Day 1 - 18 May 2019
Check-in Doubletree by Hilton Victoria Hotel, London
This is the first of three nights that we will stay at the very comfortable Doubletree by Hilton Victoria Hotel
during this tour. Guests can check into the hotel from 14:00. We’ve chosen this hotel not only for its comfort but also its location. From here you can explore some of the main London landmarks on foot: Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Harrods, and the famous Oxford and Bond Street shopping are all nearby. Meet your tour guide and fellow garden visitors over complimentary drinks between 1800-1900 . Make you own arrangements for Dinner.
Day 2 - 19 May 2019
Gardens Visited : High Beeches, Leonardslee.
After breakfast we’ll leave our hotel by luxury coach and travel from central London into West Sussex to High Beeches, the first of two gardens that we will visit today. High Beeches is perhaps the most magical Sussex woodland and water garden that we will visit on this tour. Created in 1906 by Colonel Giles Loder, a cousin of the owner of Leonardslee garden, High Beeches is set in over 25 acres and holds the UK’s National Collection of stewartias, a relative of the Camelia. As we are visiting the garden in Spring we expect to see sheets of bluebells in between glades of rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias all of which should be in flower at the time of our visit, as well as many rare trees and shrubs of course. The many benches spread throughout the property will entice you to explore and admire the Spring colors at leisure. After lunch at High Beeches (not included) we travel to Lower Beeding and visit Leonardslee one of the finest and largest woodland gardens in England, Leonardslee was created by the plantsman Sir Edmund Loder in 1887 on 250 acres of land on the edge of Wealden Forest. With panoramic views towards the South Downs, Leonardslee was designed around the site’s natural features. There are woodland walks, grassy glades and seven lakes all of which provide a perfect setting for the many rare plants which we will see in blossom during our visit to this exceptional woodland garden. Leonardslee is noted for its rhododendrons and during our tour we will be sure to come across the very special scented Rhododendron x loderi which was first cultivated on the property. With rhododendrons lining the paths in abundance, we will come across sheets of bluebells in the woodland and on the banks of the lakes and streams we will find densely planted candelabra primulas, lysichitons and gunneras. We leave Lower Beeding and travel a short distance to Buxted Park Hotel, an elegant palladian country house hotel set in 320 acres of Ashdown Forest parkland where we will stay in considerable comfort for the next three nights. Make your own arrangements for dinner, either at the hotel with its award winning restaurant or nearby at one of the restaurants recommended by the Hotel’s concierge.
Day 3 - 20 May 2019
Gardens Visited: Sissinghurst Castle, Great Dixter.
After a leisurely breakfast we leave Buxted Park by coach and travel to Sissinghurst Castle Garden. In 1930 Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson created Sissinghurst garden around a moated Elizabethan mansion. Their garden has become extremely influential, helped partly by Sackville-West’s writing in which she documents the gardens development over many years. The garden is designed around a series of axial walks each terminating with a statue or some other garden element. Enclosed garden compartments open out from each walkway and many have a seasonal theme. During our visit we’ll experience the spectacular Lime Walk: drifts of bulbs provide a stunning tapestry of colors all as per Nicolson’s original meticulous planning. Other parts of the garden have specific color schemes. For example, you’ll find the White garden next to the Priest’s House and the Cottage Garden which is planted mainly in orange and yellow. Sissinghurst Castle Garden was given to the UK National Trust on the understanding that, as per Nicolson’s wishes, it should be kept up to date with new plants. Although the original design (thankfully) remains unaltered new plants are introduced very much in line with principles set out by Gertrude Jekyll. After our visit to Sissinghurst, we’ll take the coach and drive to Rye only two miles from the coast. Rye is an extremely charming small town of historical importance. We’ll stop here for lunch at the 15th Century Mermaid Inn, from before we head off to Great Dixter, one of two of the great historic gardens in East Sussex. After a packed lunch we will continue with our tour and visit Great Dixter, one of only two historic gardens in East Sussex. Built in 1450, the large timber framed house was bought by Christopher Lloyd’s father in 1910 was restored by the famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. The gardens, once a farmyard, were designed by Lutyens. Part of the reason why Great Dixter has become so famous and influential is because of the planting style introduced there by Christopher Lloyd. His style is characterized by the way in which he manages to combine plants in harmonious groupings where plants of different heights, colors and leaf texture weave together into a unified whole. This style of gardening is often referred to as tapestry gardening and has been copied throughout the world. Experimentation was always been central to Lloyd’s gardening approach and nowhere more can this be seen in his 65m long/4.5-meter-wide Long Border, which as you will see is a spectacular mixture of shrubs, climbers, perennials and annuals. We return to our hotel for the evening.
Day 4 - 21 May 2019
Gardens Visited: Gravetye Manor, Clinton Lodge.
William Robinson was the lead exponent of the natural style of gardening. He used Gravetye Manor’s 35 acres of gardens to showcase his ideas. Today more than 150 years later we are able to visit these historically important gardens and learn from the techniques that he pioneered. As we will see, Robinson’s concept of the wild garden is one in which the gardener embraces nature rather than seeks to control it. Robinson also introduced the idea of the modern mixed border an example of which we will see in the garden when we visit. There is a kitchen garden which produces vegetables and fruits for the hotel’s kitchen. In the woodland we find many of the original trees that he planted. There is a magnolia walk that leads to a lake and a path that passes through wildflower meadows, a tapestry of blooms which last until end of September. After we’ve explored the gardens here we’ll have an exclusive lunch here in its excellent restaurant (included). Designed around a 17th century house, we find a 6 acre garden. There are different historically inspired formal gardens here at Clinton Lodge. In the potager, true to a traditional plan, we find fruit, vegetable, herbs and cutting flowers as well as fruit trees. Nearby there is a walled herb garden with chamomile paths as well as a cloister walk which was inspired by a Pre-Raphaelite painting. The double herbaceous borders reflect Victorian taste. With soft pastel colors we’ll find monkshood, delphinium and iris among many other different plants of interest. There is also a canal garden. Our visit to Clinton Lodge marks the end of our day and from there we’ll head back to our hotel. Make your own arrangements for dinner, either at the hotel with its award winning restaurant or nearby at one of the restaurants recommended by the Hotel’s concierge.
Day 5 - 22 May 2019
Gardens Visited: Sheffield Park, Borde Hill.
Today we leave Buxted Park hotel and begin our journey back to London to attend the Chelsea Flower Show. En route we will visit two stunning gardens. First we visit Sheffield Park. In 1775 ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped 120 acres of gardens and woodland for Lord Sheffield, the owner of Sheffield Park. Later sold and bought by Arthur G Soames and enlarged to 265 acres, much of what remains today was made between 1909 and 1934 by him. Sheffield Park is a fine example of a Landscape Movement garden. Noted for its scale, Sheffield Park has 5 lakes each linked by cascades and boasts one of the finest collections of trees in the British Isles. During our visit, we expect to see a fine display of flowering trees and rare shrubs including Amelanchier spp., Cornus florida, dendrons, azaleas as well as mass plantings of daffodils and sheets of bluebells. Sheffield Park is also the southern terminus of the Bluebell Railway, a steam railway line established in 1882 and championed by Earl Sheffield. If time permits we’ll visit the station and hopefully see some steam trains in action. Set in 300 acres (120 ha) of garden, woodland and park, Borde Hill was bought by Col Stephenson Clark in 1893 and is famous for its rhododendrons and exotic trees many of which were grown from seed or sourced from Forrest, Kingdon Ward and many of the other renown plant collectors of the time. Over recent years the garden has been renovated to include many new features and its Victorian greenhouses have been restored to their previous splendor. At the end of the day we’ll travel back to the Doubletree by Hilton Victoria Hotel in central London for the last night of this tour. Make your own arrangements for dinner either in the hotel or at one of the restaurants recommended by the Hotel’s concierge.
Day 6 - 23 May 2019
Chelsea Flower Show
The premier horticultural event in the world! How better to describe the Chelsea Flower Show, our final destination of this tour? The Chelsea Flower Show runs over 5 days and because there is so much to see here, we’ll leave the hotel early enough to arrive at the show just as it opens and we’ll let you explore the show on your own. As you’ll probably know, what makes this horticultural event very special is that no matter where you go, you only see the best of the best. Designers, garden nurseries and horticultural experts from all over the world are pre-selected to compete here to receive a much-coveted Chelsea Gold, Silver or Bronze medal. It is extremely competitive: careers can be both made and broken here. If this is your first trip to Chelsea Flower Show, your tour guide will provide you with some tips on what to see and what has caught our attention at the show. You’ll be picked up and driven back to the hotel at the end of the day. Those wishing to stay and explore this area of London are free to do so making their own way back to the hotel for the last night of their stay.
Day 7 - 24 May 2019
Gardens Visited: Kew Gardens.
Checkout of the hotel will be 12 noon. For those staying in London or who want to extend their tour just a little longer we include an optional complimentary short trip this morning between 0900-1200 to visit the recently reopened Temperate House at the world-famous Kew Gardens (minimum of 10 people). The Temperate House is said to be the largest remaining Victorian glasshouse in the world and is home to a collection of rare and threatened temperate zone plants. We return to the hotel mid-afternoon to say farewell to you in time for your onward journey.