- United Kingdom - England and Wales
- This tour features the very best English country gardens and the chance to experience the leading contemporary design talent showcased at the world famous Chelsea Flower Show. We’ll explore the beauty of classic, early 20th century gardens like Hidcote, Sissinghurst, and Kiftsgate and be dazzled by breathtaking private gardens such as Farleigh Wallop, Pettifers, Veddw, and Cothay Manor.
Chelsea Flower Show & Country Gardens
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
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.
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“Carolyn you are a lovely & well-informed tour guide & designer I thoroughly enjoyed all your I insight. Liked the mix of the group. I will most definitely join you in future tours & have already referred many to you.”
2016 Tour Participant
“Wonderful tour, wonderful people (well, gardeners make great companions!), wonderful sites.”
2016 Tour Participant
“I don’t know that it could be improved.”
2016 Tour Participant
“For me it was a perfect blend of historic, grand, small, and privately owned gardens.”
2016 Tour Participant
“A perfect 10.”
2016 Tour Participant
Tour price in USD:
US$4,300 per person, double occupancy
+US$1,200 per person, single occupancy
A US$1,000.00 deposit is due when you book your tour.