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Need to get away this springtime? Here are the best gardens to see as the weather warms up
Spring is the time when we think about booking our holidays - and for the green-fingered, that might include a garden visit or even a garden-themed break.
Some tour operators, including Saga, have introduced new special interest holidays into their 2017 product range.
“Over the past couple of years, we have really seen a surge in demand for our horticultural programme,” says Saga’s special interest holiday creator Tremaine Moore.
“For garden lovers, I think the attraction is the mix of visiting outstanding gardens combined with the opportunity to see the local wild flora, especially when it comes to the trips overseas.”
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Among Saga’s new range is a tour in September to the Western Cape in South Africa, including wild flora visits and entrance to some of the country’s most famous gardens. It also has three new UK holidays in summer, taking in some prestigious gardens including RHS Wisley, Sheffield Botanical Gardens and Renishaw (www.saga.co.uk)
New destination itineraries for RHS Garden Holidays include Marrakech and Flowers of the Atlas, visiting some of the exciting new gardens in Morocco, including that of Tom Stuart-Smith; Oregon: In the Footsteps of David Douglas holiday, following the route of the famous Scots botanist; and Burle Marx Gardens of Rio & Brazil’s Natural Wonders which includes exclusive visits to some of the private gardens designed by the celebrated Brazilian landscape architect.
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The society is also launching a holiday taking in the new RHS Chatsworth Flower Show, plus breaks featuring private gardens of East Anglia and private gardens of Guernsey (020 3735 1855, rhsgardenholidays.com).
But if you just want to do your own thing, here are some of the best gardens around the world to explore at your leisure:
Now part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, these stunning gardens, only 13km from Cape Town, provide a marvellous showcase for South Africa’s indigenous flora, with more than 7,000 plant species, including the king protea (South Africa’s national flower), fynbos, agapanthus and a rich collections of bulbs, alpines and ferns.
Best time to visit: If you want to see proteas in full bloom, go in South Africa’s winter - June, July and August. To see the fynbos at its best and the most plants in flower, go from the end of winter, spring or early summer (Aug-Nov)
The gardens and grand Palladian villa at Powerscourt, south of Dublin, were designed in the 18th century and punctuate 47 acres of formal walled gardens and shaded ponds. The grounds, waterfalls, parks, garden pavilions, and fine tree-lined arbors were suggested by the Italian Renaissance and the great estates and gardens of France and Germany. Cascading terraces and formal landscapes are planned with carefully designed walks that are framed by the gentle beauty of the Wicklow Mountains.
Best time to visit: April to August
If you’re visiting the Big Apple in 2017, take time out from the hubbub of the city to explore this 52-acre garden, home to thousands of plants and trees, as well as a Japanese garden where river turtles swim alongside a Shinto shrine. Among the showstopping highlights are the blooming cherry trees, a gift from Japan, which are celebrated in Sakura Matsuri, the Cherry Blossom Festival.
Best time to visit: April or May when the cherry blossom is at its peak
This hugely ornate and awe-inspiring Italian Renaissance garden is awash with theatrical fountains and magnificent statues and is listed as one of Italy’s major historical/artistic sites. It all began when a Renaissance cardinal decided to turn a dilapidated Benedictine monastery into a beautiful villa, embellished with gardens awash with fountains, including the Fontana del Bicchierone, where water spills from a large shell-shaped basin, and The Avenue of the Hundred Fountains, which features animal heads, lilies, a small boat and basins which all spurt water.
Best time to visit: In summer, when escaping the heat from Rome, visitors should enjoy the cool combination of garden shade and cold running water
Sometimes referred to as “Kew’s temperate house with the lid off”, the Scilly Isles, warmed by the Gulf Stream, enjoy the mildest climate in the UK and are a haven for exotic plants and flowers. Tresco Abbey Garden, established in the 1830s, is a botanical paradise planted amid the ruins of a Benedictine priory. Its 20,000 plant species have been collected from 80 countries, as far and wide as New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and South America - and many of them can’t survive in the outdoors anywhere else in the UK.
Best time to visit: Spring and summer are spectacular, but autumn is perhaps the best time, when it’s brimming with unusual sub-tropical plants and flowers, the kitchen garden is abundant and the softer hues give rise to breathtaking sunrises and sunsets.
RHS Garden Rosemoor, Torrington, Devon
Rose lovers should head for this rich and diverse RHS garden tucked into the valley of the River Torridge which has one of the UK’s largest collections of roses and two dedicated rose gardens, bringing together 200 different varieties and a wealth of hues and perfumes. Its rose festival takes place from June 17-July 16. Flower-rich meadows, woodland gardens, ornamental lakes and ponds also feature in this haven, along with a productive fruit and vegetable garden. It’s also holding its first ever flower show in late August.
Best time to visit: In June and July, when the roses are in bloom.