The following itinerary describes a range of gardens and estates which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure in 2017. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. Meals included in the tour price and are indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=Lunch and D=evening meal.
Oxford - 5 nights
Day 1: Wednesday 17 May, London Heathrow – Oxford
- Arrive London Heathrow and transfer to Oxford
- Introduction & Welcome Evening Meal
On arrival at London Heathrow airport, those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight transfer by private coach to Oxford, home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at the MacDonald Randolph Hotel. This evening there will be a short introductory meeting before dining at a local restaurant. (Overnight Oxford) D
Day 2: Thursday 18 May, Oxford – Tetbury – Highgrove – Oxford
- Private Guided tour of Hodges Barn Gardens
- Highgrove House: Lunch & Guided tour of Gardens
We depart Oxford early this morning and travel 77kms south to the county of Gloucestershire. Here, Hodges Barn Gardens, a 16th-century columbarium, has been converted into a family house surrounded with 6 acres of formal/informal landscape. The owners, Mr and Mrs Horby will take us for a private tour across the terraces, courtyards and gardens divided with Cotswolds stone walls. The gardens are at their best in springtime, displaying a wide array of old-fashioned rose beds and tulips. A woodland garden also hosts fine ornamental trees underplanted with spring bulbs.
Late morning we make the short drive to Doughton village, where Highgrove House, the country home of Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall is located. The Prince purchased Highgrove in 1980, and has spent 30 years transforming its grounds into what have been acknowledged as some of the most brilliant and inventive gardens in the United Kingdom. “A series of interlinked areas, each with their own character and purpose, weave magically around the garden, with the house always visible in the distance. For the last 25 years the gardens and surrounding land have been managed to the organic and sustainable principles that His Royal Highness has for so long championed.” After our 2-hour guided tour of the gardens and lunch we return to Oxford where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Oxford) BL
Day 3: Friday 19 May, The Cotswolds
- Guided tour of Bourton House Gardens with the Head Gardener, Paul Nicholls
- Market town of Moreton-in-Marsh
- Private visit of Sezincote House and Gardens
Today we drive into the Cotswolds to visit two magnificent gardens located near the village of Moreton-in-Marsh. Our first visit is to the award-winning three-acre gardens of Bourton House. The gardens had become overgrown and neglected when Richard and Monique Paice acquired them in 1983. Over the past 25 years, the ornamental garden with its 18th-century raised walk overlooking the rolling Cotswold Hills, the original kitchen garden, and Bourton’s orchard, have been transformed. The Paice’s achievement was recognised when Bourton House Garden was honoured with the prestigious HHA/Christie’s ‘Garden of the Year’ award in 2006.
Midday we travel to the northern Cotswolds town of Moreton-in-Marsh where there will be time at leisure for lunch and to explore high street which has many elegant 18th-century inns and houses including the Redesdale Market Hall.
In the afternoon we continue to the nearby Sezincote Manor, where an exotic oriental garden was created to complement the architect S.P. Cockerell’s fascinating 19th-century Regency house, which he designed in an Indian, Mogul style; Sezincote served as the inspiration for George IV’s Brighton Pavilion. Sezincote’s extraordinary eccentricities include a temple, not to any Grecian deity, but to the Hindu goddess Souriya; garden sculptures include a bronze serpent and Brahmin bulls, whilst minarets top the conservatory.
Our day concludes with a drive through the picturesque Cotswolds, including a short stop at the village of Stow-on-the-Wold. Stow-on-the-Wold was an important medieval market town and is now a centre for English antiques. As well as the large market square, the town has some very early coaching inns, including the Royalist Hotel that has timbers that have been carbon-dated to 987; it is believed to be the oldest inn in England. (Overnight Oxford) B
Day 4: Saturday 20 May, The Cotswolds
- Village of Bibury
- Hidcote Manor
- Kiftsgate Court Gardens
Today we travel first through the Cotswolds visiting the village of Bibury, described by William Morris as ‘the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds’.
We then drive to Chipping Campden and the delightful National Trust property, Hidcote Manor. Hidcote is significant for its influential garden, designed in the English Arts and Craft style by Major Laurence Johnston as a series of rooms of different character and theme, separated from each other by walls and hedges.
At midday we continue to Kiftsgate Court Gardens, which tell the story of three generations of women gardeners: Heather Muir, Diany Binny and Anne Chambers. Heather Muir created the gardens in the 1920s. From the mid-fifties Diany Binny added the semi-circular pool in the lower garden and redesigned the white sunk garden. One of the finest accomplishments of its current owner, Anne Chambers, is the new water garden whose composition is ‘abstract modern’. (Overnight Oxford) BL
Day 5: Sunday 21 May, Oxford & Steeple Ashton
- Rousham House and Gardens
- Guided tour of the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens with Dr Alison Foster, Senior Curator
- Magdalen College and its award-winning gardens
This morning we drive north of Oxford to Steeple Ashton to visit another stately home of very different aspect. Rousham House has remained the property of the Dormer family since its construction in 1635. The house retains much of its original panelling, staircases, furniture and art works. Several alterations were made in 1876 when the north side of the house was added, but for the most part Rousham remains a stunning example of 17th-century architecture and decoration. The gardens are of particular importance as they represent the first phase of English landscape design and have undergone few changes since being laid out by William Kent.
Following some time at leisure for lunch, we shall enjoy a walking tour of the magnificent University of Oxford Botanic Gardens with senior curator, Dr Alison Foster. Finally we shall visit the award-winning gardens of 15th-century Magdalen College. Magdalen’s extensive grounds include its own deer park, wildflower meadow and a riverside walk. For Oscar Wilde, who matriculated at Magdalen in October 1874, ‘The Magdalen walks and cloisters’ were the ideal backdrop for reading Romantic poetry! (Overnight Oxford) B
Royal Tunbridge Wells - 1 night
Day 6: Monday 22 May, Oxford – West Green House Gardens – Sevenoaks – Royal Tunbridge Wells
- West Green House Gardens: Lunch & Guided tour of Gardens
- Ightham Mote, Sevenoaks
We depart Oxford early this morning and travel 60kms south to the Hart District of Northern Hampshire to visit West Green House Gardens that surround a lovely 18th-century house. These are the creation of an Australian, Marylyn Abbott. One could possibly call this a ‘biographical garden’ in the sense that it is a very personal creation based upon Marylyn’s early love of gardens, inculcated by her mother and grandmother when she was growing up in Australia (Marylyn masterminded the famous Australian garden, ‘Kennerton Green’). At West Green House she has reconciled her Australian gardening heritage, dominated by brilliant light, with England’s softer, more muted atmosphere. Marylyn is a prolific writer; her latest book The Resilient Garden, in keeping with her experience reconciling very different gardening environments, discusses a collection of plants that will acclimatise to both Mediterranean and cool temperate gardens. Her gardens appear in many publications, in one of which (The Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden Finder 2007) Charles Quest-Ritson has stated:
“West Green House Gardens has many original features. A grand water staircase provides the focal point to the Nymphaeum fountain designed by Quinlan Terry. By the house is a charming small topiary garden where water lilies flourish in small water tanks sunk in the ground. It runs up to a handsome aviary with unusual breeds of bantams and chickens. Beyond, are a dramatic new Persian water garden in a woodland glade, a newly restored lake, more follies and fancies, new walks and massive plantings of snowdrops, daffodils and fritillaries.”
Lavishness is a hallmark of the Abbott style – 10,000 tulip bulbs are planted every year – but Marylyn also emphasises the importance of drama, colour, innovation and humour in her garden.
Following a light lunch, we continue our journey east to Ightham Mote, a wonderful example of a small medieval moated manor house, perfectly located within a peaceful garden surrounded by woodland. Dating from the 14th century, this house has seen many changes but each subsequent section has been preserved in extraordinary condition. Medieval knights, courtiers to Henry VIII and high-society Victorians have all contributed sections to Ightham Mote. Highlights include the picturesque courtyard, Great Hall, crypt, Tudor painted ceiling, Grade I listed dog kennel and the private apartments of Charles Henry Robinson, who gave Ightham Mote to the National Trust in 1985. We shall walk to the house, enjoying its rural setting, before exploring its beautiful interior. Of special note is the chapel with its perfectly preserved interior, pulpit and tester. We shall also enjoy the gardens, with an orchard, water features, lakes and woodland walks.
In the late afternoon we travel a short distance to Royal Tunbridge Wells, a town that rose to prominence when it became a spa in the late 17th century. Tonight we shall dine together at the hotel’s restaurant. (Overnight Royal Tunbridge Wells) BLD
London - 3 nights
Day 7: Tuesday 23 May, Royal Tunbridge Wells – Great Dixter – Sissinghurst – London
- Great Dixter House & Gardens
- Sissinghurst Castle Gardens
Today is a day of superb gardens. The Lloyd family developed Great Dixter early in the 20th century from an original design by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Today it is more famous for the plantings established by Christopher Lloyd documented in his many classic gardening books. The residence comprises a mid 15th-century hall house, typical of the Weald of Kent, to the south side of which a second, early 16th-century yeoman’s house was grafted. Lutyens enjoyed using local materials and retained farm buildings like oast houses, cowsheds, barns and outbuildings. Around these he designed his garden, featuring a sunken garden, topiary and yew hedges. Christopher Lloyd managed Great Dixter from the 1950s and was noted for his innovative approach and introduction of concepts like the mixed border and meadow garden, and his replacement of the rose garden with schemes using less fashionable plants like cannas and dahlias. We will investigate his full range of planting schemes. Although Lloyd is no longer present in the garden his gardener Fergus has achieved what some consider even better results in recent years.
We next drive to Sissinghurst Castle Garden, one of England’s greatest garden delights. Sissinghurst was the garden of poet and writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson, journalist, MP and diplomat, and is possibly the most influential of all 20th-century gardens. Built around the remnants of an Elizabethan castle, of which the tower remains a central garden feature, the garden is divided into distinct spaces where a formality established by Nicolson is clothed by a romantic planting style pursued by Sackville-West. The garden retains its original charm and romance with such delights as its parterre, white garden, cottage garden, nut walk and orchard. We shall explore Sissinghurst’s many hidden corners, sumptuous planting combinations and the view from the top of the tower, always a good starting point for those who wish to understand the garden’s layout.
In the late afternoon we travel to London, where we shall spend three nights at St Martins Lane Hotel, a 5-star design hotel located near Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square in the heart of the city. (Overnight London) BL
Day 8: Wednesday 24 May, Chelsea Flower Show
- The Chelsea Flower Show (Members Day)
- The Chelsea Physic Gardens
Today is dedicated to the Chelsea Flower Show, the world’s best-known flower show. Located in the grounds of Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital (1689), the Show is held annually in May and attracts more tourists to London than the Wimbledon Championships! We will therefore arrive early in order to enjoy the remarkable displays before they become too crowded. All of the gardens on display are constructed in the two weeks prior to the show and, following the event, are dismantled and the grounds reinstated. Around the periphery of the grounds are display gardens, sponsored by newspapers and magazines, major stores and insurance companies, whilst inside the giant marquee are exhibits by plant growers. Here you will see perfect displays of everything horticultural from bonsai to bulbs, rhododendrons to roses. This visit has been designed so that you are free to wander through the event at your leisure, not forgetting the botanical art and floral displays. This is a visual feast that all gardeners will want to enjoy at least once in their lives!
In the late afternoon we visit the nearby Chelsea Physic Gardens, a charming retreat from the crowded Chelsea Showground. Leased by the Society of Apothecaries in 1673 as a centre for medicinal learning, it was later handed over to them by Sir Hans Sloane on condition that they keep it “for the manifestation of the glory, power, and wisdom of God, in the works of creation”. There is a statue of Sir Hans Sloane by Rysbrack (1737). Today it is home to a garden design school. It also continues its traditional purpose of growing plants of medicinal value, with more than 5,000 taxa cultivated within the small garden area. The rock garden is made from unusual masonry debris from the Tower of London and Icelandic lava brought to the garden by Sir Joseph Banks. With an extraordinary micro-climate due to its location in central London, both olives and grapefruit crop regularly, Chilean Wine Palms prosper and we will note many Australian plants, including Banksias and Callistemons. (Overnight London) B
Day 9: Thursday 25 May, London
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – with Richard Barley, Director of Kew Gardens’ Horticulture
- Farewell Lunch at the Orangery Restaurant
- Afternoon at leisure
Today is a unique opportunity to explore the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew with Richard Barley, who was appointed Director of Kew Gardens’ Horticulture in April 2013. With his knowledge based on the day-to-day management of the site, Richard will give deep insights into these world-renowned gardens. The original gardens were created for Augusta, Princess of Wales around her home, Kew Palace. Today it contains the largest collection of plants in the world with tropical and sub-tropical plants being kept in appropriate conditions in magnificent Victorian glasshouses. The variety of plants is overwhelming but Kew has a magic far above the ordinary run of Victorian plant collections, perhaps because of its size and the underlying but unobtrusive formality of its structure. The Queen’s Garden is a faithful copy of a 17th-century garden with parterres, sunken garden and pleached alleys. A new treetop walk by Marks Barfield Architects (who designed the London Eye) opened in May 2008.
Our day concludes with a farewell lunch at the grand Orangery Restaurant, housed in a magnificent 18th-century Grade 1 listed building with stunning views over the gardens. The remainder of the afternoon is free for you to explore London at your leisure. (Overnight London) BL
Day 10: Friday 26 May, London, Tour Ends
- Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
The tour ends in London. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport to take their flight home to Australia. Alternatively, you may wish to extend your stay in London. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B