Try a horticultural holiday and find fresh inspiration for the home plot
Making holiday plans? I don’t often go away, but if I did, I would probably choose a garden tour. A bit of a busman’s holiday, I suppose, but at least we’d all have something in common. But how to choose from a mouthwatering array of venues, and for how long: a cruise, a tour, a course or just a break? If you like the idea of a luxury cruise, the RHS partners shipping lines and offers worldwide destinations. With Voyages of Discovery, you can visit the gardens of Madeira and the Azores, and learn about succulents with expert Dr John Hughes; or cruise to China with Wendy Wu Tours and Roy Lancaster. Nearer home, try West Coast Gardens with Hebridean, and marvel at Arduaine, Colonsay and Inverewe gardens. In the UK and Ireland, the RHS has joined Brightwater Holidays, and county by county, from the Orkneys to the Isles of Scilly, private and public gardens can be visited as part of a coach tour. French leave Boxwood is a small company that specialises in gorgeous holidays visiting some of the most exclusive gardens and their owners in small, friendly groups, staying in top hotels. What bliss to wander around the gardens of Venice, Majorca or Paris, including Courson, under the aegis of David Wheeler of Hortus; or the Gardens of the French Riviera from the Hotel Napoleon in Menton, led by Helen Yemm of the Telegraph. Days to remember With an insider’s knowledge, designer and garden history lecturer James Bolton, of Border Lines Garden Tours, has selected a series of neighbouring gardens to visit on his justly famous day tours. He recommends Gardens of North Wales, taking in Plas Cadnant, Crug Farm Nursery (the home of plant hunters Sue and Bleddyn Wynn-Jones), Bodysgallen Hall Hotel (where lunch is served) and Maenan Hall (a private version of nearby Bodnant). To escape next winter, consider his longer tours abroad, including the Private Gardens of Johannesburg and the Western Cape based at Stellenbosch. A passion for plants If you’re a bit of a trailblazer and don’t want to join the crowd, combine a day out with a course and you’ll have the best of both worlds. The Garden House in Brighton, run by designer Deborah Kalinke and lecturer Bridgette Saunders, who are passionate about plants, hold workshops and talks. They are also planning a trip to Dublin to visit the gardens of Jimi Blake, Helen Dillon and plantswoman June Blake. Garden designer Arne Maynard runs courses from his idyllic home, Allt-y-Bela, and is teaching how to build hazel domes and plant supports on February 18. Arne says: “It’s not just a course, but a chance to visit my home in a small group. What’s really lovely is that many of our participants have been before and can see the garden evolving.” Somewhere to stay Most course holders will recommend a local b& b and other gardens of interest nearby, or you can have a look to see what’s open locally in the NGS Yellow Book. Book all three and you’ll have a tailor-made break. If you have a particular interest, such as topiary, for instance, join the European Boxwood& Topiary Society and take part in its day trips and visits, this year to Tuscany. Or join Jekka McVicar for a course at her Herbarium and stay nearby at the fabulous Pig Hotel, near Bath. And last but not least, you can always come to sunny Whitstable and enjoy a henkeeping course with me.
Choice destinations: Black Dragon Pool at Lijiang, China; an Arne Maynard workshop; Highgrove