A Treasure Trove of Inspirational English Gardens

By Paull Tickner


As so many of your green-fingered clients are busy with their own gardens and horticultural events in April and May, you’ll be greatly encouraged and enthused by my imaginative look at other gardens shows and festivals that take place between June and September.  Each of these ideas can be converted into a customised tour for independent travellers or small groups of 8-10 or more.  Putting everything together for you is where my knowledge, experience and connections come in.  Take a careful look and let’s talk about converting some of these ideas into a tailormade itinerary.

Two Flower Shows, Herbs and an Edible Garden

If your garden-loving clients can’t make it to this year’s Chelsea Flower Show in late May, talk to them about a unique, late June tour bringing together the annual Blenheim Palace Flower Show and the Woburn Abbey Garden Show. With a customized itinerary, you can then add a tasty visit to the National Herb Society’s growing beds at Sulgrave Manor, George Washington’s ancestral home, and a slice of rose petal cake at Kathy Brown’s Edible Garden near Bedford.

The Illumination Festival of Flowers

The Winchester Cathedral Flower Festival takes place between 5th – 9th September with an exuberant array of flower arrangements inspired by the 12th century Winchester Bible, which you’ll also be able to see while you’re there. This great Norman building will be transformed by striking and floral displays evoking the Bible’s exquisitely illuminated initials and decorative schemes. Add a day at the RHS Garden Show at Wisley 4th – 9th September for an outstanding late summer stately homes and cathedrals tour.

A Quintessentially English Garden 

Sweeping herbaceous borders, elegant rose and historic walled gardens, artistic plantings framed by fine old trees, sculpture, fountains, ponds and enchanting woodland walks– welcome to the award-winning garden at Pashley Manor.  At their best between April and September, fine tune your visit to coincide with their Special Rose Week (8th-16th June) or during their Dahlia Days Festival (5th-15th September) when a visit to Pashley Manor partners nicely with the RHS Wisley Flower Show and the Winchester Cathedral Flower Festival.

The “Kaleidoscope of Life” Flower Festival

From Jun 21 to 24, 2018, the magnificent medieval cathedral in Ely will host its much-anticipated Flower Festival, which is expected to be one of the largest and most spectacular events in the East of England. More than 50,000 blooms will adorn the Cathedral in breath taking displays depicting the story of “Life.” The festival has been created by Roger Woolnough, whose designs have won medals at both the Hampton Court and Chelsea Flower Shows. Talk to the team that decorate your church every Sunday.  I think they will love this idea.

The Rothschilds at Waddesdon Manor

Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild created his garden at Waddesdon Manor for the amusement of his guests, who used to spend an entire morning on their tour of the landscaped grounds, lined with beautiful blooms, tall trees, and elegant sculptures and fountains. You can follow in their footsteps and discover one of the most important Victorian gardens with its fully restored Parterre and working Aviary. They surround a magnificent house in the style of a 19th century French chateau filled with treasures that will take your breath away.

A Renowned Landscape Garden Reopens

After being closed since 2010, Leonardslee is one of England’s largest and most spectacular woodland gardens, is reopening in the spring. Set in a tranquil valley, a series of seven lakes provide a magnificent reflection of the fabulous, colourful display of Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Camellias and Magnolias that surround them. Keeping the grass mown, there are eco-friendly wallabies whose ancestors have been here since 1889. In addition, the Dolls House Exhibition provides a magical world in miniature

Winners Row

There are few corners of England where you will find close together no fewer than five former winners of the prestigious Historic Houses Association/Christies Garden of the Year Award. They include the Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Garden, the Rothschild’s rhododendron collection at Exbury and the former Cistercian monastery at Forde Abbey. Since you may have many green-fingered clients cruising in or out of Southampton, this concentration of horticultural excellence should have their name written all over it.

Borde Hill Garden’s 125th Anniversary

Botanical heritage and stunning landscapes at the award-winning Borde Hill Garden provide the foundations for a perfect visit for horticultural enthusiasts and those who love beautiful countryside. The outdoor garden rooms include the delightful Azalea Ring and Rhododendron Gardens, the Rose Gardens and scenic Italian Garden, best seen, understood and enjoyed with a head gardener-led tour. Throughout the season, you can catch one of the many events celebrating the Stephenson 

Clarke family being at Borde Hill for over a century

Great Gardens to Visit

Finally, this popular annual publication provides high quality images, editorial and group visit information on many of the U.K.’s finest gardens. Originally launched in 2003, it is now considered the essential guide for anyone wishing to organize group visits to U.K. gardens. The Great Gardens to Visit website not only details the gardens but provides up-to-date information on special garden events and activities.

Paull Tickner, owner of U.K.-based Custom GB, is known for his expertise in creating and operating imaginative, value-added tours of Great Britain and Ireland. Visit his website at www.customgb.co.uk and email him at ptickner@customgb.co.uk.