Glorious Gardens in 2019

RHS Wisley

RHS Wisley

You don’t have to be a specialist gardening group to enjoy Britain’s many horticultural attractions. Abbe Bates presents our annual selection of those keen to welcome groups in 2019.

Country-wide

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has four gardens across the UK open for groups to visit. Its historic home, RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, has one of the largest plant collections in the world and was founded more than 100 years ago. The oldest and most diverse of the four RHS gardens, its collections include cultivated plants of national significance.

Full of inspiration for gardeners, with over 30,000 plant varieties across 200 acres, it will open a new arrivals hall comprising a 100-seater restaurant, café, shop and expanded plant centre in 2019, and a new Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning in 2020. Surrounded by three new gardens, the centre will contain an extensive public exhibition space and provide a fascinating insight into the work and research of the RHS. Groups can book a ‘Behind the Scenes Tour – Wisley Laboratory’ to learn more about its history and continuing work.

RHS Wisley’s new avenue to welcome visitors will open this spring. © Forbes Massie

RHS Wisley’s new avenue to welcome visitors will open this spring. © Forbes Massie

RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Essex has some 360 acres to explore and highlights include the fascinating Mediterranean-inspired Dry Garden, which showcases an array of drought tolerant plants. Originally a farm, it also features a beautiful hilltop garden, rose garden, woodland, meadows and pasture. Reflecting its heritage and links to edibles in the surrounding area, there is also a Global Growth Vegetable Garden showcasing fruit and vegetables from around the world.

Pre-booked groups of 10 or more are offered special rates.

The dry garden at RHS Garden Hyde Hall © Lee Beel, RHS

The dry garden at RHS Garden Hyde Hall © Lee Beel, RHS

Nestled in North Devon’s Torridge Valley, between Exmoor and Dartmoor National Parks, RHS Garden Rosemoor is spread across 65 acres. The original garden was created by Lady Anne Berry over 30 years and has continued to develop as a true plantsman’s garden, with plenty of areas of interest and beauty, ranging from Rosemoor’s 150-metre Long Borders to an Arboretum. One of the best places in the UK to see roses, it has two rose gardens – the Queen Mother’s Rose Garden and more traditional Shrub Rose Garden. It is popular for groups as part of a broader North Devon itinerary.

RHS Garden Harlow Carr on the outskirts of Harrogate is set in 68 acres of wooded valley and was initially laid out around the site of a Victorian hotel and bathhouse. The gardens were developed after the Second World War when the newly formed Northern Horticultural Society leased the land and opened it as Harlow Carr Botanical Gardens in 1950. Amalgamating with the RHS in 2001, the garden has continued to develop with design features evoking the surrounding landscapes, including water features and wooded areas.

On tour in the Savill Garden in Windsor Great Park

On tour in the Savill Garden in Windsor Great Park

Highlights are the colourful herbaceous borders, Woodland Glade, Alpine House and raised Kitchen Garden. There is also a dedicated Winter Walk for the colder months. In 2020, the RHS will open its newest garden in over 17 years, RHS Garden Bridgewater in Greater Manchester.

Southern Plantings

At Windsor Great Park, sweeping parkland, award-winning gardens, historical monuments, rare wildlife, ancient woodland and forest trails combine across thousands of acres. The Savill Garden sits in the heart of the park and was created in the 1930s; its 35 acres of interconnected gardens include, for the winter season, the renowned Winter Garden, New Zealand Garden, The Glades, Autumn Wood, the Hidden Gardens and Temperate House.

Pretty borders at Pashley Manor

Pretty borders at Pashley Manor

The newly-launched 2019 Group Visitors Guide details a wide selection of tours and experiences that bring the site to life. These include the ‘Royal Heritage Tour and The Savill Garden’, which provides the opportunity to be immersed in 1,000 years of Royal history with a personally guided coach tour of Windsor Great Park. Now in its second year and exclusively for groups, this limited availability tour allows visitors to understand how Windsor Great Park works in the modern day, as well as learning about its long history. Alongside this are a varied selection of combined experiences for groups that include visits to Windsor Castle, Frogmore House, Dorney Court and a riverboat cruise. Groups can also enjoy a private tour of The Savill Garden, led by a guide or the gardeners themselves, finished off with a cream tea or a group catering package from The Savill Garden Kitchen.

Pashley Manor Gardens in Sussex is family-owned and maintained, and contains sweeping herbaceous borders, a ha-ha, box hedges, an espaliered rose walk, historic walled garden, kitchen garden, venerable trees all set against the backdrop of the Grade I-listed Manor house. Providing a haven for wildlife, visitors can spot bees, butterflies and small birds as well as moor hens, ducks and a black swan.

The border changes through the seasons, and each garden ‘room’ is planted in a different colour theme. Look out for the sculpture of Anne Boleyn on the moated island, believed to be the site of the original dwelling at Pashley, which was owned by the Boleyns and used as a hunting lodge. Added to this is a café and terrace with garden views as well as sculpture and art exhibitions.

Groups are welcomed with special rates and free coach parking.

One of Borde Hill’s peaceful garden

One of Borde Hill’s peaceful garden

Also in Sussex, at Borde Hill groups will be able to visit the newly-designed Italian Garden, where new bulb plantings are set to flower in the late spring. Group prices will remain unchanged for 2019, with discounted rates, free entry for the GTO and pre-bookable guided tours of the garden or Elizabethan mansion house. Bespoke catering options are also possible, served inside a dedicated marquee. For pre-booked groups of 15 or more people, joint offers are available including – new for 2019 – a combined visit to Borde Hill and Town Place, another private Sussex garden located just 15 minutes away. Groups can explore the three-acre garden with 600 roses, herbaceous borders, a herb garden and topiary inspired by the sculptures of Henry Moore. Other packages include the Bolney Wine Estate featuring an afternoon tour of the vineyards, exploring the winery and sampling a selection of fine wines, and the Bluebell Railway, where you can enjoy a relaxing journey onboard one of its steam locomotives.

Glorious colours at Leonardslee Gardens

Glorious colours at Leonardslee Gardens

Another popular Sussex garden is Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens, the 200-acre estate with Grade I-listed woodland gardens, a famous dolls’ house museum and wallaby colony. The attraction shut in 2010 and is looking to reopen in March following a major investment programme to restore the gardens and its Grade II Italianate mansion house, with the new Restaurant Interlude already open for business. Forty acres of vineyards have also been planted at Leonardslee and at a second site, three miles away at Mannings Heath, where the UK’s first golf and wine estate has been created.

Leeds Castle in Maidstone, Kent turns 900 in 2019 and groups can explore its beautiful gardens on private guided tours. You can learn more about the cottage-style Culpeper Garden and the Lady Baillie Mediterranean Garden, featuring palms, cacti, succulents and banana trees. The Woodland Garden has been newly-landscaped for the castle’s 900th anniversary.

Also in Kent and close to Sevenoaks, Hever Castle & Gardens was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, but its gardens created between 1904 and 1908, comprise a series of interlinking spaces each with its own character overlooking a 38-acre lake. They include an Italian Garden, a Loggia, Tudor Garden, a Walled Rose Garden with over 4,000 fragrant bushes and the new Faith’s Garden – planted with perennials. Throughout the year there are special events that are perfect for groups – including Dazzling Daffodils in March, Tulip Celebrations in April and Hever in Bloom in the summer.

Festival of Flowers at Leeds Castle runs from 14th to 19th September

Festival of Flowers at Leeds Castle runs from 14th to 19th September

During the Dazzling Daffodils event in March the gates to the normally private woodland, Park Wood will be opened to allow visitors to see a rare double daffodil species and access will continue for the bluebell season. Discounted rates apply for groups of 15 or more and garden tours can also be booked.

A newly created Kitchen Garden at the National Trust’s Mottisfont in Hampshire has seen food production and sustainability return to the property for the first time in more than 30 years. Everything planted in the new garden is culinary, medicinal or edible, including herbs more traditionally used in medieval times such as cardoon and lovage. In 2019, large cold frames will be introduced to house year-round mixed salad leaves; as well as being used in Mottisfont’s café, bags of salad will be sold to visitors, mixed with edible flowers and the proceeds will help fund a garden apprentice post. An area will be created for families, to encourage children to enjoy the hands-on experience and pleasure of growing fruit and vegetables. Groups visiting to see the new offerings are offered discounted entry.

Dazzling Daffodils provide vibrant spring time colour in the Hever Castle Gardens. © Hever Castle

Dazzling Daffodils provide vibrant spring time colour in the Hever Castle Gardens. © Hever Castle

Iford Manor & Peto Garden in Wiltshire is opening a new café and Heritage Centre for Summer 2019. They will also be offering new Head Gardener tours. This venue is the location for ‘The Secret Garden’ starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters which is due to be released in summer 2019. This is only one of many beautiful gardens to visit in the county – others include Bowood House set in a Capability Brown landscape and, in the centre of Salisbury, a two-acre walled garden at Arundells – home of the former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath, with perfect views of Salisbury Cathedral.

Once the country home of the Rothschilds, Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire is a Renaissance-style château housing one of the world’s finest collections of French 18th century decorative art. The Victorian garden has a parterre, aviary, seasonal displays, fountains and statuary. The 2019 season begins at the end of March, but groups can now explore the Manor Gardens during January, February and March.

This option includes a guided tour of the gardens followed by a two-course lunch at the Five Arrows Hotel in the village of Waddesdon or groups can choose an Afternoon Tea. Opening in May 2019, ‘A Rothschild Treasury’ will celebrate the Waddesdon Rothschilds as collectors of extraordinary objects made from rare and precious materials such as silver, silver-gilt, rock crystal, amber, ivory and enamel. On the other side of the Waddesdon Estate, another possibility for your group is a guided tour of the private (non-National Trust) Waddesdon Archive and Flint House at Windmill Hill.

The South Front and Gardens at Waddesdon Manor. Credit Chris Lacey

The South Front and Gardens at Waddesdon Manor. Credit Chris Lacey

Central Landscapes and Northern Blooms

In Warwick, a secret gem is Hill Close Gardens – a rare survival from Victorian times and owned by townsfolk who, living above their businesses, used them to escape from the bustle of the town. Sixteen gardens have been reconstructed along with their quirky summer houses to reflect the planting and personality of their original owners. The Gardens are open throughout the year and groups of 10 or more people can book a guided tour with the admission fee including a tea and cake in the visitor centre.

The Trentham Estate in Staffordshire is the fourth mostvisited paid-for garden attraction in England, and May 2019 marks the 15th anniversary of these historic gardens re-opening to the public. Boasting one of the finest Italian gardens outside of Italy, the site is currently creating the UK’s longest sequence of contemporary perennial plantings, designed meadows and naturalistic gardens. Plans are in place to mark the 15th anniversary during 2019 and discounted admission is offered to 12 or more people.

The restored Game Parlour at Brodsworth Hall and Gardens

The restored Game Parlour at Brodsworth Hall and Gardens

Tatton Park in Knutsford, Cheshire is one of the RHS’s recommended gardens, and RHS members enjoy free entry. The formal and pleasure gardens cover some 50 acres and give views over the surrounding extensive deer park and woodland landscaped by Humphrey Repton, and include a Walled Kitchen Garden, Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, Tower Garden, Arboretum, and glass houses – the Joseph Paxton designed conservatory has recently been restored. The Japanese Garden was inspired by the Anglo-Japanese Exhibition in London in 1910 and is now one of the leading such gardens in Europe. It includes a Shinto Shrine and other Japanese artefacts and is in the style of a tea garden with plants, stones and rocks carefully placed to create a natural balance. The Japanese Garden can only be entered as part of a special pre-booked guided tour, otherwise it can be viewed from the perimeter. Groups visiting Tatton can choose to visit just the Gardens or combine this with any or all of the other three attractions – Mansion, Farm or Old Hall and benefits are available for pre-booked groups of 15 plus people.

The exotic and rich colours of the Japanese Garden at Tatton Park.

The exotic and rich colours of the Japanese Garden at Tatton Park.

At English Heritage’s Brodsworth Hall and Gardens in Yorkshire, a newly restored game larder has opened to visitors for the first time in the grounds. The site tells the story of Victorian life above and below stairs, and the octagonal larder was used for storing the spoils of the shooting season. Historic maps and photographs were used as part of the restoration works to make sure the larder and the surrounding gardens look as they would have when they were created in the late 19th century. Inside, new interpretation panels suspended from the same rails that were once used to hang the game tell the story of the lives of the hall’s owners and staff – from game keepers and gardeners to kitchen maids and cooks. Groups are welcomed with a range of benefits including discounted rates.

Amongst the Trees

The Royal Army Medical Corps memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum

The Royal Army Medical Corps memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum

The UK’s arboretums and pinetums provide a peaceful place to marvel at exotic and native species. As well as woodland walks, at many you can indulge in other outdoor activities such as cycling and orienteering.

A particularly reflective place is the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, part of The Royal British Legion. Named as ‘Large Visitor Attraction of the Year’ by VisitEngland in 2018, the 150-acre arboretum is home to over 350 thoughtprovoking memorials, nestled amongst approximately 30,000 trees, creating a tranquil woodland landscape teeming with wildlife.

The memorials represent both military and civilian groups, and feature tributes to those who have served, suffered or sacrificed on behalf of the country. In October 2016, a £15.7m Remembrance Centre was opened at the site and it is also home to the striking Armed Forces Memorial, which commemorates those who have been killed on duty or as a result of terrorism from the end of the Second World War to the present time. A range of group walks, talks and tours are offered as well as group discounts to its permanent and temporary exhibitions, and a pre-bookable selection of homemade meals. Special exclusive packages for groups are available for landmark events in the arboretum’s 2019 events programme including Group Saver Rates for ‘Proms at the Arboretum’ in August and the ‘Illuminated Arboretum’ in December, and a Remembrance Sunday Package in November including access to Aspects, the new purpose-built events building, with reserved seating, a welcome talk and buffet lunch. Exclusively for groups, the ‘Christmas Lunch with Entertainment’ package in December provides a three-course meal with all the trimmings, welcome drink and live entertainment.

Malvern Spring Festival, the Perfumers Garden

Malvern Spring Festival, the Perfumers Garden

Other specialist woodlands around the country include Bedgebury Forest and National Pinetum in Kent is a world-leading collection of conifers and a beautiful setting for peaceful walks and picnics, with miles of family cycling and mountain-biking, walking and running, as well as a Go Ape tree-top adventure and an adventure play trail. The Forestry Commission, which runs the site, also boasts Westonbirt – the National Arboretum in Gloucestershire and Lynford Arboretum, Thetford Forest in Norfolk as part of its collection. Arboretums in the east include Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum in Essex and, to the north, Thorp Perrow Arboretum in Yorkshire.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew will be opening a giant Children’s Garden in May. Children and families will be able to explore through a new area filled with over 100 mature trees including a 200 year-old English Oak, Eucalyptus, Sweet Chestnuts and Gingko. Through play, the children will also discover the elements that plants need to grow.

Varend Corso floating flower festival © Westland Foundationstoet te delft

Varend Corso floating flower festival © Westland Foundationstoet te delft

Garden events around the world

It’s not only in the UK that flower and garden events take place! In the Netherlands and Belgium, just to mention two European countries, there are many floral spectaculars to enjoy. A Floating Flower Festival, the Varend Corso, takes place from 2nd to 4th August and sees a flotilla of more than 50 boats decorated with flowers and vegetables sailing through the Westland region of the Netherlands.

Belgium’s international floral spectacular takes place from 27th to 30th September in the grounds of Alden Biesn Castle.

Looking further ahead, the 13th World Association of Flower Arrangers event will take place in Jaipur, India from 26th February until 1st March 2020. Held every three years this will be riot of colour along with enjoying the displays, flower arranging demonstrations and lectures – floral art and gardens make a perfect theme for a trip to India as well. Itineraries taking in the show and exploring the wider area are available from Tour Operators such as Greatdays Travel and Brightwater Holidays.