Green get­aways

Try a hor­ti­cul­tural hol­i­day and find fresh in­spi­ra­tion for the home plot

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Cover Story -

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

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