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Need guidance for a trip to see gardens in England

Need guidance for a trip to see gardens in England

Old Jan 7th, 2011, 05:23 PM
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Need guidance for a trip to see gardens in England

Several years ago I did an organized garden tour to the Chelsea Flower show and English gardens.I loved seeing Sissinghurst, Hidcote, etc but, would love to see them when the perennials were in full bloom. This time I'd like to plan one independently and am thinking July might be a great time to see the gardens.I would probably allow tne days to two weeks. I'm thinking the Cotswolds and the area around Oxford, staying in B and B's or small charming inns. Does this sound like a good plan? Are there other areas we should consider. I think we would use trains or /and hire a driver.
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Old Jan 7th, 2011, 08:44 PM
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Since 1998, I have organized and led one or more garden tours each year as a volunteer for the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon. These tours have included England, Scotland & Wales, Ireland & Northern Ireland, France, Italy and South Africa. Here is a collection of images from those tours: http://gardentouring.fotopic.net/

In the column on the right side of the page you will find a list of 'groups.' You will find English gardens in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004 & 2006. Within each group you will find collections of gardens grouped by geographical area. Click on the collection name to bring up photos of the gardens.

If you scroll to the bottom of the page, then click on the link for 'More Collections,' you can then scroll down through the years and see lists of gardens visited in the various collections. Again, click on the collection name to see photos of the gardens.

In summer 1998 and 2004 we visited in July and both groups include gardens in the Cotswolds. The photos may give you some ideas of gardens to search out for your own tour.

Another area rich in excellent gardens is of course Kent and the southeast. You mention visiting Sissinghurst in Kent, but have you also seen the late Christopher Lloyd's Great Dixter, or Nyman's or Pashley Manor in Sussex? Other nearby gardens also worth a visit are Hever Castle and Penshurst Place.

East Anglia, to the east of London, is also a treasure chest of wonderful gardens including Beth Chatto's nursery and garden, the late Alan Bloom's Dell Garden and Adrian Bloom's Foggy Bottom at Bressingham, the Old Vicarage at East Ruston and Hugh Johnston's Saling Hall.

And this is all just scratching the surface. If I were you, I would start by determining either an area of interest, such as the Cotswolds which you mentioned, or a few gardens of particular interest, and go from there. With 10 days to 2 weeks you have time to visit more than one area if you want.

One last thing: many of the gardens are not easily reached by public transport and many are located in out-of-the-way places that take some time on slow roads to reach. It's reasonable to assume you could visit two gardens in a day, but to try to do more than that will often not be possible, given irregular opening days and times.
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Old Jan 7th, 2011, 08:59 PM
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julia1 has given you excellent info. I give travel talks on visiting the Gardens of the British Isles and echo much of what she said.

I love LOVE the Cotswolds (lived near the Cotswolds for 5 years) and there certainly are some amazing gardens.

But for a garden-centric trip I'd probably recommend Kent/East Sussex first. East Anglia or the Cotswolds would be good but they don't call Kent 'The Garden of England for nuthin'

You could visit Sissinghurst, Great Dixter, Hever, Scotney Castle, Chartwell, Penshurst place,Leeds castle and many more plus RHS Wisley (in Surry but easily accessible right off the M25). IMO Wisley is an absolute must - even more so than Kew.

Is there some reason you don't want to drive? That would be by far both easier than public transport and cheaper than a driver.

BTW Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is July 5-10 this year.
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Old Jan 7th, 2011, 09:03 PM
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Try this website:

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Old Jan 7th, 2011, 09:12 PM
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I meant to add, good information about gardens is available in The Good Gardens Guide, Gardens to Visit and The Garden Finder. Another publication, NGS Yellow Book, also lists hundreds of gardens but many are open only one or several days each summer.

Be sure to get recent editions of any of these as the opening information can change as gardens change hands or owners age or die. Check out http://www.amazon.co.uk/ if you can't find the books elsewhere.
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Old Jan 7th, 2011, 09:26 PM
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Oh yes - you must get a Yellow Book.

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Old Jan 8th, 2011, 12:14 AM
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I was under the impression, Kent was called the Garden of England because of it's produce, not because of it's gardens.

In addition to those mentioned, you may be interested in Painshill Park in Cobham and Claremont Gardens in Esher both in Surrey and a few miles apart. Homewood House and Gardens are also in Esher, a modernist house with landscaped gardens, limited opening to the public.

Hampton Court Flower show would not be top of my list to see, there are some interesting garden designs but all the crowds can make it difficult to see them properly unless you go on the RHS membership day.
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Old Jan 8th, 2011, 12:38 AM
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It's worth pointing out that the big, famous, tour party-oriented, places account for a tiny - and wholly uncharacteristic, except for Kiftsgate - proportion of England's gardens.

Reading and using the Yellow Book is probably far more important than debating Kent vs the Cotswolds. Most gardens, and most original thinking about running them, happens around, or more often behind, millions of garden-addicts' houses - and they're open to the public only a few days a year.

Mercifully, the norm is for the best gardens around a specific village to open on the same few days, charging a few pounds for admission to all and giving their details in the Yellow Book. Increasingly, a similar number of the second-best run a parallel day either at the same time or a week before or after, usually featured on the local website.

The Yellow Book day for, say, Greater Chipping on the Wold, will range from the immense acres of the former Chipping Priory (now owned by a biotech zillionaire, whose ex-actress wife has thrown all his money into the 100% organic "Sustainable Chippy Garden" project) to the backyard patches of a few local authority houses, with the stautory dozen or so thatched cottages thrown in. If it appeals, find the Chipping website and see if there's a parallel event with a slightly different name going on too. The £5 or so entrance usually goes to the community's favourite charity.
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Old Jan 8th, 2011, 12:02 PM
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I guess Odin doesn't get 's
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Old Jan 8th, 2011, 12:03 PM
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What wonderful advice. I've got my work cut out for me narrowing down my choices; but, will start with a Yellow Book, guides and a map and work from there. And Julia1 thanks for the link to your website.
Having never driven in England I'm reluctant to try it; but, may reconsider.
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Old Jan 9th, 2011, 08:46 AM
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My favourite garden visit this year was to Asthall Manor, near Burford in Oxfordshire. The gardens were sublime and enhanced by the wonderful sculptures.
Pity you will miss the biennial sculpture exhibition.

Taken from Asthall's website:
"Our next exhibition of stone sculpture will be in 2012, probably from the 10th of June to the 8th of July.
The garden will be open for the National Gardens Scheme on the 12th June 2011.
Meanwhile, if you would like to come and stay at Asthall Manor, the flat above the Ballroom will soon be available for short-term lets. These are the rooms where the older Mitford children – Nancy, Pamela, Diana and Tom – stayed while the family lived at Asthall from 1919-1926. With murals by Nancy in the main bedroom, this is a treat for Mitford fans, as well as just a lovely place to stay in the Cotswolds. Sleeps 5. Please email [email protected] for availability, or telephone 01993 824319."

Of course, many of the Oxford colleges have lovely gardens and are open to the public during college vacations.

N.B. Janisj - I have taken great care over my apostrophes if you are the self appointed copy editor.
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Old Jan 10th, 2011, 01:59 AM
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I ran out of time yesterday but I would also recommend Devon and Cornwall for wonderful gardens. Too many to mention individually but, due to milder climate in SW England, there are often spectacular shows of perennials in the summer. My personal favourite is THe Garden House, near Yelverton on the edge of Dartmoor.
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