FAIR WARNING! This isn’t an unbiased article since I love gardens.
I have had the privilege of taking groups of gardeners around England and Scotland to visit some of the great gardens of the UK.
The British are very connected to the land and it shows in the way they embrace the various flower shows and festivals throughout the country.
Small cities and towns also compete for prizes by decorating with plants and each year one wins the honor to be the best decorated. Each town also has land set aside so each family can have a space to grow flowers and vegetables.
The British will say about seeing English gardens, you are “spoilt for choice” and so many of their gardens are represented in the major garden shows.
The flower show season starts in May with the world-famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show. It is always crowded, but I purchase memberships in the RHS, so that my groups can go in on Members Day. Seeing all the display gardens, is a great way to get inspiration to take home to your own gardens. This is just the start of the garden show season going through the summer, you also have Hampton Court Flower Show, Tatton Park and others. No matter when you choose to go, there will probably be a RHS show you can attend.
No matter which area you decide to explore after your day at Chelsea, you can’t go wrong. You can strike out for the Cotswolds where there are many gardens that have been in the same family for hundreds of years. With the tax laws as they are in the UK, most of these families find they must open their homes and gardens to the public in order to keep them in the family. This works for them and is the best news for us, since sometimes our guides can be the owners themselves. At the very least our guides are the head gardeners.
In one morning you can see Hidcote Manor Garden and Kiftsgate. These are great examples of families who are great stewards of the land. Because they appreciate the value of preserving the past with moving into the future, these are two of my favorite gardens to visit.
Trekking through gardens and absorbing all this knowledge is sure to make you hungry and thirsty. The wonderful thing about visiting these areas is that around every bend in the road is a local pub where you can indulge in a traditional pub lunch. One of my favorites is the ploughman’s, which is meat, cheese and bread.
Every pub has it’s own take on this, so no matter if you order this every day, you will get something different, but just as delicious.
Another special area for visiting gardens is Kent, which is known as the “Garden of England”. There are many gardens of note there, as well as some well-known castles.
One of the finest gardens in the area is Sissinghurst, which was created by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson. They transformed the ruins of this Elizabethan mansion and gardens in the 1930s. The castle tower dating from the 16th century is virtually all that remains of the grand Manor House.
The garden is divided into a series of rooms filled with informal arrangements of plants around a theme: the White Garden, the Purple Border, the Rose Garden, the Herb Garden, the Lime Walk, and the Cottage Garden.
Another truly magnificent property is Chartwell, the home of the late Sir Winston Churchill. The golden rose walk was created in 1958 by the Churchill children and Lady Churchill’s influence can also be seen in the ornamental design.
Some of my groups have also been entranced with gardens in Scotland, which are just as numerous as their counterparts in the south.
One of our best days was going to Threave Garden. Here we donned work gloves and worked alongside some of the horticulturists in training. Getting to know these gardeners and working alongside them for the morning really was a wonderful experience that doesn’t happen on most tours.
One of the most magnificent properties we visited was Mount Stuart Near Inverary . I arranged for us to be “piped” into the house, have a private tour, which included a tasting of the mead which is made on the property and then a great private lunch, which also was sourced with ingredients grown there. They gave us some parting gifts and I still use the address book I received then.
This is just a small sample of the gardens and stately homes I have personal experience with. There are lots more there and I am anxious to visit them. If you are a member of a garden club, have friends or family who are interested in seeing beautiful and unusual gardens, Great Britain is your kind of place and I can create just the right itinerary to make your dreams come true.
Please contact me at UNIQUE JOURNEYS LLC, (314) 644-8691 and we can put together the start of your journey to see some of the great gardens of England, Scotland or Wales.