

 

Day 12 Thu 05 Oct Kota Kinabalu-Mt. Kinabalu

Traverse along Sabah’s Crocker Range to Kinabalu Park, a World Heritage Site nominated by UNESCO. Enjoy the walks around the park headquarters. Climb through several ecological zones to experience plant communities ranging from tropical rainforest to the sub-alpine. Overnight and dinner at Kinabalu Pine Resort. (B,L,D)

 

Day 13 Fri 06 Oct Mt. Kinabalu

Trek through the rainforest and witness life in the treetops as you walk along the Canopy Walkway Venture along Jungle Trails to visit waterfall. Lunch at Poring Springs. There are steaming hot pools providing a relaxing place to unwind after trekking the slopes of Mount Kinabalu. Overnight and dinner at Kinabalu Pine Resort. (B,L,D)

 

Day 14 Sat 07 Oct Mt. Kinabalu-Kota Kinabalu

Visit the Kundasang War Memorial where the Sandakan Death March ended. The Memorial is made up of four beautiful gardens. Also visit the Kundasng vegetables markets before returning back to Kota Kinabalu. Overnight at Grandis Hotel Kota Kinabalu. (B,L)

 

Day 15 Sun 08 Oct Depart Kota Kinabalu

Our tour ends after breakfast. (B)

 

INCLUSIONS

 

Internal flights within Borneo; 11 nights’ accommodation at 4 star hotels/resorts with breakfast daily, 3 nights’ accommodation at Bako National Park Hostel*; private group transfers and touring with English speaking local guides; meals as stated in the itinerary.
* Bako National Park Hostel: the accommodation in Bako National Park has ceiling fan only and no air-conditioning. The shower rooms do have hot water and it is on sharing basis.

Piet Oudolf & Dutch Wave Gardens

Piet Oudolf & Dutch Wave Gardens with Carolyn Mullet

 

AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

August 8, Tuesday – Arrive in The Netherlands at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
August 9, Wednesday – Jac. P. Thijssepark, Vlinderhof, Tuin “De Villa”
August 10, Thursday – Noël van Mierlo, Kasteel Geldrop, Van Nature
August 11, Friday – Oudolf/Hummelo, Hortvs
August 12, Saturday – Het Loo Palace, Kröller-Müller Museum
August 13, Sunday – Cruydt Hoeck, Priona, Mien Ruys
August 14, Monday – Lianne’s Siergrassen, Dewit Garden Tools, Jakobstuin
August 15, Tuesday – Garten Moorriem, De Kleine Plantage, Tuin aan het Wieltje
August 16, Wednesday – Depart for home or continue travels on your own

 

FULL ITINERARY

Day 1, August 8, Tuesday – ARRIVE IN THE NETHERLANDS

Tour participants will independently arrange travel to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and have the opportunity to get settled before the garden tour starts on Wednesday. We’ll gather in the hotel bar to get acquainted at 6:00 PM for Welcome Cocktails.

 

Day 2, August 9, Wednesday – TOUR STARTS, JAC P. THIJSSEPARK, VLINDERHOF, TUIN “DE VILLA”

What’s more appropriate than starting our Dutch Wave tour in a town renowned for its use of Dutch wildflowers? Just around the corner from Schiphol Airport is the suburb of Amstelveen with plantings that have been described as “intensified nature.” We’ll visit Jac. P. Thysse Park, named for a biologist who was an ardent devotee of native plants and birds. Designed by the late Christian P. Broerse, the park is home to just about every Dutch habitat imaginable and loaded with wild and semi-wild plantings.

The Vlinderhof, or Butterfly Garden, is nestled in Maxima Park in Utrecht, and the garden plan is by acclaimed designer Piet Oudolf. Residents in the area asked Oudolf to design a garden within the park, to be maintained by volunteers. Now, over 15,000 plants are planted in this naturalistic setting attracting not only butterflies, but also many other beneficial insects.

Next, we visit a relatively new private garden, Tuin “de Villa”. Started in 2004, the garden is located in a polder between meadows and cornfields on land reclaimed from the sea. Here, Fried and Lily Frederix, the owners, have made themselves a contemporary garden. There will be much to enjoy in their crisp, diagonal design that will lead our eyes to the Dutch Wave garden far in the rear. The Frederix’s have turned a pasture into a rich tapestry of texture & color. Grasses move in the breeze and pollinators buzz around flowering shrubs and perennials. If you like to shoot videos, this is the garden for you.

 

Day 3, August 10, Thursday – NOEL VAN MIERLO, KASTEEL GELDROP, VAN NATURE

We’ll start the day by visiting a private garden designed by Noël van Mierlo. Known for his naturalistic style, van Mierlo is a three-time winner of the National Garden of the Year Award plus the Most Sustainable Garden, Netherlands and the Most Natural Pool. Getting a chance to see a garden by such an accomplished designer is a treat we’ll long remember.

Next we travel to Kasteel Geldrop, a 14th century castle, to see the work of planting designer John Schoolmeesters. He came to this garden in 2005 to turn the walled fruit and vegetable garden into a contemporary naturalistic perennial and grass garden. The end result is a prime example of a post Dutch Wave garden with an emphasis on color, texture, and shape.

Van Nature is also a post Dutch Wave display garden and nursery started in 2013 by landscaper Frank van der Linden, nursery woman Caroline van Heeswijk, and garden designer Frank Heijligers. Here we’ll see ornamental grasses and perennials that may be difficult to find but have been trialed in the display garden for low maintenance & good habit in all seasons. That’s a tall order but it will be fascinating to see what combinations they recommend.

 

Day 4, August 11, Friday – OUDOLF/HUMMELO, HORTVS

Piet Oudolf’s private garden at Hummelo has become a place of pilgrimage for thousands of followers from around the world. As the master designer of the New Perennials style of naturalistic planting (which, of course, started as Dutch Wave), Oudolf’s garden is a place of experimentation and testing and therefore, constant change. Enclosed by typical Dutch hedges, the interior garden explodes with familiar and new plants in an exuberant, unconventional display. Oudolf has said, “What I try to do is build an image of nature.” Here we’ll see his current image of nature and draw inspiration from Oudolf’s own innovations. This will be a garden experience we’ll never forget.

We’ll dip into Germany to see Hortvs, the private garden of designer and author Peter Janke, considered a rising star in the German landscape design world. The design is inspired by the work of British plantswoman, Beth Chatto, with whom Janke studied in England. We’ll see a meadow, a gravel garden, a woodland garden with simple mulched paths, and a wild, abundant herb garden. It’s geometric and organic, a beautiful mixture of classic and modern styles.

 

Day 5, August 12, Saturday – HET LOO, KRÖLLER-MÜLLER

Today we take a break from Dutch Wave gardens and visit two places that are important to Dutch culture. One is historical and the other is modern.

At Het Loo Palace, we’ll see an example of 17th century formal Dutch garden design, heavily influenced by the French – about as far away as one could get from Dutch Wave. The Great Garden in the back of the palace was designed by a nephew of André Le Nôtre and has a symmetrical axial layout with radiating gravel walks, parterres, statuary, and fountains. In the 18th century, the original Baroque garden was destroyed to make way for a landscape park but it was restored for the palace’s 300th anniversary in 1984. There continue to be renovations. Recently the boxwood in the parterres were pulled out due to boxwood blight and replaced with a cultivar of Ilex crenata.

The Kröller-Müller Museum is an art museum and sculpture garden set in a national park. We’ll spend some time here at the museum itself, seeing the second-largest collection of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh (after the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam) and works by Picasso, Gauguin, Mondrian, and Seurat among many other artists. We’ll also want to see the sculpture garden, which has an equally renowned collection of modern sculptures in a beautiful park setting. Then, if there’s time, we’ll walk along the Ecological Walking Route or perhaps take advantage of the free bikes and cycle around the 75 acre national park.

 

Day 6, August 13, Sunday –CRUYDT HOECK, PRIONA, MIEN RUYS

Today our first stop is Cruydt-Hoeck, the seed nursery started by the late Rob Leopold, a specialist in wildflower seeds and one of the founding members of the Dutch Wave movement. Leopold established the nursery in 1978 to preserve the biodiversity of wild plants, bees, butterflies, and other animals, offering seed mixtures for native wildflower plantings and flower meadows. His influence continues today. A connection with Leopold’s work can be made to the much acclaimed landscaping done with seed mixtures at the recent London Olympics site. Since Leopold’s death in 2005, the nursery continues under the leadership of Jasper Helmantel and Jojanneke Bijkerk, designers who are experts in Dutch Wave principles.

Next we visit Priona, the home garden of the late Henk Gerritsen, one of the founding members of the Dutch Wave. Gerritson is credited with developing the main principles of Dutch Wave design and it shows throughout the garden. Wild and cultivated plants grow next to each other. Weeds and pests are tolerated in the name of naturalism. Gerritson said his design principle is simple: “What is straight should be curved, what is curved should be straight.” We’ll discuss what that means after our visit to this garden which author Noel Kingsbury has described as “magical and entertaining … wild and zany.”

Our last garden of the day is the important Tuinen Mien Ruys. Here we’ll pay homage to the woman many call the “Mother of Modernism,” landscape architect Mien Ruys (1904-1999). She made these gardens over a period of 70 years and they’re a reflection of her amazing creativity. Her style is distinctly architectural but the plantings are loose and naturalistic. There are 28 gardens in all, incorporating old and new styles while using unusual materials and perennial introductions from her father’s internationally renowned nursery. Above all, Ruys was experimental. Never afraid to try new things, her garden was an inspiration to the founders of Dutch Wave as it has been to designers from all over the world.

 

Day 7, August 14, Monday – LIANNE’S SIERGRASSEN, DEWIT GARDEN TOOLS, JAKOBSTUIN

The theme of today’s first garden could be summarized simply as “Plants, Plants, Plants!” Lianne’s Siergrassen is a well respected Dutch nursery that specializes in Dutch Wave ornamental grasses and perennials. Not only has the owner, Lianne Pot, indulged her passion and brought together a virtual living encyclopedia of grasses, she has also created a demonstration Prairie Style Garden arranged in curving beds with over 12,000 dynamic plants. There’s probably not one moment in the year that this garden isn’t beautiful.

The Dutch are known for making some of the finest garden tools in the world so we’re very fortunate that DeWit Garden Tools has invited us to visit their factory and maybe even get a chance to make our own tools. The company was started by Willem de Wit in 1898, and today, the 4th generation of the family is running the forging operation. You’ll note the old-fashioned, top-notch quality, along with innovative designs.

We continue our tour at Jakobstuin, a garden that falls somewhere between Oudolf’s current style and Prairie Style. The owner and designer, Jaap de Vries, calls Jakobstuin an “Ode to the Dutch Wave.” In addition to warm season grasses typical of the North American Prairie, de Vries also uses many perennial selections favored in the New Perennial movement and arranges plants in the currently popular matrix pattern. Look carefully and you’ll notice that he pays particular attention to texture, form, and light, which is probably the reason his daily photo posts on Facebook are loved by hundreds of followers.

 

Day 8, August 15, Tuesday – GARTEN MOORRIEM, DE KLEINE PLANTAGE, TUIN AAN HET WEELTJE

Our final day starts with a drive into Germany where we’ll visit Garten Moorriem, Ute and Albrecht Ziburski’s garden begun in 2006. Starting at the 300 year old house, we’ll see skillful combinations of perennials and grasses that get wilder the farther away from the house they are. We’ll cross a garden bridge to see the final plantings that come into their full glory in late summer against the backdrop of a wide, native meadow landscape. This is a garden that plays with the illusion of naturalness to achieve great atmospheric effect.

We’ll return to The Netherlands to visit, Kwekerij De Kleine Plantage, a specialty nursery very much in the spirit of the Dutch Wave. In its beautiful display garden, we’ll see the latest in sturdy, textural perennials and grasses planted in alcoves along a crisp, hedge-lined avenue extending from the house. Since everything is labeled, this will be our chance to find out the names of those plants that we’ve been seeing all week but didn’t know. De Kleine Plantage will remain in our memories as a green oasis showing great love for plants and design.

The final garden of our tour is Tuin aan het Weeltje, a private garden designed by Piet Oudolf. Large groups of grasses are combined with delicately colored perennials. Here will be our chance to see how Oudolf’s ideas fit into a home garden with typical Dutch landscape elements of water, reed, and ancient willow trees. Maybe we’ll pick up some tips to apply to our own gardens when we get home.

 

Day 9, August 16, Wednesday – DEPART or CONTINUE TRAVELS
Our time together will come to an end but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Travelers can choose to return home or carry on the adventure. We’ll provide coach transfer to the airport at 8:00 AM for those with flights leaving at 11:00 AM or later. Or you can take the train or taxi from Centraal Station to the airport.

 

Iran and the Legendary Silk Road by Private Train

Iran and the Legendary Silk Road by Private Train with Jennie Churchill

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR JOURNEY

• An exciting first time itinerary combining Iran, east to west, with the Silk Road
• Unique combination of two comfortable private trains with 4 different categories: Orient Silk Road Express and Persian Explorer
• Unforgettable immersion in centuries of Central Asian, Persian and Islamic history
• Ten extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage Sites
• Warm and welcoming people
• Samarkand’s massive, mosaic-tiled Registan Square
• Among Bukhara’s thousand monuments, experience its architectural masterpiece the Mire-e-Arab Madrasah
• The ruins of Merv rising from the desert
• Iran’s holiest city Mashhad
• Wind towers of the desert city Yazd, stronghold of Zoroastrians
• Five of the nine UNESCO World Heritage listed Persian Garden complexes
• The vast Maidan of Isfahan, the world’s second largest Square
• Shiraz, gentle city of poets and gardens
• The magnificent ruins of Persepolis, once powerful capital of the world’s largest empire
• Museums and palaces of Tehran
• Markets, bazaars and traditional crafts including the making of silk fabric and carpets

 

TOUR ITINERARY

Day 1 Sat 16 September Arrival in Tashkent
Flight from your airport of departure to Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan.
Overnight: Grand Mir Hotel (or similar).

Day 2 Sun 17 September Tashkent
The green oasis of the Steppe, Tashkent is Central Asia’s hub. We traverse centuries: from the C16th Kukeldash Madrasah, Soviet-era architecture to contemporary Independence Square, the Amir Timur museum and Tashkent Metro’s beautiful artwork. Depending on the schedule, settle in for an evening performance at the famous Navoi Opera Theatre. Afterwards your private train Orient Silk Road Express departs for Samarkand.
Overnight on board. Breakfast (B), lunch (L) and dinner (D)

Day 3 Mon 18 September Samarkand
After breakfast we arrive in Samarkand, for centuries a powerful political, economic and cultural centre on the Silk Road. Founded in the C7th BC, this extraordinary city reached its peak during Amir Timur’s C14th rule. Discover magnificent Central Asian Islamic architecture: the huge Registan Square with its mosaics and blue-tiled domes, necropolis Shah-e-zende and the excavation sites of Afrosiab, the oldest existing evidence of this ancient city.
Overnight: Hotel Registan Plaza (or similar). (BLD)

Day 4 Tue 19 September Samarkand
The ancient rural town of Urgut has one of Uzbekistan’s busiest and most traditional markets and the Chor-Chinor garden’s 1,000 year old trees. Back in Samarkand, there’s much more to discover: the observatory of Ulug Beg, C15th ruler and remarkable astronomer, the enormous Bibi Khanum Mosque and Timur’s resting place in the Gur Emir Mausoleum. In the evening, your train departs for Bukhara.
Overnight on board. (BLD)

Day 5 Wed 20 September Bukhara
Journey through the red sands of the Kyzyl Kum desert to Bukhara, a fascinating city more than 2,500 years old. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed old city still boasts around one thousand monuments. We visit the Kaljan Minaret, Labi-Hauz Ensemble, the architectural masterpiece Mire-e-Arab Madrasah, and the beautiful Samanid Mausoleum. The day ends with a tour through the massive earthen Fortress Ark and a dance performance in a madrasah.
Overnight on board. (BLD)

Day 6 Thu 21 September Merv
Our train crosses into Turkmenistan, the somewhat mysterious and least visited country in Central Asia. Towards morning, we arrive at the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site of Merv. Once a glorious metropolis famous for its exports, scholars, culture and gardens, the city was destroyed in 1221 by Ghengis Khan’s son. Merv’s astounding remnants rise from the desert among ancient ruins: the Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar, Kyz Kala Fortress and historic mud brick ice-houses. Late in the evening our train arrives in the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat.
Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn (or similar). (BLD)

Day 7 Fri 22 September Ashgabat and Nisa
A morning drive takes us to the ancient city of Nisa, former flourishing capital of the Parthian state. Later, a guided tour of Ashgabat introduces this distinctive and rather bizarre modern-day capital. Hollywood meets Stalin in a rapidly transforming city flush with new-found oil wealth. Artefacts from Nisa and Merv in the National Museum provide further insight into a country where great science, art, architecture and spirituality countered an often-violent history.
Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn (or similar). (BLD)

Day 8 Sat 23 September Mashhad
After breakfast, a bus ride takes us across the border to Mashhad, Iran’s holiest and second-largest city. One of the seven holy sites of the Shiite Islam – and the only one in Iran – Mashhad is the site of the mausoleum of the eighth Shiite Imam, Ali ibn Musa ar-Reza. This beautiful and massive shrine complex, with its dazzling intricate blue tiles, gold domes, minarets and fountain-cooled courtyards, commemorates the AD 817 martyrdom of Imam Reza. Attracting around 20 million pilgrims each year, the shrine features one of Iran’s most comprehensive art collections.
Overnight: Hotel Homa (or similar). (BLD)

Day 9 Sun 24 September To Yazd
Around noon, we leave Mashhad on our private train, the Persian Explorer, and journey across the desert to Yazd.
Overnight on board. (BLD)

Day 10 Mon 25 September Yazd to Isfahan
We arrive in Yazd, Iran’s most exciting desert city, early morning. Wedged between two deserts, Yazd is regarded by UNESCO as one of the oldest cities on earth. It is also the centre of Zoroastrianism in Iran. Yazd’s old, sun-dried mud brick city skyline is dominated by badgirs (wind towers), the tallest sitting in the UNESCO-listed Bagh-e Dolat Abad, described as ‘the quintessence of the Persian garden’. We visit the Zoroastrian fire temples and, rising from the desert just outside the city, former burial sites the Towers of Silence. A visit to the Yazd Water Museum explains the desert city’s Qanat water supply system. Back on board, we take lunch as we travel towards Isfahan.
Overnight: Hotel Kowsar/Abbasi (or similar). (BLD)

Day 11 Tue 26 September Kashan
Often bypassed by tourists, Kashan is one of the most alluring destinations in Iran. A full day exploring this oasis city north of Isfahan includes the exquisitely decorated, turquoise and gold Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse, the Tabatabei House, one of Kashan’s architecturally-significant C19th merchant houses, and Bagh-e Fin, the oldest extant garden in Iran, its classic Persian design dating to the C16th rule of Shah Abbas 1.
Overnight: Hotel Kowsar/Abbasi (or similar). ( BLD)

Day 12 Wed 27 September Isfahan
Our time in this elegant jewel of ancient Persia centres on its heart – the vast, beautifully-proportioned, Savafid Dynasty Maidan or Imam Square, once the site of trading, assembling troops, polo games and celebrations. We visit a number of the monumental buildings bordering this UNESCO World Heritage Site: Masjed-e Imam (Imam Khomeini Mosque), the Ali Qapu Palace and its veranda overlooking the Square, and the Lotfullah Mosque, once a private mosque for the Safavid royal families. A short walk brings us to Chehel Sotun (Pavilion of Forty Pillars) with its huge reflecting pool, shady gardens and wonderful fresco museum. In the ancient historic centre we visit the Jameh Mosque, a stunning illustration of Iranian Islamic architecture over twelve centuries.
Overnight on board. (BLD)

Day 13 Thu 28 September Shiraz
With the verses of much-loved poets Hafez and Sa’adi top of mind, a visit to Bagh-e Eram reminds us this is the city of the Persian paradise garden. The hustle and bustle of the Old Town Vakil bazaar is fun and entertaining (stock up on excellent Iranian saffron) and contrasts with the calm interiors of the elegant Nasir-al-Molk (Pink) Mosque. Its mesmerising decorations are more than matched by the dazzling mirrored tiles of the Shah Cheragh Mausoleum, the third most venerated pilgrimage site in Iran.
Overnight: Chamran Grand Hotel (or similar). (BLD)

Day 14 Fri 29 September Pasargadae & Persepolis
At the site of his victories east of the great Zagros Mountains, the Persian King Cyrus the Great built his capital city of Pasargadae. I am Cyrus the King, an Achaemenian, states the inscriptions on pillars and reliefs of the audience hall of the Residence. The sprawling archaeological site, which includes the King’s mausoleum, also contains remnants of the garden he created at Pasargadae 2,500 years ago. The oldest extant garden layout in the world, it can still be ‘read’ among the remains. We travel an hour by bus to our next destination, the magnificent ruins of Persepolis, founded by Darius 1 in the early years of the C6th BC. His Achaemenid empire was the largest the world had ever seen, extending from Egypt to Pakistan, with Persepolis its capital. The vast part-artificial platform above the plains holds an extraordinary complex of ruins, with royal palaces, reception halls, apartments, walls covered by sculpted friezes, gigantic winged bulls and monumental stairways – all burned and looted by the Greeks of Alexander the Great in 330 BC. Nearby is the impressive Naqsh-e-Rostam necropolis of the Achaemenids. A short bus ride brings us to our private train, destination Tehran.
Overnight on board. (BLD)

Day 15 Sat 30 September Tehran
Arriving in Tehran, we farewell our charming train staff before spending a day out of the busy city centre. First stop, a guided tour of the Iranian National Botanic Garden, with the Alborz Mountains as backdrop. The garden’s 150 hectares sit at 1300 metres, with different landscapes designed to represent Iran’s diverse flora. Just 40km to the north-east of Tehran city lies the Khojir National Park, one of the oldest protected areas in the world with stunning views to the stratovolcano Mount Damavand. Khojir is renowned for its high biodiversity and as an important base for migratory birds. Dinner will be served in the Milad Tower, the sixth tallest telecommunication tower in the world.
Overnight: Hotel Laleh (or similar). (BLD)

Day 16 Sun 1 October Tehran
The Iranian capital is rich with museums. We explore the glories and excesses of the Qajar emperors in the lavish Golestan Palace and take a journey through history at the Archaeological Museum. A short walk away is the Glass and Ceramics Museum, with exhibits spanning centuries of workmanship by Iranian artisans. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy. A visit to see the glittering collection of gemstones and jewellery at the Treasury of National Jewels is highly recommended, as is time spent in Park-e Laleh or another of Tehran’s beautiful parks.
Overnight: Hotel Laleh (or similar). (BLD)

Day 17 Mon 2 October End of journey
Airport transfer for individual departure.

 

INCLUSIONS

• 6 overnights on Private Train according to the booked category (Day 1-7 with Orient Silk Road Express; Day 8 – 15 Persian Explorer)
• 10 overnights in hotels
• All meals according to program (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
• Full sightseeing program including all entrance fees as per the itinerary
• Airport transfers arrival in Tashkent and departure from Tehran
• Private air-conditioned coach for sightseeing side trips
• Tour Leader Jennie Churchill
• English-speaking Train Tour Director
• Experienced local guides
• Doctor on board
• All gratuities for guides and drivers throughout the trip
• Visas for Iran, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan

Gardens of Ireland

Gardens of Ireland with Carolyn Mullet

 

At-A-Glance Itinerary

June 11, Sunday – Arrive in Dublin at Dublin Airport
June 12, Monday – Mount Usher, Hunting Brook, June Blake’s Garden
June 13, Tuesday – Mount Venus Nursery, Corke Lodge
June 14, Wednesday– Powerscourt, Burtown House & Gardens
June 15, Thursday – Ilnacullin (Garinish Island), Derreen Garden
June 16, Friday – Bantry House, Ballymaloe Cookery School, Lakemount
June 17, Saturday –Mount Congreve, Private Garden, Farewell Dinner
June 18, Sunday – Depart or continue travels on your own

CarexTours strives to operate according to our published itinerary. However, in the event of unforeseen circumstances beyond our control or opportunities that would enhance the itinerary, adjustments may be necessary.

 

FULL ITINERARY

Day 1, June 11, Sunday – ARRIVE IN IRELAND

Tour participants will independently arrange travel to Dublin Airport and have the opportunity to get settled before the garden tour starts on Monday. We’ll gather in the hotel bar to get acquainted at 6:00 PM for Welcome Cocktails.

 

Day 2, June 12, Monday – TOUR STARTS, MOUNT USHER, HUNTING BROOK, JUNE BLAKE’S GARDEN

There’s no better way to begin a tour than with a garden that’s home to 4000 – yes, four thousand – plant varieties. Designed in a naturalistic style, Mount Usher was laid out according to the the principles of William Robinson, the Irish-born gardener, writer, and publisher who advocated wild gardening in the late 19th century. We won’t find many straight lines at Mount Usher. Instead we’ll see clusters of luscious plantings – many from the Southern Hemisphere – along the ambling Vartry River which is at the heart of this romantic garden.

Next we’ll visit Hunting Brook, a 15 year old garden which began its life as homage to Oehme, van Sweden, the landscape architects who popularized huge sweeps of ornamental grasses and perennials in the late 20th century. However, Jimi Blake, the owner who’s an internationally renowned plantsman and collector, has since moved on. The garden now features cactus, tropicals, evergreens, frequently-changing perennials, and woodland gems. The 20-acre garden is 900 feet above sea level and the landscape slopes down to Hunting Brook, from which it takes its name. We’ll work our way past thousands of plants and up the hill to a great expanse of meadow and The Wicklow Mountains in the distance. Hunting Brook is a garden that will inspire us to greater adventure in our own gardens back home.

June Blake (Jimi’s sister) started her career as a jewelry designer and a sheep farmer. Much later that she turned her three-acre property into a plant nursery and made a garden here that truly reflects an inventive and artistic spirit. The structure is quite formal but exuberant billows of plants soften the hardscape to create what garden writer Jane Powers calls “a piece of poetry.” The garden is also a great lesson in re-purposing materials found on site. Paths and walls were constructed from materials on the property; the paving at the front door was once used as the floor in a cattle shed; and steel beams used to outline some paths were salvaged from a hayshed.

 

Day 3, June 13, Tuesday – MOUNT VENUS NURSERY, CORKE LODGE

Travelers can learn a lot about a country’s gardening culture by visiting a local nursery. So we’ll begin the day with a stop at Mount Venus Nursery which specializes in unusual perennials and grasses. Here we will see the best, new cultivars of familiar plants and experience for ourselves why Liat and Oliver Schurmann’s nursery is beloved by dedicated gardeners and professional designers throughout Ireland. Beyond growing plants, this talented couple designs private gardens and have received multiple gold medals for their show gardens at Irish and English flower shows.

It seems entirely possible that the term “green gardens” was coined to describe the garden we’ll see on our visit to Corke Lodge. A parterre of boxwood, swathes of tree ferns, stands of dark green laurels, and a leafy green canopy overhead. It was created by furniture designer and architect Alfred Cochrane who inherited the property in 1980. He left in place a number of huge specimen trees but renovated the rest of the garden with an eye towards Italy. The resulting woodland garden is classically formal and now looks like it’s been there forever.

 

Day 4, June 14, Wednesday – POWERSCOURT, BURTOWN

The first garden today is Powerscourt, considered by many to be the grandest garden in Ireland. The house dates back to the mid-1700’s. It was designed for the 1st Viscount Powerscourt and includes a 13th century castle. The 62-acre garden began life as a formal landscape to complement the mansion, with a pond, a walled garden, a number of trees, a fishpond and a grotto. In the mid 1800’s, the 6th and 7th Viscounts added Italianate elements: statuary, gates, urns, stone terraces, marble replicas of classical figures, a huge mosaic made from black and white beach pebbles, a gothic boathouse and a Triton fountain. Throughout the landscape, we’ll see many specimen trees, a Japanese Garden, a Pet Cemetery, a rhododendron walk, and herbaceous borders. Those who are interested in a walk deep into the Deer Park can see the tallest waterfall in Britain and Ireland, an impressive flourish for this grand garden.

Burtown House and Gardens has been in the same family since the early part of the 18th century. The garden was laid out by Isabel Shackleton, cousin of the Arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, but it came into its own after the property was inherited by three amazing artists. The late Wendy Walsh was one of Ireland’s renowned botanical artists and many of her rare plants were moved to the garden as her daughter, artist Lesley Fennell and her son James, a renowned photographer, began expanding the plantings. The design style is part Victorian, part Arts & Crafts, and features large herbaceous borders in blazing color, shrubberies, a rock garden, a sundial garden, an old orchard, a walled organic vegetable garden and a large woodland area surrounded on all sides by water. Wildflower meadows are punctuated with sculptures, and woodland and farmland walks abound. Strolls around the garden make it clear that its owners have keen artistic eyes. Burtown has recently added a restaurant where we’ll enjoy lunch.

 

Day 5, June 15, Thursday – ILNACULLIN, DAREEN

We’ll board a boat for a short ride to an island in West Cork where we’ll see a windswept landscape that’s now a noteworthy garden. Ilnacullin (which in Irish means “island of holly,”) was designed in the early 20th century by architect and landscape designer Harold Peto who turned the rocky soil into a garden paradise. Formal and classical, Peto’s design included exotic plants from afar to blend with the nearby sea and mountains. We’ll stroll around the Italian Garden, note the Japanese touches in the Casita, admire the perfect lawn for croquet and tennis, and examine the plants in the walled garden. There are many rare and notable plants in this garden, including a celery pine, a weeping Huon pine, and the multi-colored Pseudowintera colorata.

One of the most unusual gardens you’ll ever encounter is Derreen, a 60-acre property on the edge of a harbor on the rugged Beara peninsula. It’s romantic, it’s green, it’s magical and spooky. The site was inherited by the 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, who had served as Viceroy of India. He hired workers to drain the boggy soil and plant conifers, shrubs, and a massive grove of tree ferns, Dicksonia antarctica, native to Australia and Tasmania. Planted around 1900, they now are over 20 feet high, and form an amazing spectacle of pure green under a canopy of oaks, eucalyptus, rhododendrons and conifers.

 

Day 6, June 16, Friday – BANTRY HOUSE, BALLYMALOE COOKING SCHOOL, LAKEMOUNT

Our first garden today is Bantry House which has been aptly called one of the most ostentatious in Ireland. Back in the mid 1800’s, the Earl of Bantry filled sketchbooks with images of grand European estates. He then employed hundreds of workers to terrace the rocky landscape that rises up steeply from Bantry Bay, and he filled them with European statuary. One hundred steps, known as the Stairway to the Sky, ascend to the top of the property, where there’s an intricate box parterre and sweeping views of the bay and mountains. The gardens have recently been renovated, and the Sunken Garden, once home to box and roses, is now filled with airy, contemporary ornamental grasses and perennials. Paths through a woodland are lined with majestic ferns, and the Stream Walk ends at an early 20th century Japanese-style water garden. There’s also a five-acre Walled Garden, formerly a vegetable and fruit garden, but now taken over by self-seeded local plantings, a currently popular trend with gardeners everywhere interested in sustainable practices.

Next we’ll visit Ballymaloe Cooking School which was once the home of William Penn, the founder of the state of Pennsylvania in the United States. This farmland was passed down through generations of Quakers to the present owners, who have been creating new gardens on the site since the 1980’s. In a huge, one-acre organic glasshouse, vegetables of every kind are grown for the farm’s existing restaurant and for students at the cooking school. We’ll have tea here and stroll around 7.5 acres of gardens, a wildlife meadow, and a farm walk. The oldest part of the garden – Lydia’s Garden – features a serene lawn surrounded by mixed borders. There’s also a summer house with a mosaic floor, a classic baroque herb garden with 19th century beech hedges, and a lovely vegetable garden that’s often featured in publications. An ornamental fruit garden designed by Irish Times gardening correspondent Jim Reynolds sports strawberries and apples, and berries galore.

Color, color and more color – in blooms, bark, leaves, and grasses is the outstanding characteristic of the 2.5 acre Lakemount Garden just outside Cork city. It was designed by Brian Cross and his mother Rose Cross, who planted masses of hydrangeas all over the garden in hues of clear blue, purple and lavender, depending on the soil. A conservatory houses an amazing array of tropical plants, and ‘Rosemount’, planted by Rose Cross, is a classic, charming cottage garden. Lakemount is known for its collection of small trees, pruned in a sculptural manner by Brian. The garden is a true plant kaleidoscope.

 

Day 7, June 17, Saturday – Mount Congreve, Bernard Hickie Garden

Our day starts at Mount Congreve, a plant collector’s dream garden. Mount Congreve is known for its huge massings of plants, acquired over a lifetime by the late Ambrose Congreve, who died just a few years ago at age 104. Congreve’s horticultural mentor was British banker Lionel de Rothschild, who sent him plants in the 1920s and 30s, including an impressive stand of Rhododendron sinogrande, still thriving today. Congreve believed in clustering plants together for effect, and spectacular specimens are everywhere. We’ll take a half-mile stroll along a walk lined on both sides by Hydrangea macrophylla, and admire paths filled with pieris, camellia, mahonia, azaleas, and many others. Mount Congreve is home to more than 2000 varieties of rhododendron; 600 of camellias; and 300 Japanese maples. In Congreve’s Walled Garden, borders are planted to flower by month, and a door in the garden opens onto a pond shaped like the race course at Ascot. In the Woodland, we’ll see a classical temple, a Chinese pagoda, and a waterfall inside a quarry. It’s a spectacular garden, and a testament to Congreve’s plant growing expertise: he won 13 gold medals over the years at the Chelsea Flower Show for his horticultural excellence.

We’ll end our week of garden adventures by visiting a private garden designed by Bernard Hickie, a Dublin-based contemporary landscape designer known for his bold and innovative projects. As he notes on his website,

“Plants fascinate me – form, texture, habit. To combine plants successfully is both tremendously important and immensely satisfying. The joy of seeing these constantly changing creations grow and adapt to their imposed environment is exhilarating.”

Hickie was greatly influenced by his mother, who was a dedicated gardener and landscape photographer, and he traveled with her to most of the great gardens across Ireland. Aside from private residential gardens and large estates, Hickie also designs landscapes for film sets.

 

Day 8, June 18, Sunday – DEPART or CONTINUE TRAVELS

Our time together will come to an end but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Travelers can choose to return home or carry on the adventure. We’ll provide coach transfer to the airport at 8:00 AM for those with flights leaving at 11:00 AM or later. Or you can take a taxi on your own from the hotel to the airport.

Chelsea Flower Show & Country Gardens

Chelsea Flower Show & Country Gardens

 

AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

 

May 19, Friday – Arrive in London at Heathrow Airport
May 20, Saturday – Farleigh Wallop, Stonehenge
May 21, Sunday – Cothay Manor, Plaz Metaxu
May 22, Monday – Iford Manor, Special Plants Nursery, Veddw
May 23, Tuesday – Daylesford House, Broughton Grange, Pettifers
May 24, Wednesday – Hidcote, Kiftsgate
May 25, Thursday – Olympic Park, Chelsea Flower Show
May 26, Friday – Sissinghurst, Great Dixter
May 27, Saturday – Departure for home or continue travels on your own

 

 

FULL ITINERARY

 

Day 1, May 19, Friday – ARRIVE IN LONDON

Tour participants will independently arrange travel to Heathrow Airport and have the opportunity to get settled before the garden tour starts on Thursday. We’ll gather in the hotel bar to get acquainted at 6:00 PM for Welcome Cocktails.

 

Day 2, May 20, Saturday – FARLEIGH WALLOP, STONEHENGE

Our tour begins with a visit to the private garden at Farleigh Wallop. This three-acre walled garden was redesigned in the 1980’s by Georgia Langton and has been described as “an exemplary modern garden in the classic tradition.” We’ll stroll through an ornamental kitchen garden, a formal rose garden, and a wild rose and sculpture garden. We’ll also want to wander through the greenhouse filled with exotic treasures and check out the mirror pool at the end of a serpentine yew-lined walk. By the time we leave, perhaps we’ll know what the English mean by “modern” and “classic” and this knowledge may spark insights into other gardens on our tour.

Next we’ll visit Stonehenge which dates back to prehistoric times and has fascinated archaeologists and the general public for centuries. Who built the circles of monumental, upright, standing stones — some sarsens and some bluestones — and for what purpose? The builders left no known written records, so speculation abounds. In the 12th century, Geoffrey of Monmouth theorized that Stonehenge was a memorial to Britons killed by Saxons – and that the wizard Merlin had the stones brought from Giant’s’ Ring, a stone circle with magic powers located in Ireland. Others thought Stonehenge was erected as a Druid temple, and still others believe it was an astronomical computer used to predict eclipses. And then there’s the contingent who are certain it’s a landing pad for ancient space aliens. We’ll end the day with a fascinating discussion, for sure. Dr. Spock, anyone?

 

Day 3, May 21, Sunday – COTHAY MANOR, PLAZ METAXU

Today, we’ll start at Cothay Manor which is thought by many to be the finest example of a small, moated, medieval manor house in England. The gardens surrounding the house were originally laid out in the early 20th century but were completely remade into a series of rooms by the current owners Alistair and Mary-Anne Robb in the 1990’s. The result is a magical, plantsman’s paradise.

Our next visit is to Plaz Metaxu, a garden created by its owner, Alasdair Forbes. It is among the most unconventional gardens you’ll ever see. Situated in a small valley, the garden has been described as a meditation on the valley as a landform expressed through references to Greek myths. It’s intellectual, provocative, symbolic, and one of the most unusual modern gardens in the UK or anywhere else. Garden critic Tim Richardson has written, “Plaz Metaxu is one of the very few gardens that is worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the late Ian Hamilton’s Little Sparta in Scotland.” High praise, indeed!

 

Day 4, May 22, Monday – IFORD MANOR, SPECIAL PLANTS NURSERY, VEDDW

Lovely Iford Manor, an Italianate garden in the beautiful countryside near Bath, is our first garden today. It was created in the early 20th century by the architect Harold Peto who had made Iford Manor his home. Peto recognized that the surrounding steep valley made an ideal backdrop for the kind of garden architecture he liked. Using the topography, he created ascending terraces with every level having its own mood enhanced by handsome statues and ornaments collected on his travels to Italy. We’ll make sure to pause on each level to take in the bucolic views over the countryside.

Veddw House Garden is a must-see Welsh garden designed by a husband and wife team, writer Anne Wareham and photographer Charles Hawes. Using traditional hedging to create structure, Wareham and Hawes have infused these intimate spaces with modern ideas and plantings. A visual highlight is the Pool Garden with its dark water reflecting the undulating hedges rising up the slope. A definite photo op you won’t want to miss.

 

Day 5, May 23, Tuesday – DAYLESFORD HOUSE, BROUGHTON GRANGE, PETTIFERS

Our visit to Daylesford House will give us a peek into a traditional well-run English estate. Known for being perfectly maintained and organic, the gardens have most recently been augmented by Rupert Golby, one of those rare designers who is little known in the gardening world (he has no website) but highly sought after as satisfied clients spread the word about his excellent designs. We’ll want to spend time in the walled garden, a true potager that Golby redesigned and which provides the produce for the estate’s products. Seeing the Secret Garden for tender exotics is a must, as well as the Anglo-Indian orangery and it’s companion sculpture, a line of full size woven elephants. There are also glasshouses, lakes, waterfalls, a scented walk, a pool garden, and a woodland. We’ll be sorry to leave such a gorgeous estate.

At Broughton Grange, we’ll explore a captivating design by Tom Stuart-Smith. Part of a larger 19th century garden, a major renovation in 2000 transformed a former paddock into an ambitious 6-acre walled garden. Three themed terraces traverse a slope and open to the surrounding rural landscape. We’ll see masses of perennials and grasses punctuated with topiary, a modern boxwood parterre based on leaves, beech tunnels, pleached lime squares, and a rill carrying water into a large stone tank. The scale of Stuart-Smith’s 21st century design is a bold step away from typical English garden rooms. Elsewhere at Broughton Grange is a knot garden, a huge arboretum, a spring walk, a woodland, a stumpery, a bamboo grove, a rose garden…… and don’t forget to see the Mediterranean plantings!

We end our day at Pettifers, a stylish, townhouse garden designed by the owner Gina Price. With little gardening experience, Price started in the early 1990s with a conventional, old fashioned garden. Gradually through visiting other gardens and asking for criticism from knowledgeable friends, Price began editing. Today Pettifers is known for it’s innovative plant choices, remarkable plant pairings, and vivid color combinations, all within a confident structure. Price admits to being influenced by the New Perennials Movement but says she couldn’t have a garden without English prettiness. This is a garden that’s sure to please.

 

Day 6, May 24, Wednesday – HIDCOTE, KIFTSGATE

Starting in 1907, Lawrence Johnston, a talented plantsman with a strong sense of design, created Hidcote, considered by many to be a masterpiece. A series of hedged, intimate, outdoor rooms, each with its own individual character, are linked by narrow passageways that eventually lead to lawns and views to the countryside beyond. Throughout, Johnston used a vast variety of plants, many found on his plant collecting trips. It’s noteworthy that Hidcote with its themed garden rooms changed how gardens were made in England and is still influencing garden makers today.

A visit to Kiftsgate Court Gardens is not complete without an understanding of how 3 generations of women in one family have shaped the garden and made it into a beloved treasure. The garden was started in the 1920s by Heather Muir who boldly employed an intuitive approach to creating gardens instead of using a more formalized plan. In the 1950’s, Muir’s daughter, Diany Binny, continued the evolution of the garden by introducing a semicircular pool to the lower level, commissioning sculptural features, and opening Kiftsgate for public enjoyment for the first time. Today, Anne Chambers, daughter of Binny and granddaughter of Muir, shapes the garden. Her new Water Garden is a contemporary oasis and evidence of her desire to bring the garden into the 21st century.

 

Day 7, May 25, Thursday – OLYMPIC PARK, CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW

This morning we’ll visit Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the site of the 2012 London Olympic Games. Our visit will focus on the gardens near the permanent sporting venues where plantings were based on native plant communities and arranged in a style similar to the naturalism of Dutch planting master Piet Oudolf. This innovative approach is now being emulated by gardeners and designers around the world.

Each year the Chelsea Flower Show attracts gardeners and designers from every corner of the world. Held in the middle of London at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the show consistently displays design excellence with its competitions for Best in Show, Best Fresh Garden and Best Artisan Garden. Listen to Andy Sturgeon, last year’s Best in Show winner, talk about his show garden in this short video. Not to be missed is the Great Pavilion where nurseries and plant societies exhibit the best and newest in international horticulture. We’ll be tired but inspired when we return to our hotel.

 

Day 8, May 26, Friday – SISSINGHURST, GREAT DIXTER

We begin our last day together at Sissinghurst Castle Gardens. These gardens are treasures today thanks to the commitment, imagination and marriage of writer Vita Sackville-West and diplomat Harold Nicolson. In the 1930s, he laid out the gardens’ architecture and she filled it with lush, romantic plantings. Suggest change to two sentences as: Besides exploring the series of intimate garden rooms, make sure you climb the tower and take in the panoramic views from the top. From this vantage point, it’s easy to see why thousands of garden lovers consider a pilgrimage to Sissinghurst an absolute must.

We end our tour at Great Dixter, perhaps the best known and most loved of all English gardens. It exists as a living testament to the life and passions of the late owner, plantsman, and writer, Christopher Lloyd. Head gardener Fergus Garrett, who worked for Lloyd during the last years of his life, carries on the tradition of experimentation that Lloyd started. Although the structure of this garden is early 20th century, the spirit of the plantings is most certainly contemporary. Under Garrett’s leadership, the garden is being developed and maintained to such a high level that you are unlikely find any other garden like it. Great Dixter is a visionary, exuberant, plant lover’s haven. Expect to see contemporary planting design at its best.

 

Day 9, May 27, Saturday – DEPART OR CONTINUE TRAVELS

Our time together will come to an end but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Travelers can choose to return home or carry on the adventure. We’ll provide coach transfer to the airport at 7:30 AM for those with flights leaving at 11:00 AM or later. Or you can take the train or taxi on your own from hotel to the airport.

Journey West along the Great Silk Road

Journey West along the Great Silk Road

 

Highlights of your trip include:

BEIJING – Walk on the Great Wall at Mutianyu, discover plants in Jingshan Park, Summer Palace, and visit 798 Art District
TASHKENT – City tour in the Uzbek capital and Ugam-Chatkal National Park
KHIVA – Visit the city wall, old town and its mosques, minarets and madrassas
BUKHARA – Tour the Samanid monuments and its garden associated with the last Persian dynasty to rule Central Asia in Bukhara, local bazaars and the Ark Fortress
SAMARKAND
Explore archaeological sites at Samarkand, the heart of the Silk Road
AMMANKUTAN – Travel to Ammankutan to see spring wild flowers in the mountain and Zarafshan Valley
TURPAN – Visit the ruins of ancient Jiaohe, the Turpan Desert Botanical Garden and meet the local Uyghur people
DUNHUANG – A sensational unforgettable experience as we visit the Mogao Grottoes, Jade Gate Pass and ancient Han Dynasty Great Wall Ruin
XIAN – Visit Terracotta Warriors archaeological site and other features of China’s fabulous past
SHANGHAI – Visit China’s vibrant commercial heart with a visit to beautiful gardens in Suzhou

 

Full itinerary

Day 1 Wed 03 May Australia-Beijing
Fly from your nearest Australian capital city to Beijing, via Singapore with Singapore Airlines. On arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel.

Day 2 Thu 04 May Beijing
Today you will travel north and take a walk along the Great Wall at Mutianyu before returning to the city to visit the beautiful Summer Palace. Welcome dinner tonight. (B L D)

Day 3 Fri 05 May Beijing-Tashkent
Visit the dominating feature of Jingshan Park and renowned 798 Art Zone that attracts many artists from home and abroad before transfer to airport for flight to Tashkent. Upon arrival, transfer to hotel. (B L D)

Day 4 Sat 06 May Tashkent
Visit Ugam-Chatkal National Park with a professional mountain guide. We will still see wild nature, mountain springs, slopes, lake, rural people and different species of birds. Uzbekistan special dinner tonight. (B L D)

Day 5 Sun 07 May Tashkent-Urgench-Khiva
Morning tour of the Uzbek capital, including the Old Town and Chorsu market. Later we fly to Urgench then transfer to our hotel in Khiva. (B L D)

Day 6 Mon 08 May Khiva
Today’s tour allows us to take in the atmosphere and sights of the oasis. Its palaces, mosques, minarets, mausoleums, and madrassas represent some of the best preserved examples of oriental town architecture from medieval times. (B L D)

Day 7 Tue 09 May Khiva-Urgench-Bukhara
This morning we take a flight to Bukhara, a large, unique and authentic art museum that maintains its old oriental face. In the afternoon, we visit the last Emir’s summer palace and Chor-Bakr necropolis. (B L D)

Day 8 Wed 10 May Bukhara
In Bukhara’s Old Town (UNESCO World Heritage), we’ll see the massive Ark Citadel, a city within a city that was once the seat of government of Bukhara’s former rulers, the almost 50m tall Kalyan Minaret, the Samanid Mausoleum, one of Central Asia’s most beautiful architectural treasures and local bazaars. This evening we will be entertained by an open-air folklore show. (B L D)

Day 9 Thu 11 May Bukhara-Samarkand
We take train to Samarkand and visit the sights of this famous historic city. The Necropolis of Shah-e Zinde (the living Shah), the Bibi Khanum mosque and Registan Square are certainly among the most notable architectural sites in Central Asia. (B L D)

Day 10 Fri 12 May Samarkand
Make a day trip to Ammankutan pass and Shahrisabz to see wild flowers on the mountains. In Shakhrisabz we visit monumental architecture of the Mongol ruler’s Great Palace – the imposing Ak-Saray. We will also see wild flowers at Zarafshan Valley on the way back. (B L D)

Day 11 Sat 13 May Samarkand
Today we tour the Ulugbek Observatory, view the interior of the palace-like Gur Emir Mausoleum and visit local bazaar. Uzbekistan special dinner tonight. (B D)

Day 12 Sun 14 May Samarkand-Tashkent
This morning is at your leisure, to do some of your exploring. In the afternoon we leave Samarkand for Tashkent. On arrival in Tashkent, we have dinner before being transferred to the airport for our midnight flight from Tashkent to Urumqi. (B L D)

Day 13 Mon 15 May Morning arrival in Urumqi
Arrive in the early morning in Urumqi, where you will be met and transferred to your hotel for a late breakfast. In the afternoon we will visit the excellent Xinjiang Regional Museum to see the incredibly well preserved mummies found in ancient tombs. If time permits, we will explore the Grand Bazaar, also known as International Bazaar. It offers both regional and imported products from nearby Russia, Mongolia and the Central Asian countries to the west. (B D)

Day 14 Tue 16 May Urumqi-Turpan
Travel by coach to Turpan. We will travel into the desert to see the mystical ruins of the ancient settlement of Jiaohe, founded over 2000 years ago. We will also pay a visit to Turpan Desert Botanical Garden, the largest botanical garden in China. (B L D)

Day 15 Wed 17 May Turpan-Dunhuang
Today we visit the peaceful Tuyugou village in a lush valley where we meet the locals at their homes. Later we will travel to Liuyuan by high-speed train. Upon arrival, transfer to hotel in Dunhuang. (B L D)

Day 16 Thu 18 May Dunhuang
Today we will tour the astonishing caves cut by Buddhist monks from 366 AD into cliff faces at Mogao. A visit to the Museum and Research Exhibition Centre at the site helps us appreciate how the caves were discovered. Then move on to the magnificent desert scenery of the Mingsha Sand Dunes overlook the mysterious Crescent Lake, there will be an opportunity to ride camels. This evening there will be a folkloric show. (B L D)

Day 17 Fri 19 May Dunhuang
Today we visit the Jade Gate Pass, one of the important passes near Dunhuang in ancient time. After lunch, you will head to Han Dynasty Great Wall Ruin that was built in Han Dynasty about 2,000 years ago. (B L D)

Day 18 Sat 20 May Dunhuang-Xian
Transfer to airport for our flight to Xian. After transfer to the hotel, we will visit the Silk Road Museum and the fantastic Muslim Quarter where the stalls lines the narrow alleys sell almost everything you can expect. (B)

Day 19 Sun 21 May Xian
This morning you will view the excavated Terracotta Warriors and Horses, buried over 2000 years ago to guard the tomb of the first emperor Qinshihuang. After lunch, you will walk along Xian’s massive City Wall, one of the best preserved in China. We will also explore the historic Small Goose Pagoda with its special viewing exhibitions. (B L)

Day 20 Mon 22 May Xian-Shanghai
Today we take high speed train to Shanghai, the amazing pulsating commercial heart of China. Upon arrival, transfer to hotel. Tonight we will be entertained by Shanghai’s famous Acrobatic show at Era. (B D)

Day 21 Tue 23 May Shanghai-Suzhou-Shanghai
Today we travel to Suzhou to visit two famous classic gardens – Master of the Nets Garden and Lingering Garden. Suzhou’s gardens are works of art – a fusion of nature, architecture, poetry and painting. Return to Shanghai and enjoy our farewell dinner tonight. (B L D)

Day 22 Wed 24 May Shanghai-Australia
Morning at your leisure. In the afternoon we transfer to to airport for overnight flight back to Australia via Singapore. (B)

 

INCLUSIONS:
• International flights with Singapore Airlines from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Adelaide to China with taxes and charges included
• Regional transport including flights & trains in Uzbekistan and China
• 20 nights’ accommodation in well-appointed hotels with breakfast daily
• Meals as stated in the itinerary
• Tour Manager with the group in Uzbekistan and China
• Experienced English speaking local guides
• Transfers and touring in private coach
• Comprehensive sightseeing and entrance fees
• Visa for China and Uzbekistan
• Gratuities to guides and drivers through the entire trip
Not Included: Travel insurance, personal expenses, porterage at hotels and anything not mentioned above.

 

Viet Nam – New Blooms and Old Days

New Blooms and Old Days – a spring-time garden and history tour in Viet Nam

 

Friday, 12 May 2017 – Friday, 26 May 2017 – 15 days

 

Day 1: Friday, 12 May 2017 – Sydney – Ho Chi Minh City
Arrive HCM City. Light evening meal. O/Night HCM City

Day 2: Saturday, 13 May 2017 – Ho Chi Minh City
Breakfast. Visit HCM City Botanic Gardens and Zoo opened in 1869. Visit Le Van Duyet Tomb. Lunch Visit to Dinh Doc Lap – Independence Palace. Stroll down to Lam Son Square via the Cathedral, Post Office and Dong Khoi Street Dinner. (Old Rue Catinat). O/night HCM City

Day 3: Sunday, 14 May 2017 – Ho Chi Minh City
Breakfast. Breakfast. Morning coffee in the Tao Dan Park (Công Viên Tao Đàn) with the Bird Fanciers followed by a stroll around the park and on to Circle Sportif. Drive by the oldest house in HCM City and visit the monument to Thich Quang Duc. Visit Cho Lon. See the Chinese Funeral House, the historic Church of Father Tam and Cho Lon Market, stopping off at the Herbal Apothecaries before heading to lunch. Post lunch stroll from Nguyen Van Hao Theatre to the 23/9 Park. Visit the Nhi Dong II Hospital and stroll to the US Consulate, site of the old US Embassy. Dinner O/night HCM City.

Day 4: Monday, 15 May 2017 – Ba Ria – Vung Tau
Breakfast. Drive to Ba Ria. Sightseeing in Ba Ria. Visit Nui Dat site of the old Australian Army Base and Long Tan Cross, site of the famous battle. Drive to Vung Tau. Dinner by the sea. O/night Vung Tau.

Day 5: Tuesday, 16 May 2017 – Ho Chi Minh City – Da Lat
Breakfast. Vung Tau City Tour. Lunch. Drive to Ho Chi Minh City via Binh Ba and Xuan Loc for evening flight to Da Lat. Dinner in Da Lat. O/night Da Lat.

Day 6: Wednesday, 17 May 2017 – Da Lat
Breakfast. Da Lat is a garden city. Cut flowers are a major industry. We take the cable car over the cut flower gardens of Da Lat. Visit the beautiful gardens at the Truc Lam Zen Monastery. Lunch. Afternoon visit to local falls, going on to the Langbiang Tourist area. Dinner, dancing and drinking with the Cil and Lach ethnic minority. O/night Da Lat

Day 7: Thursday, 18 May 2017 – Da Lat – Ho Chi Minh City
Breakfast. Leisurely stroll around Da Lat city centre including local markets. Lunch. Afternoon flight to HCM City. O/night HCM City

Day 8: Friday, 19 May 2017 – HCM City – Hue
Breakfast. Mid-morning flight to Hue. Lunch on arrival. Afternoon visit to Hue Citadel. Dinner on the Perfume River. O/night Hue

Day 9: Saturday, 20 May 2017 – Hue
Breakfast. Visit to Minh Mang Tomb. Return to Hue by Dragon Boat. Lunch. Afternoon visit to Thien Mu Pagoda. Dinner. O/night Hue.

Day 10: Sunday, 21 May 2017 – Hue – Ha Noi
Breakfast. Mid-morning flight to Ha Noi. Lunch of Cha Ca in the Old Quarter. Afternoon stroll around the old Quarter. Check in to Hotel. Attend Water Puppets Performance. Dinner. O/night Ha Noi.

Day 11: Monday, 22 May 2017 – Ha Long Bay Day Trip
Breakfast. Drive to Ha Long Bay. Cruise the Bay with lunch on board. Return to Ha Noi.

Day 12: Tuesday, 23 May 2017 – Ha Noi-Sa Pa
Breakfast. Morning visit to Ba Dinh Square, Ho Mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda. Lunch at KOTO Restaurant. Visit Temple of Literature. Check out O/night train to Sa Pa.

Day 13: Wednesday, 24 May 2017 – Sa Pa
Early Arrival at Lai Chau and drive to Sa Pa. Relax. Lunch. Afternoon visit to Cat Cat Falls. Dinner. O/night Sa Pa.

Day 14: Thursday, 25 May 2017 – Sa Pa – Ha Noi
Breakfast. Visit local ethnic minority villages in the valley below Sa Pa Town. Lunch. Late check out. Drive to Lai Chau. O/night train to Ha Noi

Day 15: Friday, 26 May 2017 – Return to Australia
Breakfast. Leisurely day. Afternoon flight to HCM City. Evening flight overnight to Australia

Gardens of the Atlantic – Portugal and Madeira

Gardens of the Atlantic – a garden tour Portugal and Madeira with Julie Kinney

 

After typically cool and wet winters, springtime in Portugal arrives with a burst of colour and greenery. On this tour, prepare for a sensory feast as you explore the grand historic gardens and palaces of the Portuguese mainland cities of Lisbon and Porto, and the verdant sub-tropical Atlantic island of Madeira. Gain exclusive access to some of the most charming and lush private gardens and estates in all of Europe, and enjoy the history, culture and cuisine of this captivating country in an unspoiled corner of Western Europe.

 

AT A GLANCE…

Marvel at the grand palaces of Lisbon and atmospheric Sintra and admire the sweeping Villar d’Allen, Aveleda and Palheiro estates (‘quintas’)
Enjoy exclusive, locally-guided visits to a number of private gardens and estates
Leisurely explore the charming cities of Lisbon, Porto and Funchal
Attend Madeira’s famous annual flower festival and discover the island’s quaint mountain villages and farmers’ markets
Savour local Portuguese wines and unique regional cuisines

 

ITINERARY

MONDAY 24 APRIL 2017 / DEPARTURE FROM AUSTRALIA
Suggested departure from Australia on Qantas/Emirates flights (via Dubai) to Lisbon. Renaissance Tours can assist you with these travel arrangements.

 

TUESDAY 25 APR / ARRIVE LISBON
Early afternoon arrival in Lisbon and check-in to your hotel.

This evening, join Julie and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing and dinner. (D)

 

WED 26 APR / LISBON
Begin your exploration of Lisbon with an orientation walking tour of the Baixa area, the commercial heart of Lisbon. Totally rebuilt after the earthquake of 1755 the Baixa is one of Europe’s first examples of town planning. The area contains magnificent plazas, connected by wide avenues lined with grand 18th-century buildings.

Visit the Alfama neighbourhood, Lisbon’s oldest district and Bairro Alto, the city’s bohemian haunt of artists and writers.

Travel to Belém, at the mouth of the Tagus River. After lunch, visit the Torre de Belém (1515-21), the ornately decorated fortress, from which many of the great Portuguese explorers embarked on their voyages of discovery.

Finish with a visit to the National Coach Museum which has one of the world’s finest collections of historical carriages. (BLD)

 

THU 27 APR / LISBON
This morning, enjoy a guided tour of the celebrated Calouste Gulbenkian Museum with its impressive art collections spanning Egyptian and classical antiquities, European old and modern masters, as well as Oriental and Islamic treasures.

Afternoon at leisure. (B)

 

FRI 28 APR / LISBON
Enjoy a full-day tour to Sintra, the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family for several centuries due to its temperate ‘hill-town’ climate and ambience. In addition to its royal residents, Sintra has attracted the aristocracy and the wealthy from Portugal and abroad who in the 19th century built grand mansions, villas and gardens.

Begin with a visit to Monserrate, built in 1858 in the eclectic Romantic-Orientalist spirit. The English-inspired park gardens contain waterfalls and plants ranging from roses and conifers to tropical tree ferns, and at least 24 species of palms.

Continue to Quinta da Regaleira, built in the early 1900s. Regaleira consists of a palace and chapel in a mixture of Roman, Gothic, Renaissance and Manueline architectural styles, surrounded by a luxurious park featuring lakes, tunnels, grottoes, wells, and fountains.

In the afternoon, visit Quinta dos Lagos a private home and garden, rarely opened to visitors. The estate boasts a woodland garden, which includes traditional Portuguese features such as azulejos (painted tiles), a glasshouse fernery, terraces and the lakes for which it is named. (subject to confirmation) (BL)

 

SAT 29 APR / LISBON
Today, visit two palaces and their gardens in the environs of Lisbon.

Begin with a visit to the privately owned Palacio Fronteira. Built in 1640, it is still one of the most beautiful residences in Lisbon, containing splendid rooms with 17th and 18th century decorative tiles, frescoed panels and oil paintings. However, it is most famous for its formal gardens with some of the country’s finest tiles, depicting hunting, battles and religious scenes.

Continue to the National Palace of Queluz for lunch followed by a tour of the grounds. Built as a royal palace in the 1750s, it is one of the last great Rococo buildings to be designed in Europe and is often referred to as the ‘Versailles of Portugal’. The gardens feature a large topiary parterre, canals, a grotto and cascade, formal terraces, statuary, fountains and avenues of magnolias and mulberry trees.
(BL)

 

SUN 30 APR / LISBON – PORTO
Depart Lisbon for a full day’s drive to Porto.

En route visit Quinta Santo Antonio, a private 17th century country estate, set on 22 hectares with a variety of garden rooms, woodlands, olive orchards and an olive oil factory. Enjoy a guided tour of the estate and museum by the owner followed by lunch.

Late afternoon arrival in Porto. Dinner is at the hotel. (BLD)

 

MON 01 MAY / PORTO (MAY DAY)
Located on a magnificent site near the mouth of the Douro River. Porto is an ancient port city steeped in history and tradition.

Begin with a walking tour of the historic centre, a feature of which is the buildings whose interiors and exteriors are magnificently decorated in tiles. Visit the São Bento station, whose atrium consists of around 20,000 tiles alluding to the history of transport and of Portugal.

In the afternoon visit Quinta de Villar d’Allen, one of the few surviving leisure manors that surrounded the city of Porto in the 18th and 19th centuries. Enjoy a guided tour by the owner, followed by afternoon tea in the gardens. (B a/t)

 

TUE 02 MAY / PORTO
Drive out of Porto to the Quinta da Aleveda wine estate. The gardens of Aveleda are a fine example of the romantic garden created in Portugal at the end of the 19th century and feature a woodland of oak trees sheltering large rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, eucalyptus and sequoias, a lake, numerous pavilions and fountains and wonderful vistas across the 300-year old wine estate.

Enjoy lunch followed by a tasting of the estate’s much-prized wines. Return to Porto in the mid-afternoon. (BL)

 

WED 03 MAY / PORTO – FUNCHAL (MADEIRA)
Transfer to Porto airport for a flight to Funchal, the capital of the Portuguese island of Madeira.

On arrival in Funchal, transfer to your hotel located at the top of sea cliff providing superb views over the Atlantic Ocean.

Dinner at a local restaurant. (BD)

 

THU 04 MAY / FUNCHAL
Begin with a cable car ride up into the hills to Monte Palace Gardens, renowned for its exotic plant collection from all over the world. One of the highlights is the large collection of tile panels placed along the walkways.

In the afternoon continue to the gardens of Quinta do Palheiro Ferreiro, also known as the Blandy’s garden. The gardens boast magnificent trees, sunken topiary gardens and exotic flower borders.

Dinner tonight at the hotel. (BD)

 

FRI 05 MAY / FUNCHAL
Today, travel to the north of the island, stopping at Pico do Ariero, the third highest summit on the island with commanding views over the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Continue to Ribeiro Frio and enjoy a walk following the levada’s (mini canals) to ‘Balcoes’ (1 hour return walk).

Conclude with a visit to the Boa Vista orchid garden and nursery. This family-run garden is dedicated to the preservation of many species of plants and flowers, some which are close to extinction. (BL)

 

SAT 06 MAY / FUNCHAL
This morning, begin with an early visit to the ‘Mercado dos Lavradores’ the city’s lively Saturday morning farmers market. Enjoy the celebrations, as the streets of Funchal make way for the morning Children’s Parade, made up of hundreds of children with colourful allegorical floats covered with natural flowers.

Later, enjoy old-world charm with afternoon tea at Belmond Reid’s Palace, followed by a guided tour of its renowned sub-tropical gardens.
(B a/t)

 

SUN 07 MAY / FUNCHAL
Today, attend the colourful annual Madeira Flower Festival. The splendid parade with floats adorned with blooms fill the streets with music, colour and soft floral aromas.

Tonight celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a farewell dinner. (BD)

 

MON 08 MAY / DEPART FUNCHAL
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. If you are returning to Australia today, we recommend you fly with TAP airlines to Lisbon, connecting with Emirates/Qantas flights via Dubai. Arrival in Australia on Tuesday 09 May or Wednesday 10 May (depending on connecting flights). Renaissance Tours can assist you with all tour travel arrangements. (B)

 

Private Gardens of New Zealand with Fiona Ogilvie

Private Gardens of New Zealand – Wellington to Queenstown with Fiona Ogilvie

 

One of Fiona’s favourite destinations is New Zealand and she just can’t wait to revisit and show off her specially chosen properties in the glorious Spring.

Over two weeks, meet an eclectic mix of artisans and farmers. Visit historic buildings and explore carefully selected private gardens in Wellington and the South Island regions of Marlborough, Canterbury, the Otago Coast and Queenstown. Visit over 20 magnificent and varied gardens, meet their owners and enjoy their warm Kiwi hospitality. Some of the gardens date back to the 19th century and feature superbly restored historic homes of national significance, with stunning scenery as their backdrop.

 

AT A GLANCE…

• Visit gardens of NZ Garden of International and National Significance status
• Sail across the Cook Strait on the Interislander ferry from Wellington to Picton
• Traverse the Island and enjoy stunning scenery at every turn
• Discover the beautiful cities and towns of the South Island including Queenstown and Dunedin
• Enjoy farmhouse lunches, country hospitality and local wines

 

ITINERARY

Thu 10 November 2016 / Arrive Wellington
Arrive Wellington and check-in to your hotel.

FRI 11 NOV / WELLINGTON
Begin with an orientation tour of the vibrant city of Wellington, nestled around the harbour and surrounded by natural scenery. See the famous Beehive and Parliament Buildings, Saint Paul’s Cathedral and Lady Norwood Rose Gardens. Enjoy breathtaking views from the summit of Mount Victoria.

Drive out of Wellington into the picturesque Ohariu Valley to Pepped Warbeck garden, a NZ Garden of Significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust (NZGT). The garden consists of a majestic entrance and long curving drive, planted with Marlborough daisies and many different native trees and shrubs. Extensive lawns sweep down to the re-modelled bog garden which features five adjoining ponds planted with primulas, bog irises, hostas and gunnera.

Following a welcome lunch with Fiona and fellow garden lovers, return to Wellington and visit the Te Papa Tongawera Museum, a fascinating centre dedicated to art, history and Maori culture. (BLD)

SAT 12 NOV / WELLINGTON – BLENHEIM
Today enjoy the scenic crossing on the Interislander ferry between Wellington and Picton. After sailing out of the picturesque harbour of Wellington, cross Cook Strait before entering the magnificent Marlborough Sounds. The three hour journey between Wellington and Picton is considered one of the most spectacular cruises in the world.

Arrive in Picton and continue to Woodend Garden and Vineyard for lunch and wine tasting. Stroll under the pergola adorned with ten Alberic Barbier roses, through to stunning water features, encountering delightful garden sculptures along the way. (BLD)

SUN 13 NOV / BELNHEIM
Today explore the Marlborough area and its gardens. Begin with Bankhouse Garden, one of the highlights of the Wairau Valley. Meander through the lower level into a shaded gully that hosts rhododendrons and bog plants. Continue towards the house and onto the upper level garden terraces where you find rambling roses and a variety of drought resistant plants.

Continue to Barewood garden for lunch. Recognised as a NZ Garden of National Significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust (NZGT), Barewood garden is designed to complement the 100 year old homestead, and features formal allees of hawthorn and malus, plantings of unusual trees and shrubs and a classic potager featuring espaliered fruit.

Journey to Paripuma Garden, with its unique collection of indigenous and rare plant species that have created a haven for wildlife on what was once a bare sandy paddock. (BL)

MON 14 NOV / BLENHHEIM
Today further explore the Marlborough area’s wines and gardens.

Begin with a visit to Hortensia House, the private homestead and garden of Georges and Huguette Michel. The Monet-inspired garden is informal in design and is loosely themed on blue and yellow, capturing an essence of serenity and reflecting the colours of the house. Huguette’s favourite shade of hydrangea is blue and these, along with lavenders, forget-me-not’s, love-in-a-mists and others provide the blue tones throughout the garden. Yellow is provided by varieties of roses, pansies, daisies, aquilegias and gazanias.

Follow with a visit to Upton Oaks, the English-inspired garden of Dave and Sue Monahan developed around a restored 1911 Victorian villa. Brick walls, ponds, perennial borders, and a 17th century style ‘knot garden’ are divided into sections by colour and a rustic kitchen garden. Upton Oaks is also recognised as a NZ Garden of National Significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust (NZGT).

Continue to Allan Scott Wines, the family owned winery established by Allan and Catherine Scott. Enjoy a wine tasting followed by lunch which is served in the European-style courtyard with its exceptional gardens and vistas to the vineyards beyond.

Afternoon is free to further explore Blenheim. (BL)

TUE 15 NOV / BLENHEIM – KAIKOURA
After breakfast depart Blenheim and travel south on the State Highway 1 to Kaikoura. Stop at Richard and Sue Macfarlane’s beautifully designed garden Winterhome, offering magnificent views of the ocean. Recognised as a NZ Garden of National Significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust (NZGT), the garden features bold, classic French lines, and is famous for its arbours, pools, woodlands and avenues.

After lunch at ‘The Store’ continue to Kaikoura. (BL)

WED 16 NOV / KAIKOURA – ASHBURTON
Today depart Kaikoura and travel south to Ashburton, stopping at Flaxmere garden for lunch.

Flaxmere is a garden for all seasons, and has been sculpted from very simple beginnings since 1966. This is a large country garden based on the principles of strong design, which is completely in tune with the river bed country it is part of. Immense use of water, creating a series of five ponds, gives a sense of enormous peace and ensures wonderful bird life. This is a garden that includes most aspects: formal, informal, woodland, natives, roses, rhododendrons and water.

In the afternoon continue to Rakaia gardens. The garden is six acres and wide lawn paths link each area with rhododendrons, camellias, thousands of annuals, perennials, roses and a huge area dedicated to NZ natives surrounding Ted’s pond. (BLD)

THU 17 NOV / ASHBURTON
Today journey into the foothills of the Southern Alps, to the small town of Mt Somers.
Begin with a visit to Surrey Hills Station to explore Sara Grigg’s magnificent garden and historic homestead.

Visit Frances and Don Stanton’s 1878 Schoolhouse garden. Enjoy country hospitality, lunch and time to wander their charming cottage garden.

Continue to Rangiatea sheep and cattle farm, owned by Sara and Blair Gallagher. Explore the picturesque gardens, agate gemstones (mined on the property), gallery and jewellery shop. (BL)

FRI 18 NOV / ASHBURTON
Begin with a visit to Winchmore Gardens, a four acre country garden set among 12 acres of original 140 year old homestead trees. The sheltered, peaceful garden with varied quality plantings is bordered with extensive buxus hedging.

Following lunch in Ashburton (own expense) continue to Akaunui Historic House and garden, originally designed by Alfred Buxton and established over 100 years ago. The garden now covers 14 acres and includes magnificent old trees. There is a pond, a creek and a bog garden, as well a woodland garden with a large collection of rhododendrons and associated plants. Akaunui also features formal and less formal gardens, many roses and a productive vegetable garden.

Conclude the day with a visit to Longbeach Estate Farm, first established in 1864 with trees planted as shelterbelts against the Nor’West winds. Gradually the garden has bloomed inside the shelter, prospering over the years as each generation of the Grigg family has continued planting and maintenance. Enjoy dinner at the Longbeach Cookshop, a historic building which is part of the farm. (BD)

SAT 19 NOV / ASHBURTON – DUNEDIN
Depart Ashburton after breakfast for a leisurely drive to Dunedin (approx. 300 km).

Stop at Timaru for a visit to the Aigantighe Art Gallery and garden. The Edwardian house gallery displays artworks in a unique and beautiful setting. The original staircase, fireplaces, and stained glass windows are features of timeless elegance. Stroll through the adjoining park-like grounds containing a wide variety of permanent sculptures set amongst established trees and gardens.

Continue to the historic town of Oamaru with its historic limestone buildings. Following lunch (own expense) travel to the suburb of Weston, to visit Rockvale Stone and Garden. The garden features trees, shrubs and flowers, water features, garden sculptures, grassed walkways and beautiful creamy Oamaru stone, in both its natural state and finely finished form.

Prior to arriving in Dunedin, stop in Moeraki renowned for its intriguing Moeraki Boulders strewn along the beach. (BD)

SUN 20 NOV / DUNEDIN
Begin with an orientation tour of Dunedin followed by a visit to the NZ Garden of National Significance Glenfalloch Woodland, situated in peaceful relaxing surroundings with panoramic harbour views. Stroll among the rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias, fuchsias and a profusion of various flower species which integrate with native ferns, exotic imports and indigenous trees, showcasing 120 years of conservation and expansion of New Zealand botanical heritage.

The afternoon is dedicated to a guided tour of Larnach Castle and gardens, rated by the New Zealand Gardens Trust as a NZ Garden of International Significance. A unique collection of specialised gardens, Larnach Castle features the Patterned Garden, the Lost Rock Garden, the Serpentine Walk, the Rain Forest, the South Seas Garden, the Alice Lawn, and the Laburnym Arch and Green Room. The gardens are Margaret Barker’s personal creation over 40 years – not only is she a restorer of historic buildings, she is also a passionate gardener. (BL)

MON 21 NOV / DUNEDIN – QUEENSTOWN
This morning travel to Clachanburn Station Patearoa, situated on the Maniototo plain in Central Otago. The garden is 4.5 acres in size and has been developed around a stream and the original plantings of 1930 which included poplars, willows, birches and a large Acer negundo. There are two large ponds with the lower pond featuring an arching natural stone bridge and boat shed. Enjoy lunch with Jane Falconer in her beautiful garden, a NZ Garden of National Significance.

Continue to Queenstown, via the Art Deco town of Ranfurly with its beautiful buildings restored to their former glory. (BL)

TUE 22 NOV / QUEENSTOWN
Today visit two outstanding gardens. The first is Blair Garden, situated a short drive from the beautiful turn-of-the-century Gold Rush settlement of Arrowtown. Blair Garden is recognised as a NZ Garden of National Significance. This imaginative and innovative country garden began 34 years ago and reflects the passion and vision of its owner, Janet Blair.

Continue to the Chantecler Garden, an evergreen garden established in 2006 which now covers circa 12 acres. The garden is beautiful in all seasons but spring is undeniably an excellent time to visit Chantecler with its blaze of colour featuring camellias, magnolias, kalmia, wisteria and ornamental cherry trees. It is designed to represent different countries and regions around the world. Chantecler is also recognised as a NZ Garden of Significance.

Tonight join Fiona and fellow garden lovers for a farewell dinner. (BD)

WED 23 NOV / DEPART QUEENSTOWN
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.

If you would like to extend your stay in Queenstown, please talk to one of our dedicated travel team for options and prices. (B)

Piet Oudolf & The Dutch Wave

Piet Oudolf & The Dutch Wave

 

NOW 15% off special offer – BOOK TODAY!

 

AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

August 16, Tuesday – Arrive in The Netherlands at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
August 17, Wednesday – Jac. P. Thijssepark, Vlinderhof
August 18, Thursday – Kasteel Geldrop, Van Nature, Private Garden designed by Noel van Mierlo
August 19, Friday – Oudolf/Hummelo, Peter Janke’s Hortvs
August 20, Saturday – Het Loo Palace & Garden, Kröller-Müller Museum
August 21, Sunday – Priona Garden, Mien Ruys Gardens, Cruydt Hoeck
August 22, Monday – Lianne’s Siergrassen, Jakobstuin, Dewit Garden Tools
August 23, Tuesday – Village of Zaanse Schans, Boon Garden, Tuin aan het Weeltje
August 24, Wednesday – Depart or continue travels on your own

 

FULL ITINERARY

Day 1, August 16, Tuesday – ARRIVE IN THE NETHERLANDS

•   Tour participants will independently arrange travel to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and have the opportunity to get settled before the garden tour starts on Saturday.

 

Day 2, August 17, Wednesday – TOUR STARTS, JAC P. THIJSSEPARK, VLINDERHOF

•   What’s more appropriate than starting our Dutch Wave tour in a town renowned for its use of Dutch wildflowers? Just around the corner from Schiphol Airport is the suburb of Amstelveen with plantings that have been described as “intensified nature.”

•   We’ll visit Jac. P. Thysse Park, named for a biologist who was an ardent devotee of native plants and birds. Designed by the late Christian P. Broerse, the park is home to just about every Dutch habitat imaginable and loaded with wild and semi-wild plantings. Read blogger Michael King’s enthusiastic post after a recent visit.

•   The Vlinderhof, or Butterfly Garden, is nestled in Maxima Park in Utrecht, and the garden plan is by acclaimed designer Piet Oudolf. Residents in the area asked Oudolf to design a garden within the park, to be maintained by volunteers. Now, over 15,000 plants of 97 different varieties in a naturalistic setting attract not only butterflies, but also bees and many other beneficial insects.

 

Day 3, August 18, Thursday – KASTEEL GELDROP, VAN NATURE, NOEL VAN MIERLO

•   We’ll start the day by visiting Kasteel Geldrop, a 14th century castle, to see the work of planting designer John Schoolmeesters. He came to this garden in 2005 to turn the walled fruit and vegetable garden into a contemporary naturalistic perennial and grass garden. The end result is a prime example of a post Dutch Wave garden with an emphasis on color, texture, and shape. Schoolmeesters is also a very good photographer and chronicles the development of this garden daily on Facebook.

•   Van Nature is a post Dutch wave display garden and nursery, started in 2013, bylandscaper Frank van der Linden, nursery woman Caroline van Heeswijk, and garden designer Frank Heijligers. Here we’ll see ornamental grasses and perennials that are difficult to find but are low maintenance & good in all seasons. That’s a tall order but it will be fascinating to see what combinations they recommend.

•   Our final garden for the day will be a private garden by Noel van Mierlo. Known for his naturalistic style, Van Mierlo is a three-time winner of the National Garden of the Year Award plus the Most Sustainable Garden, Netherlands and the Most Natural Pool. Getting a chance to see a garden by such an accomplished designer is a treat we’ll long remember.

 

Day 4, August 19, Friday – OUDOLF/HUMMELO, HORTVS

•   Piet Oudolf’s private garden at Hummelo has become a place of pilgrimage for thousands of followers from around the world. As the master designer of the New Perennials style of naturalistic planting (which, of course, started as Dutch Wave), Oudolf’s garden is a place of experimentation and testing and therefore, constant change. Enclosed by typical Dutch hedges, the interior garden explodes with familiar and new plants in an exuberant, unconventional display. Oudolf has said, “What I try to do is build an image of nature.” Here we’ll see his current image of nature and draw inspiration from Oudolf’s own innovations. This will be a garden experience we’ll never forget.

•   Our only garden in Germany is Hortvs, the private garden of designer and author Peter Janke, considered a rising star in the German landscape design world. The design is inspired by the work of British designer, Beth Chatto, with whom Janke studied in England. We’ll see meadows, a gravel garden, a woodland garden with simple mulched paths, and a wild, abundant herb garden. It’s geometric and organic, a beautiful mixture of classic and modern styles.

 

Day 5, August 20, Saturday – HET LOO, KRÖLLER-MÜLLER

(Today we take a break from Dutch Wave gardens and visit two places that are important to Dutch culture. One is historical and the other is modern.)

•   At Het Loo Palace, we’ll see an example of 17th century formal Dutch garden design, heavily influenced by the French – about as far away as one could get from Dutch Wave. The Great Garden in the back of the palace was designed by a nephew of André Le Nôtre and has a symmetrical axial layout with radiating gravel walks, parterres, statuary, fountains, and raised walks. In the 18th century, the original Baroque garden was destroyed to make way for a landscape park but it was restored for the palace’s 300th anniversary in 1984. There continue to be renovations. Recently the boxwood in the parterres were pulled out due to boxwood blight and replaced with a cultivar of Ilex crenata.

•   The Kröller-Müller Museum is an art museum and sculpture garden set in a national park. We’ll spend some time here at the museum itself, seeing the second-largest collection of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh (after the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam) and works by Picasso, Gauguin, Mondrian, and Seurat among many other artists. We’ll also want to see the sculpture garden, which has an equally renowned collection of modern sculptures in a beautiful park setting. Then, if there’s time, we’ll walk along the Ecological Walking Route or perhaps take advantage of the free bikes and cycle around the 75 acre national park.

 

Day 6, August 21, Sunday – PRIONA, MIEN RUYS, CRUYDT HOECK

•   We begin our day at Priona, the home garden of the late Henk Gerritsen, one of the founding members of the Dutch Wave. Gerritson is credited with developing the main principles of Dutch Wave design and it shows throughout the garden. Wild and cultivated plants grow next to each other. Weeds and pests are tolerated in the name of naturalism. Gerritson said his design principle is simple: “What is straight should be curved, what is curved should be straight.” We’ll discuss what that means after our visit to this garden which author Noel Kingsbury has described as “magical and entertaining … wild and zany.”

•   Our second garden of the day is the important Tuinen Mien Ruys. Here we’ll pay homage to the woman many call the “Mother of Modernism,” landscape architect Mien Ruys (1904-1999). She made these gardens over 70 years and they’re a reflection of her amazing creativity. Her style is distinctly architectural but the plantings are loose and naturalistic. There are 28 gardens in all, incorporating old and new styles while using unusual materials and perennial introductions from her father’s internationally renowned nursery. Above all, Ruys was experimental. Never afraid to try new things, her garden was an inspiration to the founders of Dutch Wave as it has been to designers from all over the world from many years.

•   Our final stop of the day is Cruyd-Hoeck, the seed nursery started by the late Rob Leopold, a specialist in wildflower seeds and one of the founding members of the Dutch Wave movement. Leopold established the nursery in 1978 to preserve the biodiversity of wild plants, bees, butterflies, and other animals, offering seed mixtures for native wildflower plantings and flower meadows. His influence continues today. A connection with Leopold’s work can be made to the much acclaimed landscaping done with seed mixtures at the recent London Olympics.Since Leopold’s death in 2005, the nursery continues under the leadership of Jasper Helwinkel and Jojanneke Bijkere, designers who are experts in Dutch Wave principles.

 

Day 7, August 22, Monday – LIANNE’S SIERGRASSEN, JAKOBSTUIN, DEWIT GARDEN TOOLS

•   The theme of today’s first garden could be summarized simply as “Plants, Plants, Plants!” Lianne’s Siergrassen is a well respected Dutch nursery that specializes in Dutch Wave ornamental grasses and perennials. Not only has the owner, Lianne Pot, indulged her passion and brought together a virtual living encyclopedia of grasses, she has also created a demonstration Prairie Style Garden arranged in curving beds with over 12,000 dynamic plants. There’s probably not one moment in the year that this garden isn’t beautiful.

•   We continue our tour at Jakobstuin, a garden that falls somewhere between Oudolf’s current style and Prairie Style. The owner and designer, Jaap de Vries, calls Jakobstuin an “Ode to the Dutch Wave.” In addition to warm season grasses typical of the North American Prairie, de Vries also uses many perennial selections favored in the New Perennial movement and arranges plants in the currently popular matrix pattern. Look carefully and you’ll notice that he pays particular attention to texture, form, and light, which is probably the reason his daily photo posts on Facebook are loved by hundreds of followers.

•   The Dutch are known for making some of the finest garden tools in the world so we’re very fortunate that DeWit Garden Tools has invited us to visit their factory and maybe even get a chance to make our own tools! The company was started by Willem de Wit in 1898, and today, the 4th generation of the family is running the forging operation. You’ll note the old-fashioned, top-notch quality, along with innovative designs.

 

Day 8, August 23, Tuesday – ZAANSE SCHANS, BOON, TUIN AAN HET WEELTJE

•   On our final tour day we’ll start with a visit to the village of Zaanse Schans. This is where you’ll get to explore traditional wooden windmills in a working community dating from the 18th & 19th centuries. Have your cameras ready because this is a photo op to text to your friends back home.

•   On our final tour day, we’ll start with the Boon Garden, a private garden near Amsterdam designed by Piet Oudolf in 2000. It combines all the advantages of an urban location but displays the harmony and tranquility of nature. The bold, modern house is open to the landscape and seamlessly transitions to lush outdoor plantings. In the back, we’ll see the iconic infinity edged pool surrounded by a beautiful mass planting of the native Dutch grass, Deschampsia cespitosa.

•   The final garden of our tour is Tuin aan het Weeltje, another private garden designed by Piet Oudolf. Large groups of grasses are combined with delicately colored perennials making a rich, waving tapestry. Here will be our chance to see how Oudolf’s ideas fit into a home garden with typical Dutch landscape elements of water, reed, and ancient willow trees. Maybe we’ll pick up some tips to apply to our own gardens when we get home.

 

Day 9, August 24, Wednesday – DEPART or CONTINUE TRAVELS

•   Our time together will come to an end but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Travelers can choose to return home or carry on the adventure. We’ll provide coach transfer to airport in the morning. Or you can take the train or taxi from Central Station to the airport.

Best of the US West

Garden and landscape tour to Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, USA in 2017

 

The spectacular landscapes of south west USA are renowned – from Utah’s Zion and Bryce National Parks and Arizona’s Grand Canyon to the dramatic spring cactus flowering and hummingbirds of the Sonoran Desert.

Join Jennie Churchill on a wide‑ranging tour that takes us from these extraordinary national parks and wilderness areas to sophisticated private and botanic gardens, the Phoenix architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright to Walpi and the Taos Pueblo, two of America’s oldest continuously inhabited Native American villages. We finish in Santa Fe, New Mexico’s 1610 capital and a city famous for its exceptionally well‑preserved Pueblo adobe architecture, vibrant arts community and galleries, excellent museums and great food and wine.

From Phoenix to Santa Fe, this is a one‑off tour that celebrates nature on a vast scale, the designed environment, flora and fauna, contemporary and Native American culture and art, iconic architecture and history.

To book this exciting tour, download the booking form brochure.

Nursery Cottage in Ojai Valley, California

Nursery Cottage in Ojai, California

 

The cottage is situated on the grounds of Australian Native Plants Nursery, a specialist nursery growing drought tolerant plants from Australia and South Africa.

The cottage sleeps 6 and is fully self contained and private from the nursery and owners next door. There are 3 bedrooms, one with a queen sized bed, one with a full/double bed, the third has a day bed and a single bed. The house has one bathroom, however, there is another toilet attached to the bunkhouse near the cottage. It has a kitchen-dining area and living room. Fast internet and Netflix available.

There is additional accommodation in the original small barn, “The Bunkhouse” (seasonal) that sleeps 2-4. The bunkhouse is available during the warmer months for an extra $100/night (additional $100 cleaning fee). This bunkhouse has 2 double beds (one a futon), a kitchen and toilet facilities.

There are plenty of outdoor sitting and eating areas.

The house is ten minutes from Ojai and 7 miles from Ventura and the beach. It is 40 minutes south of Santa Barbara and one and half hour (traffic permitting!) from LAX. Excellent location for day trips to Los Angeles Botanical Gardens and Art galleries and all that LA has to offer. Also close are the Santa Ynez and Santa Barbara wineries.

Please contact Jo O’Connell at jo@australianplants.com if you wish to check dates and book the cottage or visit the nursery.

Paris and Normandy Gardens in Summer

Paris and Normandy Gardens in Summer 2016

 

AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

July 19, Tuesday –  Arrive at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (Aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle)
July 20, Wednesday – Jardins d’Angélique, Château du Champ-de-Bataille
July 21, Thursday – Le Bois des Moutiers, Château de Miromesnil, Les Jardins Agapanthe
July 22, Friday – Visits to Honfleur, Calvados Distillery, and Omaha Beach
July 23, Saturday – Jardin de Valérianes, Le Jardin Plume
July 24, Sunday – Giverny Monet’s Garden, Versailles
July 25, Monday – Château de Sceaux, Parc André Citroën, Musée Rodin, Afternoon Free
July 26, Tuesday – Patrick Blanc’s Vertical Garden, Musée du quai Branly, Promenade Plantée, Afternoon Free
July 27, Wednesday – Depart or continue travels on your own

CarexTours strives to operate according to our published itinerary. However, in the event of unforeseen circumstances beyond our control or opportunities that would enhance the itinerary, adjustments may be necessary.

 

FULL ITINERARY

Day 1, July 19, Tuesday  – ARRIVE IN PARIS
  • Tour participants will independently arrange travel to the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (Aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle) and have the opportunity to get settled into the designated hotel before the garden tour starts on Wednesday.

 

Day 2, July 20, Wednesday  – TOUR STARTS, JARDINS D’ANGÉLIQUE, CHÂTEAU DU CHAMP-DE-BATAILLE
  • Jardins d’Angélique was designed by the owners and features two distinct gardens. The North garden is a dreamy, informal, and flowing English-style garden with winding paths. The South garden is a serene, formal, and geometric Italianate garden featuring parterres filled to overflowing with masses of roses, perennials, and ornamental grasses. The gardens are home to a collection of over 2,000 rose varieties that create a visually rich and remarkable aromatic experience.
  • Château du Champ-de-Bataille is certain to delight anyone with a passion for formal design. Jacques Garcia, the French architect, interior designer, and garden designer, spent two decades restoring the château and its acres of gardens and waterworks to an opulence said to rival Versailles.

 

Day 3, July 21, Thursday  – Le BOIS des MOUTIERS, CHÂTEAU DE MIROMESNIL, LES JARDINS AGAPANTHE
  • The gardens of Le Bois des Moutiers offer a bit of England in France. This magical landscape reflects the successful collaboration between the owner, the English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, and the highly influential English horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll. This 116-year-old property is an example of a superbly maintained and mature landscape. As it slopes down to meet the sea, it features formal gardens, awe-inspiring 30-foot-tall rhododendrons, and blooming hydrangeas. Lutyens’ attention to detail is evident in the brick-built seating areas, paths of brick and stone, and exceptional clipped yew hedges.
  • Château de Miromesnil is a historic monument featuring a castle, chapel, and a 100-year-old beech grove. A treasure here is most certainly the classic potager (kitchen garden) surrounded by an old brick wall. It includes a floriferous cutting garden, which illustrates its use for pleasure as well as eating.
  • At the Les Jardins Agapanthe the possibilities of a small landscape infused with big ideas will inspire. Created over the last 30 years, the owner and landscape designer Alexandre Thomas has thoughtfully chosen a planting combination that highlights the cool colors of Agapanthus, Hydrangea and Wisteria in the older section, and a more Mediterranean plant palette in the newer garden.

 

Day 4, July 22, Friday  – HONFLEUR, CALVADOS DISTILLERY, and OMAHA BEACH
  • We’ll depart briefly from garden paths to savor the food, art galleries, and historic charm of the famous and picturesque Honfleur. Located where the Seine river meets the English Channel, Honfleur has been skillfully painted by Monet and other artists and is widely celebrated as the birthplace of Impressionism. Next we’ll visit a distillery and enjoy the chance to sip Calvados, the famous Norman apple brandy. And, lastly, we’ll experience the crisp air of the Norman coast and pay our respects as we visit the beach where the Allied invasion of German-occupied France took place during World War II.

 

Day 5, July 23, Saturday – JARDIN DE VALÉRIANES, LE JARDIN PLUME
  • A visit to the heart of the countryside will lead us to the the Jardin de Valérianes, where the owners’ passion for English cottage gardens is showcased through two unique gardens.The original and historic garden exudes a romantic and formal combination of roses and perennials while the newer garden offers a woodland paradise.
  • Le Jardin Plume is an exciting contemporary garden that skillfully combines French formality with strong linear structural elements alongside naturalistic planting schemes to create a stunning effect. Designed by owners Patrick and Sylvie Quibell, it is thought by many to be the finest modern private garden in France.

 

Day 6, July 24, Sunday  – GIVERNY MONET’S GARDEN,  VERSAILLES
  • Many of Monet’s most famous works were painted in his garden in Giverny. Here we’ll see the walled garden, the archways with climbing plants, the Japanese bridge, and the waterlily pond where the artist transformed his view into a series of world-renowned paintings that have been embraced by art lovers from around the globe.
  • At Versailles, we’ll be treated to one of the world’s most treasured gardens and the marvelous achievement of French landscape architect André Le Nôtre . Considered the crown jewel of formal French design, the landscape features iconic intricate parterres, long avenues of trees, a grand canal, and impressive fountains.

 

Day 7,  July 25, Monday  –CHÂTEAU DE SCEAUX, PARC ANDRÉ CITROËN, MUSEÉ  RODIN, AFTERNOON FREE
  • The Château de Sceaux is a country house situated in a park not far from Paris. It was designed by André Le Nôtre , the French landscape architect who first dazzled the world with his designs for Versailles. Here we will be awed by the expansive lawns that lead to the chateau, the grand canals, waterfalls, fountains, and the symmetrical structure that defines the traditional French design aesthetic.
  • The Parc André Citroën is a contemporary green space with a beautiful view of the Seine, a collection of exotic trees, many rare plants and impressive hothouses. We’ll visit the three themed areas: the Jardin Blanc, the Jardin Noir and the big central park area.
  • Musée  Rodin – Late in his life, the world-famous sculptor Auguste Rodin lived and worked from his studio in the Hôtel Biron. Newly restored, the 18th-century hotel houses a marvelous museum that includes 18 rooms and a spectacular sculpture garden dedicated to his works. Many of his bronze and marble sculptures, including his best-known masterpieces, are on display in the gardens. The Thinker and The Gates of Hell are situated in the museum’s rose garden, which is a highlight in its own right.
  • Afternoon Free – Enjoy an afternoon of unscheduled time to explore Paris as you choose.

 

Day 8,  July 26, Tuesday  – PATRICK BLANC’S VERTICAL GARDEN, MUSEÉ  DU QUAI BRANLY, PROMENADE PLANTÉE, AFTERNOON FREE
  • Around the world, majestic walls of plants are cropping up in urban settings and providing a welcome green oasis thanks to Patrick Blanc, the botanist and designer credited with popularizing the vertical garden trend. We’ll see the artistry of Patrick Blanc exemplified by a 40’ x 650’ green wall at the Musée du quai Branly(nicknamed MQB). We’ll also experience the work of Gilles Clément who designed the gardens at MQB to be the exact opposite of a traditional French formal garden. Instead of lawns, gates, and monumental stairways, Clément composed a masterpiece using small gardens, streams, hills, pools, groves, and a stunning combination of native French plants.
  • Our final destination will take us to the Promenade Plantée, where we will experience the marvelous transformation of a 19th-century railway viaduct into the world’s first elevated park. Plant combinations include fragrant cherry trees, maples, rose trellises, bamboo corridors and lavender. Situated three storys above ground, the Promenade provides a unique and impressive view of the surrounding architecture.
  • Afternoon Free – Enjoy an afternoon of unscheduled time to explore Paris as you choose.

 

Day 9,  July 27, Wednesday – DEPART or CONTINUE TRAVELS
  • Our time together will come to an end, but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Coach transfer to the airport is included in the trip price and will depart in the morning. Participants can arrange an individual or shared taxi for approximately $50 or continue travels independently to your next destination.

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens

 

AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

May 18, Wednesday – Arrive in London at Heathrow Airport
May 19, Thursday – Broughton Grange, Broughton Castle, Pettifers
May 20, Friday – Hidcote, Kiftsgate
May 21, Saturday – RHS Garden Wisley, Highgrove
May 22, Sunday – Folly Farm, Waltham Place
May 23, Monday – Sissinghurst, Gravetye Manor, Great Dixter
May 24, Tuesday – Hampton Court Palace, Olympic Park, Afternoon & Evening free
May 25, Wednesday – Chelsea Flower Show, Farewell Dinner
May 26, Thursday – Depart or continue travels on your own

 

FULL ITINERARY

Day 1, May 18, Wedesday – ARRIVE IN ENGLAND

Tour participants will independently arrange travel to Heathrow airport in London and have the opportunity to get settled before the garden tour starts on Friday.

Day 2, May 19, Thursday – BROUGHTON GRANGE, BROUGHTON CASTLE, PETTIFERS

We’ll start our tour by seeing a captivating garden at Broughton Grange by a designer many think to be the best working in England today, Tom Stuart-Smith. Part of a larger 19th century garden, this new 21st century addition transformed a paddock into an ambitious six-acre walled garden. Three themed terraces traverse a slope and open to the surrounding rural landscape. We’ll see masses of perennials and grasses punctuated with topiary, a modern boxwood parterre based on leaves, beech tunnels, pleached lime squares, and a rill carrying water into a large stone tank. The scale of Stuart-Smith’s design is a bold step away from the typical English garden room.
Broughton Castle is a medieval, moated manor house, home of the Fiennes family. Among the garden highlights are the Ladies’ Garden, a walled enclosure on the South side of the castle created in the 1890’s. The crisp fleur-de-lys parterres are planted with ‘Heritage’ and “Gruss an Aachen’ roses. On the perimeter are beds with colorful shrubs, old roses, and herbaceous perennials. This will be our introduction to the classic, pretty English border.

Our third stop is Pettifers a stylish townhouse garden designed by the owner Gina Price. With little experience in design, Price started in the early 1990’s with a conventional, old fashioned garden. Gradually through visiting other gardens and asking for criticism from knowledgeable friends, Price began editing. Today, Pettifers is known for its innovative plant choices, remarkable plant combinations, and vivid color blends, all within a confident structure. Price admits to being influenced by the New Perennials movement but says she couldn’t have a garden without English prettiness. This is a pairing that’s sure to please.

Day 3, May 20, Friday – HIDCOTE, KIFTSGATE

From 1907, Lawrence Johnston, a talented plantsman with a strong sense of design, created Hidcote, considered by many to be an early 20th century masterpiece. A series of hedged, intimate, outdoor rooms, each with its own individual character, are linked by narrow passageways and eventually lead to views of the countryside beyond. Throughout, Johnston used a vast variety of plants, many found on his plant collecting trips. It’s interesting to note the number of plants still used today that were introduced in this garden.

A visit to Kiftsgate Court Gardens is not complete without an understanding of how three generations of women have shaped this garden into a beloved treasure. The garden was started in the 1920’s by Heather Muir, who boldly employed an intuitive approach to creating gardens instead of using a more formalized plan. In the 1950’s, Muir’s daughter, Diany Binny, continued the evolution of the garden and introduced a semi-circular pool in the lower garden, commissioned sculptural features, and opened Kiftsgate for public enjoyment for the first time. Today, Anne Chambers, daughter of Binny and granddaughter of Muir, continues to shape the landscape. Her new Water Garden is a contemporary oasis and evidence of her desire to bring the garden into the 21st century. At Kiftsgate, we’ll stroll leisurely along the Wide Border packed with perennials, and, with any luck, view the enormous blooms of the tree peony collection.

Day 4, May 21, Saturday – WISLEY, HIGHGROVE

We’ll first enjoy the famous Royal Horticultural Society Garden, Wisley. This flagship garden spans 240 acres and features a diversity of garden types from model gardens to rock gardens to stunning borders. We can expect to see colorful May flowers such as rhododendrons and azaleas, tulips, allium, camassia, iris & peony in bloom. We’ll explore the Glasshouse, a recent addition to Wisley, and the nearby perennial borders created by influential planting designers Piet Oudolf and Tom Stuart-Smith. There will be time to pause and reflect over afternoon tea or buy a memento in the shop.

Our second stop of the day is Highgrove. The Prince of Wales bought his estate in 1980 and has devoted great energy to establishing lush, organic gardens. He’s had the help of notable designers including Rosemary Verey and Julian and Isabel Bannerman. The results are thought by many to be enchanting. Just a few of the gardens we’ll see are dancing wildflower meadows, a fragrant Thyme Walk flanked by witty Yew Topiaries, and a fabulous, sculptural Stumpery in the woods.

Day 5, May 22, Sunday – FOLLY FARM, WALTHAM PLACE

We’ll begin the day at Folly Farm an outstanding example of the collaboration between celebrated 20th century garden designer Gertrude Jekyll and the great British architect Edward Lutyens. The best known areas are the canal garden and the sunken rose garden. Originally designed in 1912, the current owners have led a recent restoration and replanting with assistance from the influential contemporary English garden designer Dan Pearson. Not to be missed is Pearson’s bold, new planting in the Lutyens’ Sunken Pool Garden.

We continue on to Waltham Place where we will explore naturalistic plantings by the late Dutch designer Henk Gerritsen. Along with Piet Oudolf, Gerritsen is credited as a founder of the Dutch Wave movement. At Waltham Place, he transformed a square walled garden that dates back to the 17th century by using plantings that seem wild and unplanned. A cloud pruned caterpillar hedge snakes through the space, playfully contrasting with the looseness of the other plants. We’ll see other gardens here and have time to consider the contribution of Gerritsen to modern planting design.

Day 6, May 23, Monday – SISSINGHURST, GRAVETYE MANOR, GREAT DIXTER

Sissinghurst Castle Gardens are treasures today thanks to the commitment, imagination and marriage of writer Vita Sackville-West and diplomat Harold Nicholson. He laid out the gardens’ architecture and she filled it with lush, romantic plantings. Besides exploring the series of intimate garden rooms, make sure you climb the tower and take in the panoramic views from the top. You can learn more about Sissinghurst right now by checking out its blog.

The gardens of Gravetye Manor, with their lovely views to the surrounding countryside, were created a century ago by writer, designer, and owner, William Robinson. Here he showcased his ideas about naturalism & wild gardening by dramatically contrasting untamed gardens with more structured areas close to the house. Today, Gravetye Manor is a country house hotel and the gardens have had an extensive restoration. But don’t expect to see a historic set piece. The current head gardener, having done a stint at Great Dixter, is adding experimental plantings, giving the garden a 21st century twist.

We end the day at Great Dixter perhaps the best known and most loved of all English gardens. It exists as a living testament to the life and passions of the late owner, plantsman, and writer, Christopher Lloyd. Today, Fergus Garrett, who worked for Lloyd during the last years of his life, carries on the tradition of experimentation. He welcomes visitors with horticultural interests from all over the world.

Day 7, May 24, Tuesday – HAMPTON COURT PALACE & GARDEN, OLYMPIC PARK, AFTERNOON & EVENING FREE

Hampton Court Palace sits on the banks of the Thames River and has 60 acres of formal gardens. You’ll want to search out the achingly beautiful Wisteria tunnel, get lost in the maze of a thousand yews, and be awed by the Victorian kitchen garden with its brilliant display of vibrantly colored tulips. Make sure you bring a camera because the gardens also have a grape vine planted in 1769 that is the largest in the world.

The gardens at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park were created for the 2012 Olympic Games to celebrate the participating countries by featuring plants from around the world. Praised for their intricate floriferous plantings that have the look of colorful meadows, the gardens have continued to draw much interest. This new park is an example of how urban plantings can help to make cities healthy and livable.

Afternoon & Evening Free – Enjoy an afternoon & evening of unscheduled time to explore London as you choose.

Day 8, May 25, Wednesday – Chelsea Flower Show

The Chelsea Flower Show attracts garden designers and garden enthusiasts from every corner of the world. Held at London’s Royal Hospital Chelsea, the Chelsea Flower Show consistently displays design and horticultural excellence. There will be 17 show gardens along Main Avenue this year and the competition will be fierce. Last year’s Best of Show winner was Dan Pearson’s poetic interpretation of wildflower garden with a trout stream– a naturalistic tour de force. There will also be plenty of time at the show to explore the Great Pavilion where nurseries and plant societies exhibit the best & newest plants from around the world.

Day 9, May 26, Thursday – DEPART or CONTINUE TRAVELS

Our time together will come to an end, but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Coach transfer to the airport is included in the trip price and will depart in the morning. You may also choose to take the Heathrow Express train or a taxi.

Private Gardens of New Zealand

Private Gardens of New Zealand – Wellington to Queenstown with Julie Kinney

 

<<SOLD OUT>> – see our new tour Private Gardens of New Zealand from November 10-23, 2016 with Fiona Ogilvie

 

One of Julie’s favourite destinations is New Zealand and she just can’t wait to revisit and show off her specially chosen properties in the glorious Spring.

Over two weeks, meet an eclectic mix of artisans and farmers. Visit historic buildings and explore carefully selected private gardens in Wellington and the South Island regions of Marlborough, Canterbury, the Otago Coast and Queenstown. Visit over 20 magnificent and varied gardens, meet their owners and enjoy their warm Kiwi hospitality. Some of the gardens date back to the 19th century and feature superbly restored historic homes of national significance, with stunning scenery as their backdrop.

 

AT A GLANCE…

• Visit gardens of NZ Garden of International and National Significance status
• Sail across the Cook Strait on the Interislander ferry from Wellington to Picton
• Traverse the Island and enjoy stunning scenery at every turn
• Discover the beautiful cities and towns of the South Island including Queenstown and Dunedin
• Enjoy farmhouse lunches, country hospitality and local wines

 

ITINERARY

Sun 30 October 2016 / Arrive Wellington
Arrive Wellington and check-in to your hotel.

Mon 31 Oct / Wellington
Begin with an orientation tour of the vibrant city of Wellington, nestled around the harbour and surrounded by natural scenery. See the famous Beehive and Parliament Buildings, Saint Paul’s Cathedral and Lady Norwood Rose Gardens. Enjoy breathtaking views from the summit of Mount Victoria.

Drive out of Wellington into the picturesque Ohariu Valley to Pepped Warbeck garden, a NZ Garden of Significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust (NZGT). The garden consists of a majestic entrance and long curving drive, planted with Marlborough daisies and many different native trees and shrubs. Extensive lawns sweep down to the re-modelled bog garden which features five adjoining ponds planted with primulas, bog irises, hostas and gunnera.

Following a welcome lunch with Julie and fellow garden lovers, return to Wellington and visit the Te Papa Tongawera Museum, a fascinating centre dedicated to art, history and Maori culture. (BLD)

Tue 01 Nov / Wellington – Blenheim
Today enjoy the scenic crossing on the Interislander ferry between Wellington and Picton. After sailing out of the picturesque harbour of Wellington, cross Cook Strait before entering the magnificent Marlborough Sounds. The three hour journey between Wellington and Picton is considered one of the most spectacular cruises in the world.

Arrive in Picton and continue to Woodend Garden and Vineyard for lunch and wine tasting. Stroll under the pergola adorned with ten Alberic Barbier roses, through to stunning water features, encountering delightful garden sculptures along the way. (BLD)

Wed 02 Nov / Blenheim
Today explore the Marlborough area and its gardens. Begin with Bankhouse Garden, one of the highlights of the Wairau Valley. Meander through the lower level into a shaded gully that hosts rhododendrons and bog plants. Continue towards the house and onto the upper level garden terraces where you find rambling roses and a variety of drought resistant plants.

Continue to Barewood garden for lunch. Recognised as a NZ Garden of National Significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust (NZGT), Barewood garden is designed to complement the 100 year old homestead, and features formal allees of hawthorn and malus, plantings of unusual trees and shrubs and a classic potager featuring espaliered fruit.

Journey to Paripuma Garden, with its unique collection of indigenous and rare plant species that have created a haven for wildlife on what was once a bare sandy paddock. (BL)
Thu 03 Nov / Blenheim
Today further explore the Marlborough area’s wines and gardens.

Begin with a visit to Hortensia House, the private homestead and garden of Georges and Huguette Michel. The Monet-inspired garden is informal in design and is loosely themed on blue and yellow, capturing an essence of serenity and reflecting the colours of the house. Huguette’s favourite shade of hydrangea is blue and these, along with lavenders, forget-me-not’s, love-in-a-mists and others provide the blue tones throughout the garden. Yellow is provided by varieties of roses, pansies, daisies, aquilegias and gazanias.

Follow with a visit to Upton Oaks, the English-inspired garden of Dave and Sue Monahan developed around a restored 1911 Victorian villa. Brick walls, ponds, perennial borders, and a 17th century style ‘knot garden’ are divided into sections by colour and a rustic kitchen garden. Upton Oaks is also recognised as a NZ Garden of National Significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust (NZGT).

Continue to Allan Scott Wines, the family owned winery established by Allan and Catherine Scott. Enjoy a wine tasting followed by lunch which is served in the European-style courtyard with its exceptional gardens and vistas to the vineyards beyond.

Afternoon is free to further explore Blenheim. (BL)

Fri 04 Nov / Blenheim – Kaikoura
After breakfast depart Blenheim and travel south on the State Highway 1 to Kaikoura. Stop at Richard and Sue Macfarlane’s beautifully designed garden Winterhome, offering magnificent views of the ocean. Recognised as a NZ Garden of National Significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust (NZGT), the garden features bold, classic French lines, and is famous for its arbours, pools, woodlands and avenues.

After lunch at ‘The Store’ continue to Kaikoura. (BL)

Sat 05 Nov / Kaikoura – Ashburton
Today depart Kaikoura and travel south to Ashburton, stopping at Flaxmere garden for lunch.

Flaxmere is a garden for all seasons, and has been sculpted from very simple beginnings since 1966. This is a large country garden based on the principles of strong design, which is completely in tune with the river bed country it is part of. Immense use of water, creating a series of five ponds, gives a sense of enormous peace and ensures wonderful bird life. This is a garden that includes most aspects: formal, informal, woodland, natives, roses, rhododendrons and water.

In the afternoon continue to Rakaia gardens. The garden is six acres and wide lawn paths link each area with rhododendrons, camellias, thousands of annuals, perennials, roses and a huge area dedicated to NZ natives surrounding Ted’s pond. (BLD)

Sun 06 Nov / Ashburton
Today journey into the foothills of the Southern Alps, to the small town of Mt Somers.
Begin with a visit to Surrey Hills Station to explore Sara Grigg’s magnificent garden and historic homestead.

Visit Frances and Don Stanton’s 1878 Schoolhouse garden. Enjoy country hospitality, lunch and time to wander their charming cottage garden.

Continue to Rangiatea sheep and cattle farm, owned by Sara and Blair Gallagher. Explore the picturesque gardens, agate gemstones (mined on the property), gallery and jewellery shop. (BL)

Mon 07 Nov / Ashburton
Begin with a visit to Winchmore Gardens, a four acre country garden set among 12 acres of original 140 year old homestead trees. The sheltered, peaceful garden with varied quality plantings is bordered with extensive buxus hedging.

Following lunch in Ashburton (own expense) continue to Akaunui Historic House and garden, originally designed by Alfred Buxton and established over 100 years ago. The garden now covers 14 acres and includes magnificent old trees. There is a pond, a creek and a bog garden, as well a woodland garden with a large collection of rhododendrons and associated plants. Akaunui also features formal and less formal gardens, many roses and a productive vegetable garden.

Conclude the day with a visit to Longbeach Estate Farm, first established in 1864 with trees planted as shelterbelts against the Nor’West winds. Gradually the garden has bloomed inside the shelter, prospering over the years as each generation of the Grigg family has continued planting and maintenance. Enjoy dinner at the Longbeach Cookshop, a historic building which is part of the farm. (BD)

Tue 08 Nov / Ashburton – Dunedin
Depart Ashburton after breakfast for a leisurely drive to Dunedin (approx. 300 km).

Stop at Timaru for a visit to the Aigantighe Art Gallery and garden. The Edwardian house gallery displays artworks in a unique and beautiful setting. The original staircase, fireplaces, and stained glass windows are features of timeless elegance. Stroll through the adjoining park-like grounds containing a wide variety of permanent sculptures set amongst established trees and gardens.

Continue to the historic town of Oamaru with its historic limestone buildings. Following lunch (own expense) travel to the suburb of Weston, to visit Rockvale Stone and Garden. The garden features trees, shrubs and flowers, water features, garden sculptures, grassed walkways andbeautiful creamy Oamaru stone, in both its natural state and finely finished form.

Prior to arriving in Dunedin, stop in Moeraki renowned for its intriguing Moeraki Boulders strewn along the beach. (BD)

Wed 09 Nov / Dunedin
Begin with an orientation tour of Dunedin followed by a visit to the NZ Garden of National Significance Glenfalloch Woodland, situated in peaceful relaxing surroundings with panoramic harbour views. Stroll among the rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias, fuchsias and a profusion of various flower species which integrate with native ferns, exotic imports and indigenous trees, showcasing 120 years of conservation and expansion of New Zealand botanical heritage.

The afternoon is dedicated to a guided tour of Larnach Castle and gardens, rated by the New Zealand Gardens Trust as a NZ Garden of International Significance. A unique collection of specialised gardens, Larnach Castle features the Patterned Garden, the Lost Rock Garden, the Serpentine Walk, the Rain Forest, the South Seas Garden, the Alice Lawn, and the Laburnym Arch and Green Room. The gardens are Margaret Barker’s personal creation over 40 years – not only is she a restorer of historic buildings, she is also a passionate gardener. (BL)

Thu 10 Nov / Dunedin – Queenstown
This morning travel to Clachanburn Station Patearoa, situated on the Maniototo plain in Central Otago. The garden is 4.5 acres in size and has been developed around a stream and the original plantings of 1930 which included poplars, willows, birches and a large Acer negundo. There are two large ponds with the lower pond featuring an arching natural stone bridge and boat shed. Enjoy lunch with Jane Falconer in her beautiful garden, a NZ Garden of National Significance.

Continue to Queenstown, via the Art Deco town of Ranfurly with its beautiful buildings restored to their former glory. (BL)

Fri 11 Nov / Queenstown
Today visit two outstanding gardens. The first is Blair Garden, situated a short drive from the beautiful turn-of-the-century Gold Rush settlement of Arrowtown. Blair Garden is recognised as a NZ Garden of National Significance. This imaginative and innovative country garden began 34 years ago and reflects the passion and vision of its owner, Janet Blair.
Continue to the Chantecler Garden, an evergreen garden established in 2006 which now covers circa 12 acres. The garden is beautiful in all seasons but spring is undeniably an excellent time to visit Chantecler with its blaze of colour featuring camellias, magnolias, kalmia, wisteria and ornamental cherry trees. It is designed to represent different countries and regions around the world. Chantecler is also recognised as a NZ Garden of Significance.

Tonight join Julie and fellow garden lovers for a farewell dinner. (BD)

Sat 12 Nov / Depart Queenstown
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.

If you would like to extend your stay in Queenstown, please talk to one of our dedicated travel team for options and prices. (B)

Garden Tour to Japan with Bruce Spence

Garden Tour to Japan with Bruce Spence

 

TOUR ITINERARY
Day 1 Fri 11 Nov Arrive Tokyo
Transfer from Narita Airport to hotel on arrival.

Day 2 Sat 12 Nov Tokyo
The first visit on our tour will be to the historic Imperial Palace East Gardens, an oasis of calm in the middle of this giant city. Edo Castle was once the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns who ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867. The old site of the castle now makes up the park and garden areas.
The famous Korakuen Garden is designed in the traditional Japanese landscape style and is the first of the “Three Great Gardens” of Japan we will visit.
Enjoy a welcome dinner tonight. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 3 Sun 13 Nov Tokyo
We have only a short time in Tokyo so Senso-ji Temple and Asukusa have been chosen to introduce us to a taste of traditional Japan. Senso-ji is one of the very popular temples in Tokyo while the Asukusa area that surrounds it provides a wonderful variety of snacks, restaurants and souvenir shopping. (Breakfast)

Day 4 Mon 14 Nov Tokyo-Hakone-Tokyo
We escape Tokyo and journey by private coach to Hakone for the day. Hopefully weather permitting we will get an excellent view of Mount Fuji. We will visit the Hakone Open- Air Museum which includes a spectacular garden, home to over 120 permanent Japanese and Western sculptures. While in Hakone we will visit the Hakone Museum of Art which houses a unique and modest collection of ancient to modern ceramics, but the velvety moss garden surrounding it could also be regarded as a work of art. Also enjoy a boat cruise on Lake Ashi. (Breakfast)

Day 5 Tue 15 Nov Tokyo-Kanazawa
Take bullet train to Kanazawa. We are off to Kanazawa Castle and Kenroku-en Garden, another of the “Three Great Gardens” of Japan. The Japanese say Kenroku-en means having six factors: spaciousness, tranquillity, artifice, antiquity, water courses and a magnificent view, and they are right!
Nomura Family House shows us just how the Samurai would have lived in times past. It evokes a sense of what old Japan and best of all its exquisite gardens might have been like. An absolute joy. Many of us will be inspired by the imaginative opportunities that could apply even to our own backyards.
We also visit Higashi Chaya district, a traditional place of feasts and entertainment, where geisha have been entertaining people since the Edo period. (Breakfast)

Day 6 Wed 16 Nov Kanazawa-Shirakawa-go-Takayama
Travel by road to Takayama, stopping en route in the remote mountains of Honshu to visit the UNESCO listed Shirakawa-go Village. Shirakawa-go is a fairytale walk back in time with quaint original cottages, water wheels and paddy fields.
We then continue our journey on to Takayama.
Hida beef dinner tonight. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 7 Thu 17 Nov Takayama
Work off your breakfast with a relaxing walking tour of Takayama Old Town and the Kusakabe Folkcraft Museum, including the cultural heart of the town, the morning market. Many of the old town streets date from the Edo Period and are perfect for people who love to browse.
Afternoon is at your leisure. (Breakfast)

Day 8 Fri 18 Nov Takayama-Nagoya-Himeji-Okayama
Travel by Bullet Train to Himeji where we visit Himeji Castle, a world cultural heritage site and a national treasure. Fortunately Koko-en Garden is located beside Himeji Castle. Its diminutive size packs a wallop by featuring nine separate gardens, each centred on a different theme authentic to the Edo Period and enclosed by replica mud walls topped by tiled roofs. Continue travelling to Okayama and check in at our hotel. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 9 Sat 19 Nov Okayama-Kurashiki-Okayama
After breakfast we will explore the colourful and expansive Koraku-en Garden, another of the “Three Great Gardens” of Japan that celebrates the typical features of a Japanese landscape garden. Then we cross the Asahi River to view the magnificent Okayama Castle, nicknamed “Crow Castle” because of its very black colour.
In the afternoon we will wander through the Bikan area of Kurashiki, a time warp into ancient feudal times. With a distinct and stunningly beautiful architectural design, you’ll see a central canal crossed by traditional curved bridges, and lined by fascinating shops, eateries and museums. (Breakfast)

Day 10 Sun 20 Nov Okayama-Takamatsu
Today we depart Okayama for Takamatsu to visit Ritsurin Park, considered to be one of the best gardens in Japan. It is often suggested that Ritsurin Park deserves a spot on the list with the “Three Great Gardens”. It was given three stars as the highest-rated, worth-visiting place for sightseeing in the Michelin Green Guide Japan in 2009. We will also pay a visit to Kinashi Bonsai Village, in the heartland territory of Japanese Bonsai. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 11 Mon 21 Nov Takamatsu-Naoshima-Kyoto
In the morning, as a change of pace, we catch the ferry to the Benesse Art Site on Naoshima Island and visit the Lee Ufan and Cichu Art Museums. It’s worth visiting just for the contemporary art alone, but it’s also a great spot to briefly rest your frazzled senses after visiting so many garden landscapes. We then transfer to Miyaura Port to take the ferry to Uno and then by Bullet Train from Okayama on to Kyoto. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 12 Tue 22 Nov Kyoto
Today, we experience a truly Japanese cultural event, a tea ceremony at Kodaiji Temple, possibly the most well-known temple in Japan, and then visit the peaceful Ryoan-ji Temple home to the famous Zen rock garden. This UNESCO World Heritage site in Kyoto encourages contemplation while enjoying the simplicity of carefully arranged boulders amidst raked pebbles that resemble ripples of the sea. Definitely recommended to gain an appreciation of the deep thoughts behind this garden style. It is fortunately right next door to Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion), another treasure! (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 13 Wed 23 Nov Kyoto
A more relaxing day. After breakfast we visit the secluded Gio-ji Temple. It presides over a magnificent grove of thick magical moss that just about begs you to lie down on it (you are strictly forbidden), straight out of a fairytale. We then head to the picturesque Arashiyama District for a relaxing walk through the peaceful Bamboo Forest.
The rest of the day is at your leisure. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 14 Thu 24 Nov Kyoto
This morning we visit the I M Pei-designed Miho Museum in Shiga Prefecture. The building is a work of art in itself, as it sits in perfect harmony with an incredible mountain landscape. It is best known for its Shigaraki pottery as well as an incredible collection of artworks belonging to the founder of the museum, Koyama Mihoko, one of the richest women in Japan, and her daughter Hiroko.
The afternoon is at your leisure. This evening, enjoy a farewell dinner. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 15 Fri 25 Nov Depart Kyoto
Today we transfer to Osaka Airport for your onward flight. (Breakfast)

To enquire or book this tour, please contact
Opulent Journeys 1300 219 885
Email: tony@opulentjourneys.com.au

Nature Lovers Tour of Borneo with Rowan Hayes

Nature Lovers Tour of Borneo with Rowan Hayes

 

OVERVIEW
Borneo, the ‘Land Below the Wind’ as it was once called, has steamy jungles, exotic wildlife and extraordinary landscapes. It is still possible to meet the families of once head-hunting indigenes and to experience the Malay states that spawned adventurous romance from which the likes of Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling drew inspiration.

This tour exposes you to rainforest and other ecological niches that make the island one of the world’s plant hotspots. Teeming, noisy jungles, secluded beaches, mountains and rainforest are home to orangutan, hornbills, exotic plants, amazing caves, tribal village life.

There is the opportunity to immerse yourself in the colonial history with discussions about the ‘white Rajahs’ and visits to WW2 memorials.

Oriental cuisine and tropical fruit delights such as rambutan, jackfruit, salak, durian will add to your destination experiences.

Please note: Because we are seeking to find unspoilt environments and intact plant communities with abundant wildlife. Accommodation in remote national parks is basic, as illustrated.

Although this is not a trekking journey, we will, on occasions be walking on tracks and boardwalks for up to three hours. The walking tracks are not unlike a hike in our bushland. A reasonable level of fitness is necessary. Tropical temperatures can be challenging and it is necessary to maintain hydration.

TOUR ITINERARY
Day 1 Sat 10 September Sydney-Singapore-Kuching
Depart Sydney to Kuching, Sarawak via Singapore. Overnight at hotel.

Day 2
Visit the famous Kuching Museum, ride sampans to cross the Sarawak River. Pass the white rajah’s residence, see the orchid garden on the other side of the Kuching Waterfront. Make an offering at a Chinese Buddhist temple. Evening meal in a night market. Sample the famous offerings of satay, kolo mee and other Kuching favourites. After dinner stroll beneath wide trees along the romantic big lazy riverfront. Colonial buildings with the old shops of the bazaar enrich the experience. Overnight at hotel. (Breakfast)

Day 3 Kuching-Bako National Park
Bus to Kampong Bako. Take a long boat to Bako National Park arriving through the mangroves. Immediately encounter unusual plants, tropical littoral abundance. See wildlife such as naughty macaques and proboscis monkeys, wild pigs, an incredible variety of birds and insects. Spot light for shy jungle creatures at night. Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 4 Bako National Park
Walk the Lintang trail where practically all vegetation types at Bako can be seen. Forest types range from mangrove to kerangas (heath forest), tropical swamp vegetation, cliff vegetation and beach vegetation. There are several side trails to follow inside the park depending on level of fitness and interest. All the trails have a great variety of vegetation, from mighty 80-metre dipterocarp trees such as Shorea species to dense mangrove forest. Unusual carnivorous pitcher plants and interesting symbiotic relationships are found on the Lintang trail. The park’s coastline is dotted with small bays, coves and beaches. Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 5 Bako National Park
Hike the boardwalks through wetlands, swim in secluded jungle pools and on beaches of the South China Sea. Watch proboscis monkeys feeding on jungle fruits. Look for the Rufous-backed Kingfisher, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Red-crowned Barbet, Woodpeckers, Broadbills, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, Babblers, and owls. Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 6  Bako National Park-Kuching
Proceed back to Kuching. Free at leisure. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 7  Kuching-Mulu National Park
Fly to Mulu National Park. This World Heritage-listed area allows canopy walks and treks that reveal exotic creatures, spectacular caves and stunning limestone karst formations. There is Deer Cave, which can fit five cathedrals the size of London’s Saint Pauls. Another key attraction is Clear Water Cave, the longest cave in Southeast Asia. The massive caves here are home to millions of bats and cave swiftlets that swarm out into the jungle in great clouds every evening at dusk! It is an extraordinary sight. Overnight in the National Park Longhouse. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 8  Mulu National Park
Explore the jungle, photograph elusive butterflies…. There are around 2000 species of plants in the park. As many as eight different species of Hornbill are to be seen, and over 27 species of bat etc. Overnight in the National Park Longhouse. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 9  Mulu National Park
Take a longboat up river tributaries, swim in pristine jungle rivers. Try the Mulu Canopy Skywalk. The Skywalk is the longest tree canopy walk in the world. Relax at the jungle café. Overnight in the National Park Longhouse. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 10  Mulu National Park-Kota Kinabalu
Fly to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (the ‘Land Below the Wind). Evening explore the Phillipino Market. Overnight at hotel. (Breakfast)

Day 11  Kota Kinabalu
Explore Kota Kinabalu – snorkel on tropical islands in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, visit Kampong Air, the water village, or take the old colonial train to Tenom for lunch. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 12  Kota Kinabalu-Mt. Kinabalu
Bus to the lower slopes of Mt. Kinabalu. Enjoy the walks around the park headquarters. Climb through several ecological zones to experience plant communities ranging from tropical rainforest to the sub-alpine. Stay at hotel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 13  Mt. Kinabalu
Visit Ranau War Memorial where the Sandakan Death March ended and then travel on to Poring Springs. There are steaming hot pools providing a relaxing place to unwind after trekking the slopes of Mount Kinabalu. Experience another incredible jungle canopy walk in the evening. Overnight at hotel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 14  Mt. Kinabalu-Kota Kinabalu
Maybe see an orangutan. Venture along jungle trails to rarely visited waterfalls. Rest on the way back to Kota Kinabalu. Evening shopping in Kota Kinabalu. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 15  Kota Kinabalu-Singapore-Sydney
Overnight flight to Sydney via Singapore. (Breakfast)

Day 16  Arrive in Sydney

To enquire or book this tour, please contact
Opulent Journeys 1300 219 885
Email: tony@opulentjourneys.com.au

In the Footsteps of the Plant Hunters to Yunnan, China

In the Footsteps of the Plant Hunters to Yunnan, China, with Angus Stewart

 

OVERVIEW
For those who are looking for a tour that combines ecotourism with experiencing unique local cultures and their gardens, this one will definitely fit the bill. Our tour will be following in the footsteps of a host of famous English plant collectors who, in the late 19th and early 20th century, visited Yunnan province in Southwest China. George Forrest, Kingdon Ward, Delavy and Joseph Rock were among the many who found it difficult to stay away from these parts. They collected a bounty of roots, seeds and cuttings of hundreds of plants which went onto become mainstays of English and indeed worldwide gardens.

Yunnan is one of the most isolated parts of China, and is also one of the most scenic. The mountains that form the eastern end of the Himalayan plateau are awe inspiring as well as botanically breathtaking. Yunnan is home to 25 Chinese minority nationalities, each with their own culture, customs and costumes. Our tour sets aside time to experience the cultural diversity as well as the natural wonders of this unique region.

TOUR ITINERARY
Day 1 Wed 11 May Australia-Singapore
Fly from your capital city to Singapore.

Day 2 Thu 12 May Singapore-Kunming
Fly to Kunming. On arrival, you will be met by our local guide and transferred to the hotel. Welcome dinner tonight. (Dinner)

Day 3 Fri 13 May Kunming-Tengchong
This morning we will visit Kunming Botanical Garden accompanied by a botanist before taking a flight to Tengchong. Tengchong is a laid-back small town in a remote corner of western Yunnan province. This afternoon we will have an orientation tour of Tengchong. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 4 Sat 14 May Tengchong
Tengchong is an old town at relatively low altitude though surrounded by mountains. Today we will visit the grave where the Scottish botanist George Forrest was buried. This is followed by a visit to one of the ancient temples, where we see ancient trees such as ginkgos and cypresses. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 5 Sun 15 May Tengchong-Baoshan
Today we travel by coach to Baoshan, en route we will explore the scenic sites of the Gaoligong Mountain National Nature Reserve, including the forest of the Mt Gaoligong, Yunhua, Qushi and Jietou of Tongcheng. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 6 Mon 16 May Baoshan-Dali
Today we depart for Dali by road. Check in to hotel upon arrival. The rest of the day is at your leisure. (Breakfast/Lunch/Diner)

Day 7 Tue 17 May Dali
Cangshan Mountain is one of the richest botanical locations on earth and was a favourite location for 19th century plant hunters. We will have a full day scenic and botanic walk on Cangshan. Also visit Chongshen Monastery with the three tall pagodas for which Dali is famous. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 8 Wed 18 May Dali-Lijiang
Today we say Zaijian to Dali and drive by coach along the scenic road to Lijiang. Along the way we will visit the ethnic villages and Heqing Ancient Town. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 9 Thu 19 May Lijiang
Today we drive north along the eastern flank of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and take the chairlift to 3200m, descending again after a short walk around an alpine wildflower meadow. On the return journey we visit the Yufeng Lamasery to see, amongst other things, the 10,000-flower camellia and ancient michelias. We will also call at the house of the renowned plant hunter Joseph Rock, who lived here for many years collecting plants and studying the Naxi people, and go on to see the old frescoes at Baisha. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 10 Fri 20 May Lijiang
Today we will visit the Black Dragon Pool Park with its interesting plants, architectural features and stunning mountain back drop. This is followed by a visit of Mu’s Mansion, terraced on the side of Lion Hill. Later there will be time for shopping and individual exploration. (Breakfast)

Day 11 Sat 21 May Lijiang-Shangri-La
After breakfast, it’s a spectacular, all day drive alongside the Yangtze to Shangri-La. On the way you’ll visit the awesome Tiger Leaping Gorge. With a drop of 3900 metres it is said to be the world’s deepest gorge. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 12 Sun 22 May Shangri-La
Today in Shangri-La we will get used to the high altitude and visit Sunsanling Monastery, a large complex of Tibetan Buddhism built in 1679, and richly decorated with murals and woodcarving. In the afternoon, there is a visit to the Napa Lake. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 13 Mon 23 May Shangri-La-Deqin
A long but exciting day’s drive by the Upper Yangtze Gorge along the Yunnan-Tibet road with spectacular scenery via Dhondupling Monastery and Baima Pass to Deqin. The Baima nature reserve is the highest reserve in China and an area for alpine medicinal plants and flowers. The Yunnan golden monkey lives on the western part of the reserve near the Mekong River. We pass the reserve on our way to Deqin and stop to walk amongst the spectacular scenery. At Deqin we will see the Meili Snow Mountain, or the Sacred Kawakarpo Mountain as it’s called in Tibetan, which towers to 6,740 metres and is the second most important holy site for Tibetan Buddhism. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 14 Tue 24 May Deqin
We drive to the base of Kawakarpo Mountain to Meilungtse Village and travel to its glacier by horseback or on foot, this is a strenuous experience but well worth the effort. For those who would prefer something less active we will also offer an alternative drive back to Baima Mountain where you can explore this area for alpine flowers accompanied by a guide. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 15 Wed 25 May Deqin
Today we will continue to explore the botanical riches of Baima Mountain with a series of short walks. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 16 Thu 26 May Deqin-Shangri-La
Return journey to Shangri-La stopping at the craftsmen’s village of Nixi Valley.
Farewell dinner tonight. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 17 Fri 27 May Shangri-La-Singapore
Transfer to airport for flight to Kunming and connect with Singapore Airlines flight home. (Breakfast)

Day 18 Sat 28 May Arrival in Australia

To enquire or book this tour, please contact
Opulent Journeys 1300 219 885
Email: tony@opulentjourneys.com.au

The Jungle Lodge, Mount Tomah NSW

The Jungle Lodge

 

Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens
Bells Line of Road
Mount Tomah NSW 2758

The Jungle Lodge includes:
Bedroom 1 1 x Queen Bed, 1 x Port-a-cot & adjacent bathroom
Bedroom 2 1 x Queen Bed & Ensuite
Bedroom 3 1 x Double Bed, 1 x Single Bed & Ensuite
Bedroom 4 2 x Single Beds & 1 Trundle Bed & adjacent bathroom (share
with bedroom 1)
 After hours access to the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah
 Sole use of the Jungle Lodge
 Large lounge/dining room/LCD TV/DVD/Stereo System with MP3 docking station.
 Modern kitchen with all appliances including oven, griller, microwave, dishwasher,
fridge, kettle, toaster
 BBQ with gas supplied
 Main bathroom with bath, shower and toilet
 Two ensuite bathrooms with shower and toilet
 Additional separate toilet
 Electric blankets on beds
 Ceiling fans installed in bedrooms
 Iron & ironing board
 BBQ facilities & Outdoor setting overlooking the beautiful Devil’s Wilderness of the
Grose Valley across to the Wollemi National Park
 Slow combustion fire with firewood included
 Basic cleaning products
 Midweek & weekend bookings available
Guests are encouraged to bring all bedding/towels required for their stay (including linen,
pillows and doonas/blankets). Bedding packages are available at a price on application

 

The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah features 28 hectares of gardens, including a southern hemisphere woodland, many conifer species, a bog garden, the Brunet Meadow, a Proteaceae collection including waratah and south African protea, remnant rainforest, formal garden and rhododendrons.

US Mansions and Gardens of the Hudson River and Canadian Lakes Cruise in Fall

US Mansions and Gardens of the Hudson River and Canadian Lakes Cruise in Fall

ITINERARY

Day 1. Arrive Washington
Be met at the airport and join your fellow travellers for dinner at 6.30pm.
Two Nights: Washington DC, Fairmont Hotel or similar (D)

Day 2. Washington and Mt. Vernon
See the sights of Washington including the White House. Visit Mt Vernon, the former home
of America’s first ‘gardening President’, George Washington, and Hillwood Estate. (BD)

Day 3. Virginia and Wilmington
Travel through southern Pennsylvania and explore an Amish farm house. Visit Chanticleer, one of the great gardens of the region.
Two Nights: Wilmington, Du Pont Hotel or similar (BD)

Day 4. Brandywine Valley
Spend the morning at Longwood Gardens. With 20 outdoor display gardens, as well as lakes, meadows and forest walks, there is plenty to explore. This afternoon visit Winterthur Garden, home of Henry Du Pont. (BD)

Day 5. New York City
Depart Wilmington for New York City where you will board your ship. 15 day BTUS15 travellers join this evening in time for dinner at 6.30pm. This afternoon visit the walkway garden designed by James Corner of Field Operations in conjunction with Piet Oudolf, the Highline.
Fourteen Nights: aboard the comfortable MV Grande Mariner (BD)

Day 6. New York City and Kykuit
Visit the famed New York Botanical Gardens, boasting one of the world’s greatest collections of flora. Its 250 acres include some of the most beautiful natural terrain. It houses the nation’s largest Victorian-era glasshouse, the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Next stop is Kykuit, a Hudson Valley landmark and home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. See the Rockefeller private art collection and magnificent expansive garden terraces, garden ornaments and many fountains, as well as spectacular views of the Hudson Valley. Your day culminates with a cocktail party atop the deck of your ship as you bid farewell to New York City. Enjoy the unparalleled views of the harbour, the illuminated Statue of Liberty and the iconic city skyline. (BLD)

Day 7. Roosevelt Estate and Gardens, Poughkeepsie
A short cruise takes you from Bear Mountain to West Point, located in the heart of the Hudson River Valley. This morning choose to visit either the West Point Military Academy campus, including its gothic revival style chapel. Alternatively visit Boscobel with its colonial architecture or Stonecrop with its magnificent garden. Heading north on the Hudson River you will stop in Poughkeepsie. Here choose to visit either historic Hyde Park, including a visit to Springwood, the estate of Franklin D. Roosevelt, America’s only four-term president. Alternatively visit the Vanderbilt Mansion, a National Historic site. You are sure to enjoy its 211 acres of parkland that boast centuries old tree plantings and stunning Hudson River and Catskill Mountain views. (BLD)

Day 8. The Mount, Naumkeag Mansion and Gardens
Arrive in Troy, known for its unparalleled Victorian architecture and abundant Tiffany windows as seen in such films as Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence. Here, witness the unique feat of lowering the ship’s pilot house as we prepare to travel under the low bridges of the Erie Canal. A visit to The Mount is sure to be a fascinating one of historical significance; especially for those interested in women’s history. It is a turn-of-the-century home that Edith Wharton designed and built herself. She was an established author of fiction, architecture and gardens. Later visit Naumkeag Mansion and gardens and experience a quintessential country estate of the Gilded Age. Marvel at this rare Berkshire cottage, its magnificent gardens and the incredible panoramic view. (BLD)

Day 9. Troy, Erie Canal Lock 11 and Amsterdam
Today your river ship will pass through Lock 11 of the Erie Canal to Amsterdam. (BLD)

Day 10. Amsterdam and Sylvan Beach
Today you will enjoy a full day on the Erie Canal taking in the unspoiled beauty of the surrounding countryside. During the day, you may choose to visit Cooperstown and meet the ship later in the day at Sylvan Beach. Located in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, Cooperstown is best known as the ‘Birthplace of Baseball’ and is home to the renowned Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Choose to visit Fenimore Art Museum or Farmers Museum. Tonight in Sylvan Beach, on the shores of shimmering Oneida Lake, a local performer will entertain and pay tribute to the history and music of the Erie Canal. (BLD)

Day 11. Sylvan Beach and Oswego Canal
Cruise along the Oswego Canal to Oswego on the shores of magnificent Lake Ontario. You may choose to take a local shuttle on a panoramic loop around this charming area and view some of the highlights. (BLD)

Day 12. Boldt Castle and Garden, Thousand Islands and Alexander Bay
Cruise to Clayton. Visit the Antique Boat Museum and the majestic Boldt Castle and gardens where you will learn of the touching story behind its creation. Enjoy scenic cruising through the beautiful Thousand Islands, a favourite holiday destination. (BLD)

Day 13. Alexander Bay, Dark Island and Ogdensburg
Visit tiny Dark Island in Chippewa Bay and tour Singer Castle. Afterwards, journey on to Ogdensburg where you might like to visit the Frederic Remington Art Museum. BLD

Day 14. St. Lawrence Seaway
Crossing into Canada, you will cruise the St. Lawrence Seaway, a system of locks, canals, and channels dotted with waterfront communities, scenic islands, and amazing wildlife habitats. (BLD)

Day 15. Québec City
Today you will take a tour of the private garden of La Seigneurie de I’ile d’Orleans. Afterwards, a sightseeing tour will introduce you to the highlights of the beautiful city of Québec. (BLD)

Day 16. Rimouski and Les Jardins de Metis
Cruise north along the St. Lawrence River passing the beautiful Saguenay River en route to Rimouski. Be sure to look out for whales as this is one of the world’s best locales for whale watching. A private visit and guided tour of Les Jardins de Metis also known as Reford Gardens is sure to be a fascinating one. The unique garden is bold and innovative, yet traditional. Few gardens have been built in such difficult and harsh conditions as the Québec climate; it is a story of triumph. (BLD)

Day 17. Saguenay River and St. Lawrence River
Cruise to the breathtaking Saguenay River, boarded by dramatic cliffs which create some of Canada’s most stunning natural scenery. You then cruise south on the St. Lawrence River to your next destination, Montréal. (BLD)

Day 18. Montréal
Arrive in Montréal this afternoon and embark on a city highlights tour. Then, enjoy a guided tour of the world famous Jardin Botanique de Montréal located in the Olympic Park. Here, marvel at over 20,000 species of plants as you explore the 31 gardens which have been planted over 75 hectares. (BLD)

Day 19. Depart Montréal
Disembark in Montréal and transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)

The MV Grande Mariner
The Grande Mariner is designed to travel where larger ships can’t. The retractable pilot house allows it to slip gently beneath low bridges and transit narrow locks and rivers. It is like sailing on a friend’s yacht but with the comfort and safety of an American crew and friendly staff. From the lounge area enjoy 180° panoramas of pristine environments and small towns. Dining is casual, with an open seating policy. Cabins are air-conditioned and comfortable with either slide windows or portholes. Whilst the ship can accommodate 96 people, Botanica will only be taking 75, making this a very relaxing experience.

Unforgettable Fall Colours
During our US and Canadian journey, you’ll explore elaborate mansions and thoughtfully landscaped estates. The diverse range of gardens we visit will inspire, motivate and challenge you in your own horticultural endeavours. Styles vary from formal to casual, intimate to grand, but all with something different to offer. It’s a truly special experience to visit this region in the Fall. The striking hues and vibrancy of the foliage, as well as the tantalising seasonal produce, is sure to make your trip memorable. This is an incredible journey, unique to Botanica, and not to be missed.

Cedar Park Gardens, Rolleston, NZ

Cedar Park Gardens, Rolleston, NZ

 

Two rooms available

BELLBIRD ROOM

1 – 3 persons, details as below.

 

  • 1 Queen bed.
  • 1 King single bed.
  • En Suite: Shower, Toilet, Basin, Heater, Heated towel rail.
  • Hairdryer provided and razor plug.
  • Tea and Coffee making facilities.
  • TV and Clock radio.
  • Electric blankets.
  • Fan and heater in room.
  • Bath robes supplied.

Bell bird room

 

TUI ROOM

Two single beds 1 – 2 persons.

  • Available for groups or families etc, in conjunction with the Bellbird Room.
  • Host shared bathroom.
  • Fan and heater in room.

Tui Room

 

Other Facilities

  • Indoor/Outdoor living – with outdoor seating and freedom to enjoy the beautiful gardens.
  • Choice of breakfast – Cooked or Continental.
  • Fridge facilities available on request.
  • Laundry facilities available.
  • Children welcome. A small selection of toys and books available.
  • NO smoking or pets please.
  • BBQ available.
  • Wireless internet available

 

Optional Extras

  • Evening dinner with hosts (prior booking required)
  • Packed lunches provided if requested.
  • Small selection of gifts or homemade produce for sale, along with a good selection of plants.

Complimentary drop off and pickup from the Rolleston Railway Station for the Tranz Alpine ScenicTrain.
Complimentary drop off and pickup from the Christchurch International Airport.
Ron Finch
101B Lowes Road, Rolleston
Christchurch, New Zealand
Phone +64-3-3477605
anne@cedarparkgardens.co.nz

Mandulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge Sri Lanka

Mandulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge Sri Lanka

 

The Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge is located on a picturesque 25 acre tea plantation just 30 km away from Sri Lanka’s hill capital of Kandy and approximately 150 km away from Colombo.

Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge commands a majestic view of the UNESCO World Heritage Knuckles Mountain Range – so called due to its shape similar to the knuckles of a clenched fist. It offers 18 secluded lodges with comfortable amenities, specially designed to make your next holiday in Sri Lanka a truly unforgettable one. All lodges are made of high quality tarpaulin canvas specially imported from South Africa. This is the very same material used by many world renowned safari camps especially in campsites all over Africa. Each lodge at the Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge can hold a maximum of 3 people and feature:

A front porch with ‘out-of-this-world’ views, comfortable beds, full bathroom with walk-in shower and a separate private WC.

Guests staying at the Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge will appreciate the many facilities and services on offer. Some of these facilities include;

  • A real colonial style “planter’s” estate house with:
  • Reception, welcome area and Information Desk
  • A Library with Internet Access and a Business Center
  • An English styled estate Lounge Bar with an impressive stock of beverages
  • A Grand Dining Room and Restaurant with a cozy fireplace
  • A stand alone Infinity Pool offering fabulous views of the Madulkelle Village as well as the majestic Knuckles Mountain range
  • Seating Areas placed within the tea estate, ideal for a quiet read, meditation or just to spend some quiet time alone with nature
  • An Organic Vegetable and Herb Garden yielding fresh vegetables and herbs all year round helps our Chef to prepare fresh and delicious meals daily
  • Drivers’ and guides’ live-in quarters with Onsite Parking
  • opportunities for adventure sports with our highly skilled team
  • hiking and trekking through lush tea plantations, forests, paddy fields and water falls. See unique birds and wildlife, plus overnight camping available.

 

 

Our Garden

We understand and respect your need for healthy meals. Therefore, our hotel has a special garden for fruits, vegetables and herbs. It is grown organically with our staff with the support of two gardeners. We do not use synthesized pesticides and fertilizers, and instead, organic pesticides (Neem extract), and manual methods of pest control and organic fertilizers are been used to produce a healthy harvest.

Around 60% of the vegetables and herbs used in the hotel kitchen are harvested from the garden with the careful supervision of our executive chef. We maintain year- round harvest of carrots, chili varieties, green veggies such as spinach, cabbages, gotukola and many more. The varieties of fruits we have are pineapples, avocados, papaya, guava, wild-strawberries and black-berries, mangos, locuts, and citrus-fruits.

Our Chef adopts food preparation methods in Native medicine called Ayurvedha, as he has family background of it, and he is careful to select the best parts of vegetable and fruits in the best levels of their maturity in order to prepare an excellent dish.

 

Experiments

Our garden is also a place for experiments and knowledge dissemination. We have established a demonstration model of a Micro-home garden suitable for estate line-rooms, which was developed collectively by the Extension department of the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya, our staff and the InGaDS Sri-Lanka, our advisor in social responsibility. Already, there are around six micro-home gardens established by the Line house dwellers (in our neighbor community) as a results of the knowledge dissemination trough the demonstration model.

Furthermore, we provide our staff the opportunities in gardening, which in turn become a recreational activity for them after their duties.

 

Contact us:

Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge
Madulkelle,
Kandy,
Srilanka.

Telephone: +94 (0)813801052
Fax : +94 (0)719378672
Email : info@madulkelle.com 
Web : www.madulkelle.com

Spring Gardens of France

Spring Gardens of France

 

Experience the romance, beauty and grandeur of France with remarkable gardens, dramatic coastlines, picturesque villages and landscapes, distinctive regional architecture, superb seafood and mouthwatering cheeses.

Join in Paris prior to embarking on an exploration of the springtime gardens of Upper Normandy. Travel the ‘cider route’ to the medieval town of Bayeux, gateway to the World War II Normandy landing beaches and home of the world famous Bayeux tapestry.

Continue to Brittany in the northwest, and enjoy a leisurely stay on the coast, visiting a selection of superb gardens and quaint villages. Conclude with four nights in the Loire Valley known as the ‘Garden of France’. Explore chateaux, vineyards and attend the annual International Garden Festival at Chateaux du Chaumont.

French hospitality and countryside at its best!

AT A GLANCE…
• Tour the famous garden of Claude Monet at Giverny
• Discover gardens of grandeur and intimacy, including 17 private gardens
• Travel the dramatic coastline of Normandy and Brittany
• Browse the colourful markets, relish the local food and wine
• Explore charming towns and villages of provincial France
• Leisurely four night stays in Normandy, Brittany and the Loire Valley

ITINERARY:

Sat 28 May 2016 / Depart Australia
Suggested departure from Australia on Emirates/QANTAS Airlines flights to Paris (Charles de Gaulle Airport) via Dubai.

Sun 29 May / Arrive Paris
Afternoon arrival in Paris and check in to your hotel.

This evening, join Julie and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing and dinner. (D)

Mon 30 May / Paris – Rouen
Begin your spring tour with a visit to the magnificent garden and home of impressionist painter, Claude Monet. Enjoy both his famous ‘pond and water’ garden with its Japanese bridge, and his ‘Clos Normand’ garden known for a palette of colours.

After lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy time in the charming village of Giverny. Continue to Rouen, the capital of the Upper Normandy region.

Tonight, enjoy dinner in one of the local restaurants in the historic city centre. (BLD)

Tue 31 May / Rouen
Journey north to the coastal area of Sainte-Marguerite-sur-Mer. Visit the renowned garden of the late Princess Sturdza of Norway, ‘Le Vasterival’. Accompanied by one of the gardeners, discover a beautiful display of plants of the day.

Following lunch in a local village (own expense), continue to Château de Miromesnil set amongst beautiful woodland. Enjoy a guided tour of the fabulous walled kitchen garden and the castle park, with its 17th century fenced brick walls.

Return to Rouen via the farming village of Grigneuseville, home to Jardin Agapanthe, owned and created by landscape architect Alexandre Thomas. Spend time wandering these two intimate, secluded gardens; one which is relatively new, the other 20 years in the making.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Rouen. (BD)

Wed 1 Jun / Rouen
Begin the morning with a walking tour of Rouen. Visit the Notre Dame Cathedral, with its Tour de Beurre (butter tower), the Gros Horloge (a fourteenth-century astronomical clock), and the church of Saint Joan of Arc, located where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. Remainder of the morning is free to meander the old market square.

Following lunch (own expense), depart for Montmain to visit Jardins d’Angelique. Created by the Lebellegard family, the garden surrounds a 17th century Norman manor house and was established in memory of their daughter, Angelique.

Later travel to Auzouville-sur-Ry to visit Le Jardin Plume. Meet the owners, Sylvie and Patrick Quibel as they guide you around their contemporary garden surrounding an apple orchard.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Rouen. (BD)

Thu 2 Jun / Rouen
Return to the coast via the town of Bosc-Roger-sur-Buchy and the Jardin de Valérianes, an English garden consisting of two parts; the ancient and the new.

Continue north to the garden, L’Etang de Launay, created by former art dealer Jean-Louis Dantec. The six-acre garden boasts high-pruned specimen trees, small ponds and many trees chosen for their bark.

Prior to returning to Rouen, visit the 30 acre coastal estate, Le Bois des Moutiers. The park and manor is the collaboration of the famous English architect Edwin Lutyens and garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. Antoine Bouchayer-Mallet, the current owner of Le Bois des Moutiers said “the house has been designed to look at the gardens, and the gardens have been designed to be looked at from the house.” (BL)

Fri 3 Jun / Rouen – Bayeux
Depart Rouen for a leisurely day’s drive to Bayeux. Journey through picturesque postcard towns, into the heart of Pays d’Auge, home of the Normandy Cider Route, adorned with apple orchards and half-timbered houses.

Visit Le Jardin du Pays d’Auge and eco-museum situated in the village of Cambremer. Located on a seven acre lush estate, the property boasts a number of themed gardens surrounding a 17th century farmhouse. Stroll through the grounds prior to lunch at their créperie.

Later in the afternoon, stop in at Domaine Duponts famous for its ciders, pommeau and calvados. Enjoy a tour of the distillery and cellars followed by the opportunity to taste some of the products.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Bayeux. (BLD)

Sat 4 Jun / Bayeux
Enjoy a day at leisure.

You may wish to mosey through the bustling Saturday market or visit the Bayeux tapestry. An embroidered cloth more than 60 metres long, made to commemorate events in the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 is located in the purpose-built Bayeux Tapestry Museum.

For those interested in war history you may wish to visit the battlefields of Normandy (optional extra). (B)

Sun 5 Jun / Bayeux – Perros-Guirec
Depart Bayeux and travel west to Perros-Guirec, a popular seaside town in Brittany.

Begin with a guided tour by the owner of Le Jardin de Castillon, a remarkable garden set in a leafy valley on the outskirts of Bayeux.

Continue to the riverfront city of Dinan, considered one of the most attractive and best preserved towns in Brittany. Stroll the cobbled streets filled with art galleries and craft shops, and enjoy lunch (own expense) at one of the many restaurants situated along the River Rance.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Perros-Guirec. (BD)

Mon 6 Jun / Perros-Guirec
Today visit two very different gardens that are maintained by the same gardeners.

First is Kerdalo, considered one of the finest gardens in the region. Created by the late Prince Peter Wolkonsky, these gardens are now looked after by his daughter, Isabelle, and her husband Timothy Vaughan.

Continue to the nearby port town of Tréguier, best known for being the birthplace of St Yves, the patron saint of lawyers. Time to explore the town and many eateries on the harbour.

In the afternoon, visit Isabelle and Timothy Vaughan’s private garden Crech ar Pape, overlooking the sea.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Perros-Guirec. (BD)

Tue 7 Jun / Perros-Guirec
Travel to Roscoff in northwestern France, a well-known seaside town that is linked to Plymouth (England) and Cork (Ireland) by its numerous ferries. Take a 15-minute boat ride to the Île de Batz to visit Jardin Georges Delaselle’s coastal garden. The garden comprises a unique botanical collection from the five continents.

Return to the mainland for lunch (own expense).

In the afternoon visit Le Jardin Exotique de Roscoff, overlooking the harbour. Due to the hot currents that make up the Gulf Stream that runs along the coast, a unique microclimate is created resulting in a superb variety of subtropical plants.

Continue to the charming village of Pontrieux. Enjoy an evening boat trip along the river; discover the many lavoirs that line the river, and bridges which have been beautifully illuminated, an ideal way to see the village.

Dinner in Pontrieux, prior to returning to your hotel. (BD)

Wed 8 Jun / Perros-Guirec
This morning is free to further explore Perros-Guirec, or perhaps take a coastal walk or relax and enjoy the seaside town.

After lunch (own expense) travel south to visit Le Grand Launay garden. Built around a manor, this modern garden has been gradually formed over 25 years by its owners, Jean and Jacqueline Shalit.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Perros-Guirec. (BD)

Thu 9 Jun / Perros-Guirec – Saumur
Depart Perros-Guirec for a leisurely day’s drive to Saumur, stopping to visit the medieval fortress, Château de Josselin – a highlight of the French Renaissance. Enjoy time to stroll the castle grounds and three distinct gardens: the Formal French, the English and the Rose garden.

Following a break for lunch (own expense), continue to Saumur.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Saumur. (BD)

Fri 10 Jun / Saumur
Today, visit the Château de Chaumont overlooking the River Loire to attend the annual International Festival of Gardens. Every year landscape architects and garden designers are invited to create a themed garden. Enjoy the day exploring the 30-odd gardens in the magnificent grounds of the Chateau.

Later in the afternoon return to Saumur via the village of Chédigny, famous for its Rose gardens. Drive through Langeais in the heart of the Loire valley.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Saumur. (BD)

Sat 11 Jun / Saumur
Morning is free to further explore Saumur and its Saturday market.

In the afternoon visit the estate Clos Cristal Souzay-Champigny. Enjoy a tour and tasting of this 25-acre vineyard, the first in Saumur to produce and market the red wine which later became known as Saumur-Champigny.

Continue to Chinon to visit the beautiful Le Jardin d’Elsie. Situated on the site of an old vineyard the owner, Elsie De Raedt, has created a fascinating garden of ancient, modern and rare roses. (B)

Sun 12 Jun / Saumur
Today visit two outstanding gardens. The first is the Château de la Chatonnière, situated in a valley with sweeping views across the forest of Chinon and the river Indre. The Château is home to 14 remarkable gardens.

Continue to the village of Azay le Rideau. Free time to explore the narrow cobbled streets of this picturesque village.

Following a picnic lunch, visit Château de Villandry. One of the largest and last castles built along the Loire River, it consists of six outstanding gardens. Enjoy the afternoon strolling through its extensive terraces.

Tonight celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (BLD)

Mon 13 Jun / Saumur – Paris
Tour arrangements conclude with an early morning transfer to Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport, in order to arrive by 12.00, in time for flights departing at 15.35, or later.

If returning to Australia today, depart on Emirates/QANTAS flights at 15.35 via Dubai to Australia.

Evening arrival in Australia on Tuesday 14 June. (B)

* At the time of brochure printing (June 2015) most but not all garden visits are confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than 2-3 months prior. Therefore, whilst we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some possible changes of itinerary.

Piet Oudolf & Dutch Wave Gardens

The following itinerary will be augmented over the summer with private gardens designed by Piet Oudolf. These gardens will be a high point of our tour since they are rarely open to the public.

 

Day 1, Wednesday, September 16 – ARRIVE IN THE NETHERLANDS

Tour members will arrange travel on their own to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and have time to get settled before our garden tours begin the next day.

 

Day 2, Thursday, September 17 – AMSTELVEEN, LEUVEHOOFD, MIELE

What’s more appropriate than starting our Dutch Wave tour in a town renowned for its use of Dutch wild flowers? Just around the corner from Schiphol Airport is the suburb of Amstelveen with plantings that have been described as “intensified nature.” We’ll visit Jac. P. Thysse Park, named for a biologist who was an ardent devotee of native plants and birds. Designed by the late Christian P. Broerse, the park is home to just about every Dutch habitat imaginable and loaded with wild and semi-wild plantings. Read blogger Michael King’s enthusiastic post after a recent visit.

Our visit to Rotterdam’s Leuvehoofd Park is just the first of a number of designs we’ll see by Piet Oudolf, master practitioner of Dutch Wave planting. Here in triangular raised beds overflowing with grasses and perennials, Oudolf transformed a bare landscape beside the River Maas into a tranquil space. It’s wild, it’s natural, and it stands in quiet contrast to one of Europe’s busiest ports.

Our final stop of the day will be the contemporary garden at the Miele Inspirience Centre. The design is simple. Perennials and ornamental grasses surround a large, geometric water feature. Designed in 2008 by Grasveld Landscape Architecture, this is an example of the influence of the naturalism of the Dutch Wave movement. It now even permeates the design of corporate grounds.

 

Day 3, Friday, September 18 – PRIONA, DE LUIE TUINMAN, THEETUIN DE HEERLIJKEID

We begin our day at Priona, the home garden of the late Henk Gerritsen, one of the founding members of Dutch Wave. Gerritson is credited with developing the main principles of Dutch Wave and it shows throughout the garden. Wild and cultivated plants grow next to each other. Weeds and pests are tolerated in the name of naturalism. Gerritson said his design principle is simple: “What is straight should be curved, what is curved should be straight.” We’ll discuss what that means after our visit to this garden which author Noel Kingsbury has described as “magical and entertaining … wild and zany.”

De Luie Tuinman (or The Lazy Gardener) is a private botanical garden with 24 themed spaces. Created by Jan and Nicolette Nauta over 30 years, their mission was to create a garden where it’s pleasant to linger. Although the structure is not typically Dutch Wave, they’ve borrowed heavily from Dutch Wave in their plant choices. Particularly of interest to us will be the Flower Meadow, Birch Prairie, Grasses Avenue, and Solar Garden. Throughout this garden, we’ll see perennials and grasses combined in ways that are well worth studying while we’re here and emulating when we get back home.

Our last stop of the day will be the garden at Theetuin De Heerlijkheid which was renovated in 2008. Designed by Karin Cruijs, one of the owners, it was made in the spirit of Dutch Wave. Important elements are a lovely, long pond lined with perennials in shades of pink and purple; a circular garden featuring ornamental grasses; and a hot border garden with perennials in shades of red, orange and yellow. Theetuin De Heerlijkheid is also a B&B. Someday you may want to come back for a longer stay.

 

Day 4, Saturday, September 19 – LIANNE’S SIERGRASSEN, JAKOBSTUIN, MIEN RUYS

The theme of today’s first garden could be summarized simply as “Plants, Plants, Plants!” Lianne’s Siergrassen is a well respected Dutch nursery that specializes in Dutch Wave ornamental grasses and perennials. Not only has the owner, Lianne Pot, indulged her passion and brought together a virtual living encyclopedia of grasses, she has also created a demonstration Prairie Garden arranged in curving beds with over 12,000 dynamic plants. There’s probably not one moment in the year that this garden isn’t beautiful.

We continue our tour at Jakobstuin, a garden that falls somewhere between Oudolf’s current style and Prairie Style. The owner and designer, Jaap de Vries, calls Jakobstuin an “Ode to the Dutch Wave.” In addition to warm season grasses typical of the North American Prairie, de Vries also uses many perennial selections favored in the New Perennial movement and arranges plants in the currently popular matrix pattern. Look carefully and you’ll notice that he pays particular attention to texture, form, and light, which is probably the reason his daily photo posts on Facebook are loved by hundreds of followers. There’s also a B&B here. One can hardly imagine how wonderful it would be to wonder this garden alone after a good night’s sleep.

Our final garden for the day is the important Tuinen Mien Ruys. Here we’ll pay homage to the woman many call the “Mother of Modernism,” landscape architect Mien Ruys (1904-1999). She made these gardens over 70 years and they’re a reflection of her amazing creativity. Her style is distinctly architectural but the plantings are loose and naturalistic. There are 28 gardens in all, incorporating old and new styles while using unusual materials and perennial introductions from her father’s internationally renowned nursery. Above all, Ruys was experimental. Never afraid to try new things, her garden was an inspiration to the founders of Dutch Wave as it has been to designers from all over the world from many years.

 

Day 5, Sunday, September 20 – HET LOO, KRÖLLER-MÜLLER

(Today we take a break from Dutch Wave Gardens and visit two places that are important to Dutch culture. One is historical and the other modern.)

At Het Loo Palace, we’ll see an example of 17th century formal Dutch garden design, heavily influenced by the French – about as far away as one could get from Dutch Wave. The Great Garden in the back of the palace was designed by a nephew of André Le Nôtre and has a symmetrical axial layout with radiating gravel walks, parterres, statuary, fountains, and raised walks. In the 18th century, the original Baroque garden was destroyed to make way for a landscape park but it was restored for the palace’s 300th anniversary in 1984. There continue to be renovations. Recently the boxwood in the parterres were pulled out due to boxwood blight and replaced with a cultivar of Ilex crenata.

The Kröller-Müller Museum is an art museum and sculpture garden set in a national park. We’ll spend some time here at the museum itself, seeing the second-largest collection of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh (after the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam) and works by Picasso, Gauguin, Gris, Mondrian and Seurat among many other artists. We’ll also want to see the sculpture garden which has an equally renowned collection of modern sculptures in a beautiful park setting. Then, if there’s time, we’ll walk along the Ecological Walking Route or perhaps take advantage of the free bikes and cycle around the 75 acre national park.

 

Day 6, Monday, September 21 – CRUYD-HOECK, HUMMELO

Cruyd-Hoeck is the nursery owned by the late Rob Leopold, a specialist in wildflower seeds and one of the founding members of the Dutch Wave movement. Leopold established the nursery in 1978 to preserve the biodiversity of wild plants, bees, butterflies, and other animals, offering seed mixtures for native wildflower plantings and flower meadows. His influence continues today. A connection with Leopold’s work can be made to the much acclaimed landscaping done with seed mixtures at the recent London Olympics. Since Leopold’s death in 2005, the nursery continues under the leadership of Jasper Helwinkel and Jojanneke Bijkere, designers who are experts in Dutch Wave principles.

Piet Oudolf’s private garden at Hummelo has become a place of pilgrimage for thousands of followers from around the world. As the master designer of the New Perennials style of naturalistic planting (which, of course, started as Dutch Wave), Oudolf’s garden is a place of experimentation and testing and therefore, constant change. Enclosed by typical Dutch hedges, the interior garden explodes with familiar and new plants in an exuberant, unconventional display. Oudolf has said, “What I try to do is build an image of nature.” Here we’ll see his current image of nature and draw inspiration from Oudolf’s own innovations. This will be a garden experience we’ll never forget.

 

Day 7, Tuesday, September 22 – HORTVS, MAXIMILIAN

Our first garden in Germany is Hortvs, the private garden of designer and author Peter Janke, considered a rising star in the German landscape design world. The design is inspired by the work of British designer, Beth Chatto, with whom Janke studied in England. We’ll see meadows, a gravel garden, a woodland garden with simple mulched paths, and a wild, abundant herb garden. It’s geometric and organic, a beautiful mixture of classic and modern styles.
Next we’ll see Maximilianpark, a former coal mine transformed into a 22 acre park, partly designed by Piet Oudolf. Paths now lead through flourishing gardens. Filled with lush, textural grasses and high performance, colorful perennials, Maximilian Park has been called an outdoor classroom noted for its balanced ecosystems. Prepare to see ecological planting communities at their best.

 

Day 8, Wednesday, September 23 – HERMANNSHOF, GRÄFLICHER

The Schau und Sichtungsgarten Hermannshof is a five-acre botanical garden directed by Cassian Schmidt that’s a must-see for every designer, plantsman, and gardener interested in modern planting styles. Known for its experimental approach, its plantings explain, for example, how plants work together to establish natural plant communities. The influence of Hermannshof has been profound. It is credited by many to be the originator of the matrix planting style that’s now au courant among Dutch Wave practitioners and to have the best Prairie Garden in Europe. There’ll be much to discuss and think about after seeing this garden that shows successful examples of new directions in planting design.

At Gräflicher Park, we’ll want to zero in on the fairly new garden designed by Piet Oudolf inside this large landscape park. Filled with Dutch Wave herbaceous perennials and grasses, Oudolf’s design winds in a river of color and texture. The overall effect is simply beautiful. The history of the site is also rather fascinating. More than 200 years ago, Count Caspar Heinrichvon Sierstorpff founded a spa at the foot of the Teutoburg Forest, and it is now managed by the seventh generation of the family. The Count designed the complex in the style of an English landscape park, with neat lawns, a rose garden, a game reserve, duck pond, a lily meadow, and other features often found in British gardens. Many of those features are still in evidence today.

 

Day 9, Thursday, September 24 – AHRENDS, TUINZONDERNAAM

At our last stop in Germany, we may come away overloaded with information. There’s just that much to see at the world-famous Ahrends Nursery owned by landscape architect Anja Maubach. The nursery was established in 1888 by Maubach’s great-grandfather Georg Arends, who introduced more than 350 perennials bearing the name ‘x arendsii’. As for the design of the nursery plantings, author and designer Debra Prinzing calls it both “rhythmic and alluring.” According to Maubach, this historic nursery is a place where you can immerse yourself in another time and also be inspired by 21st century plantings.

We return to The Netherlands for the last garden on our tour. Surrounded by farmland, the half-acre Tuinzondernaam (Garden without a Name) was designed by the owner Frank Thuyls and his late partner Pierre van Kol. Composed of 10 garden rooms separated by yew or hornbeam hedges, each has its own distinct character. Among them are a pink garden; a trowel-shaped garden with plants in Bordeaux red; a hot garden in hues of orange, red, and yellow; a rose garden; and a yew garden. Celebrated for its magical beauty, Tuinzondernaam was featured in Gardens Illustrated in 2013.

 

Day 10, Friday, September 25 – DEPART THE NETHERLANDS OR CONTINUE TRAVEL ON YOUR OWN

A Designer’s Tour of Contemporary English Gardens

FULL ITINERARY

 

Day 1, August 11, Tuesday – ARRIVE IN THE UK

Tour participants will independently arrange travel to London Heathrow Airport and have time to get settled before our garden tours start the next day.

 

Day 2, August 12, Wednesday – BURY COURT, WALTHAM PLACE

We’ll begin our tours at Bury Court which has two recently designed gardens. The first is a transformed farmyard filled to the brim with a wide variety of herbaceous perennials and grasses. Dutch designer Piet Oudolf completed this space in the late 1990s. As the first garden Oudolf made in England, it holds a special place in garden design and naturalistic planting in England today. The other area we’ll see is in the front. Here, UK designer Christopher Bradley-Hole designed a grid of 20 squares and filled them with tall, textural grass plantings. We’ll have time to pause at the dining pavilion that overlooks a dark reflecting pool and enjoy this quiet, minimalist garden.

Our visit to Waltham Place will continue our exploration of naturalistic plantings by introducing us to the work of the late Dutch designer Henk Gerritsen. Along with Piet Oudolf, Gerritsen is credited as a founder of the New Perennials movement. At Waltham Place, he transformed a square walled garden that dates back to the 17th century by using plantings that seem wild and unplanned. A cloud pruned caterpillar hedge snakes through the space, a playful contrast to the looseness of the perennials. We’ll see other gardens here and have time to consider the contribution of Gerritsen to modern planting design.

 

Day 3, August 13, Thursday – DENMANS, HANNAH PESCHAR, SUSSEX PRAIRIE

At Denmans Garden, we’ll step into the personal garden of world famous UK garden designer, author, and educator John Brookes. Here Brookes has created intimate spaces within a fluid structure, explored easy care maintenance, chosen textural plants with strong form, and demonstrated how to make a garden with year round interest. Brookes recently said, “Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, we are increasingly adopting a stance that we are not superior to nature and forcing a plan upon it, but that we are part of it and are becoming more and more sensitive to it.” Wise words to ponder.

A visit to the Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden highlights carefully curated contemporary sculpture sited in a garden by UK landscape designer Anthony Paul. Explore this video tour to get a preview of this delightful, lush woodland garden that fuses art and nature.

Sussex Prairie Garden was fashioned out of a farm field in 2008 by the owners, garden designers Paul & Pauline McBride. The 6-acre nautilus-shaped garden is surrounded by oaks and planted in vibrant drifts of herbaceous perennials and architectural grasses. The McBride’s commitment to this naturalistic planting style puts this garden squarely in the New Perennial movement. A stop at the Tea Room for tea and cakes will give us time to consider this romantic & colorful garden.

 

Day 4, August 14, Friday – FOLLERS MANOR, GREAT DIXTER

Our day starts at wildlife friendly Follers Manor, UK designer Ian Kitson’s award winning garden. Using a boldly curvaceous plan, Kitson began the garden from scratch in 2008 by carving into a slope overlooking the beautiful Sussex countryside. The garden features sunken areas with flint retaining walls, flowing limestone paths with crazy paving, a wildlife pond with a deck walk, and colorful herbaceous plantings. The result is contemporary and spectacular.
Next we’ll visit Great Dixter, the home garden of the late renowned author and plantsman Christopher Lloyd. Although the structure of this garden is early 20th century, the spirit of the plantings is most certainly contemporary. Head gardener Fergus Garrett is carrying forward what Lloyd started. Great Dixter is a visionary, exuberant, plant lover’s haven. Expect to see contemporary planting design at its best.

 

Day 5, August 15, Saturday – WISLEY, BETH CHATTO

We’ll spend the day at the Royal Horticultural Society’s flagship garden Wisley, which holds a world-class collection of plants in 25,000 taxa. We’ll explore model gardens of all types, the famous rock garden, the new Glasshouse, the Alpine House, numerous water features, wild gardens, and the trials field. In recent years, both UK designer Tom Stuart-Smith and Dutch designer Piet Oudolf created large, breathtaking perennial borders that should be at their peak during our visit. With so much to see, we’ll want to take a break for lunch in the Food Hall or rest our feet at afternoon tea in the Restaurant.

Next we’ll visit the Beth Chatto Gardens. Started in the 1960s, Chatto’s guiding principle was placing plants in conditions closest to their natural habitats. Out of a wasteland, she created distinct gardens for water, gravel, and woodland. This kind of ecological design is still relevant today. In a time of climate change, Beth Chatto Gardens are particularly inspirational.

 

Day 6, August 16, Sunday – VEDDW, LADY FARM, BROCKHAMPTON COTTAGE

Veddw House Garden is a must-see Welsh garden designed by a husband and wife team, writer Anne Wareham and photographer Charles Hawes. Using traditional hedging to create structure, Wareham and Hawes have infused these intimate spaces with modern ideas and plantings. A visual highlight is the Pool Garden with its dark water reflecting the undulating hedges rising up the slope. A definite photo op you won’t want to miss.

Lady Farm was designed over the last 20 years by owner Judy Pearce in collaboration with horticulturalist Mary Payne. We’ll see natural spring fed lakes, a stream with cascades, and meadows. The naturalistic plantings follow the contours of the land and are chosen for low maintenance. Sculptures, both serious and playful, are sited throughout the garden. Voted a top UK garden by the Daily Telegraph, this country garden is sure to please.

Next we’ll visit Brockhampton Cottage, a billowing, romantic garden designed by Tom Stuart-Smith. Starting with the goal of connecting to the wider landscape, Stuart-Smith added terraces that descend from the house. Generous herbaceous plantings in grey, purple, blue, and deep pink flank each level, while below, the designer sited a meadow dotted with native trees. Beyond is a lake surrounded by trees with swaths of rushes and grasses. If this garden seems to be a compendium of modern must-have plants, there’s a reason. The owners also own Crocus, the popular nursery that supplies plants for many Chelsea Flower Show gardens.

 

Day 7, August 17, Monday – THROUGHAM COURT, HANHAM COURT

Througham Court is designer Christine Facer’s personal garden where she experiments with ideas, materials, and planting combinations. An example of cutting edge design, this garden is a living laboratory inspired by scientific facts, theories, and mathematical sequences. Here, Facer, whose background is in research science, has created a Cosmic Evolution Garden, Fibonacci’s Walk, Chaos Gate, and an Eclipse Shadow Bed, just to name a few. Prepare to expand your mind and explore new possibilities in contemporary garden composition.

Voted #1 Dreamy Garden by Gardens Illustrated in 2010, Hanham Court Gardens will delight every sense. Julien and Isabel Bannerman designed the gardens while Hanham Court was their home. They’re known for a deeply romantic style with a witty, contemporary spin. Here we’ll see a formal, old rose garden with tree peonies and lilies; a woodland with a stream, pool, and tree ferns; a wildflower meadow overlooking the River Avon; and a working kitchen garden. Throughout, we’ll check out the architectural features—obelisks, arched gateways, a pavilion, and temple—traditional garden elements with clever updates.

 

Day 8, August 18, Tuesday – BROUGHTON GRANGE, PETTIFERS

We’ll explore another captivating design by Tom Stuart-Smith at Broughton Grange. Part of a larger 19th century garden, this new addition transformed a paddock into an ambitious 6-acre walled garden. Three themed terraces traverse a slope and open to the surrounding rural landscape. We’ll see masses of perennials and grasses punctuated with topiary, a modern boxwood parterre based on leaves, beech tunnels, pleached lime squares, and a rill carrying water into a large stone tank. The scale of Stuart-Smith’s 21st century design is a bold step away from typical English garden rooms.

Pettifers is a stylish townhouse garden designed by the owner Gina Price. With little experience in design, Price started in the early 1990’s with a conventional, old fashioned garden. Gradually through visiting other gardens and asking for criticism from knowledgeable friends, Price began editing. Today Pettifers is known for its innovative plant choices, remarkable plant combinations, and vivid color blends, all within a confident structure. Price admits to being influenced by the New Perennials movement but says she couldn’t have a garden without English prettiness. This is a pairing that’s sure to please.

 

Day 9, August 19, Wednesday – BOUGHTON HOUSE

Our final day will be spent in the garden at Boughton House, where UK landscape architect Kim Wilkie has created a 21st century landform called The Orpheus Project within the estate’s 18th century gardens. Responding to a geometric mound designed over 200 years ago, Wilke created an inverted grass pyramid sunk 22 feet into the earth and open to the sky. We’ll be able to walk down a spiraling grass ramp to the square reflecting pool below, where sounds of the world above disappear. At Broughton House, formal landscapes of the past meet minimalist modernism, a fascinating juxtaposition to be sure.

 

Day 10, August 20, Thursday – DEPART UK OR CONTINUE TRAVEL ON YOUR OWN

Chelsea Flower Show & English Gardens in the Spring

FULL ITINERARY

 

Day 1, May 18, Monday – ARRIVE IN THE UK

Tour participants will independently arrange travel to London Heathrow Airport and have the opportunity to get settled before the start of the garden tours the following day.

 

Day 2, May 19, Tuesday – TOUR STARTS, WISLEY

Our first day together will be the spent enjoying the famous Royal Horticultural Society Garden, Wisley. This flagship garden spans 240 acres and features a diversity of garden types from model gardens to rock gardens to stunning borders. We can expect to see colorful May flowers such as Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Tulips, Allium, Camassia, Iris & Peony in bloom. We’ll explore the Glasshouse, a recent addition to Wisley, and the nearby perennial borders created by influencial planting designers Piet Oudolf and Tom Stuart-Smith. There will be time to pause and reflect over afternoon tea, pay a visit to the garden libraries, or buy a memento in the shop.

 

Day 3, May 20, Wednesday – VANN, GODDARDS, FOLLY FARM

(A day of discovery dedicated to the celebrated 20th century garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll.)

We’ll start our day in the Surrey countryside exploring the 5 acre Vann garden. This garden has been maintained in the spirit of Gertrude Jekyll who designed the plantings in 1911. The lower garden showcases an enchanting, meandering woodland water garden where a natural stream is channeled into a formal rill with a series of ponds resulting in a dreamlike landscape.

Goddards is an example of the famous partnership between Jekyll and the great British architect Edwin Lutyens. Lutyens designed the house around a courtyard that the principal rooms overlook and Jekyll laid out the gardens and plantings. This early 1900s collaboration produced what many call a masterpience.

Another outstanding example of the Jekyll & Lutyens collaboration is Folly Farm. The best known areas are the canal garden and the sunken rose garden. Originally designed in 1912, the current owners have led a recent restoration and replanting with assistance from the influential contemporary English garden designer Dan Pearson.

 

Day 4, May 21, Thursday – SISSINGHURST, GREAT DIXTER

Sissinghurst Castle Gardens are treasures today thanks to the commitment, imagination and marriage of writer Vita Sackville-West and diplomat Harold Nicolson. He laid out the gardens’ architecture and she filled it with lush, romantic plantings. Besides exploring the series of intimate garden rooms, make sure you climb the tower and take in the panoramic views from the top. You can learn more about Sissinghurst right now by checking out its blog.
Great Dixter is perhaps the best known and most loved of all English gardens. It exists as a living testament to the life and passions of the late owner, plantsman, and writer, Christopher Lloyd. Today, Fergus Garrett, who worked for Lloyd during the last years of his life, carries on the tradition of experimentation that Lloyd started. He welcomes visitors with horticultural interests from all over the world. If we’re fortunate, we’ll be greeted by bold displays of poppies, tulips, and spring perennials.

 

Day 5, May 22, Friday – CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW

The Chelsea Flower Show attracts garden designers and enthusiasts from every corner of the world. Not to be missed is the Great Pavilion where nurseries and plant societies exhibit the best & newest plants from around the world. Held at London’s Royal Hospital Chelsea, the Chelsea Flower Show consistently displays design excellence and includes competitions for Best in Show, Best Fresh Garden and Best Artisanal Garden. Take a moment to appreciate the 2014 Best of Show winner, Luciano Giubbilei, and watch his video interview where he poetically describes the creation of his show garden.

Following our horticulture and design packed day, we’ve arranged for a special dinner and views of the London skyline from a surprise destination!

 

Day 6, May 23, Saturday – HIGH BEECHES, GRAVETYE MANOR, MUNSTEAD WOOD

Our time in Sussex will begin at High Beeches Gardens. Here, 100 years ago, plant hunters like Ernest Wilson gathered a collection of rare shrubs and trees from around the world. Declared ‘outstanding historically’ by English Heritage, the gardens are a well preserved example of an early 20th century woodland garden and home to the National Collection of Stewartia. Botanists will swoon over the complete plant list featured in the Gate Lodge. With any luck, the Rhododendron loderi will be at their peak. We’ll lose ourselves in the beauty of these 27 acres.

The gardens of Gravetye Manor, with their stunning views to the surrounding countryside, were created a century ago by writer, designer, and owner, William Robinson. Here he showcased his ideas about naturalism & wild gardening dramatically contrasting untamed gardens with more structured areas close to the house. Today, Gravetye Manor is a country house hotel and the gardens have had an extensive restoration. But don’t expect to see a historic set piece. The current head gardener, having done a stint at Great Dixter, is adding experimental plantings, giving this garden a 21st century twist.

We return to the work of Gertrude Jekyll by visiting the gardens at her historic home, Munstead Wood. Jekyll originally designed this 15 acre property to show clients her planting schemes. Low maintenance, it wasn’t. She employed a team of 14 gardeners. Today the head gardener is Annabel Watts, who’s featured in this video talking about Jekyll’s bold approach to design and her love of exotic plants and texture. “Fun” she says, “I think a garden should be fun.”

 

Day 7, May 24, Sunday – HIDCOTE, KIFTSGATE

From 1907, Lawrence Johnston, a talented plantsman with a strong sense of design, created Hidcote, considered by many to be a masterpiece. A series of hedged, intimate, outdoor rooms, each with its own individual character, are linked by narrow passageways and eventually lead to lawns and views to the countryside beyond. Throughout, Johnston used a vast variety of plants many found on his plant collecting trips. It’s interesting to note the number of plants still used today that were introduced in this garden.

A visit to Kiftsgate Court Gardens is not complete without an understanding of how 3 generations of women have shaped this garden into a beloved treasure. The garden was started in the 1920’s by Heather Muir who boldly employed an intuitive approach to creating gardens instead of using a more formalized plan. In the 1950’s Muir’s daughter, Diany Binny, continued the evolution of the garden by introducing a semi-circular pool to the lower garden, commissioning sculptural features and opening Kiftsgate for public enjoyment for the first time. Today, Anne Chambers, daughter of Binny and granddaughter of Muir, continues to shape the landscape. Her new Water Garden is a contemporary oasis and evidence of her desire to bring the garden into the 21st century. At Kiftsgate, we’ll enjoy the Bluebell Wood, savor the white Erythronium and Trillium in the Sunk Garden, stroll leisurely along the Wide Border packed with perennials, and, with any luck, view the enormous blooms of the tree peony collection.

 

Day 8, May 25, Monday – ROUSHAM

Rousham Garden was designed by William Kent (1685-1748), the landscape designer who popularized a natural landscape style for estates. Rousham is the only 18th century garden featured on our tour and is considered by many to be the single best example of a landscape garden in the country. Little has changed over the centuries at Rousham. The views and accents Kent designed are still there for us to enjoy today. This video featured in the series, “Around the World in 80 Gardens” provides a wonderful introduction.

 

Day 9, May 26, Tuesday – DEPART UK OR CONTINUE TRAVEL ON YOUR OWN