A Bouquet of English Gardens


To mark the 300th anniversary of ‘Capability’ Brown and in celebration of England’s many fabulous gardens, landscapes and events, Visit England is promoting ‘Year of the English Garden as a major theme for 2016. As most of the places your customers will want to visit lie out of London, you now have the opportunity to develop new itineraries which spend 5-6 nights in the countryside packed with value added visits to privately owned castles, stately homes and gardens. Pubs and tea rooms get added to the mix and with jetlag parked, your clients are then ready for 2-3 nights in London plus extensions on an independent basis.

These two promotions also offer you the chance to be much more creative about the customised tours you offer. One of the following conversation starting suggestions might make a good starting point for a tour that can be matched to suit your customer’s time frame, interests and budget.

Orchids All the Way

Melt away those winter blues and step inside the tropical paradise at either the Kew Gardens Orchids Festival (6th February-6th March) or the RHS Spring Plant Extravaganza and Orchid Show (1st-2nd April). Check this website to see if there’s an Orchid Society near you.  Click on Affiliated Societies and then Affiliated Societies Near You.  You might be pleasantly surprised by what and who you see listed.

Tulip Festival at Pashley Manor 

Pashley Manor stage their annual festival from 22nd April-7th May when 25,000 tulips, from palest pink to nearly black to brightest red, create dazzling mantles of colour in every flower bed, pot and border.  It provides a spectacular centrepiece for a tour that includes a leisurely visit to the hill top town of Rye and visits to the stunning gardens at Sissinghurst Castle, Great Dixter and Hever Castle before returning to London. Why not promote a tour that starts in England and then goes to Holland for a visit to the Keukenhof and a tour of the Dutch bulb fields? 

Chelsea in London and Bloom in Dublin

Did you know that you can offer your garden club a three country tour that starts with the Chelsea Flower Show in London and visits some outstanding Cotswolds and North Wales gardens before taking the fast ferry across to Dublin for Day 1 at Bloom, Ireland’s largest gardening and food event. I don’t think you’ll find this exciting combination in many tour operator’s brochures.

The Olimpick Games, the Cotswolds and a Flower Show

In June 1612, Robert Dover opened the first ‘Cotswold Olimpicks’ in the picturesque market town of Chipping Campden.  Honouring the ancient Games of Greece, then as now the sports included singlestick, wrestling, jumping in sacks, dancing, shin kicking and many other rustic activities.  The tradition continues and you can now put together a tour that visits some of the Cotswolds top gardens and a couple of pubs I can personally vouch for!  It also includes the crowning of the May Queen at the Scuttlebrook Wake and finishes with a memorable day at the annual Hatfield House Flower Show and a couple of days in London. 

Say It with Flowers The audience for this memorable tour could be the team (and their spouses) who lovingly decorate your church for Sunday Worship, weddings and other major events.  This itinerary can include a visit to Arundel Cathedral to see their spectacular Carpet of Flowers which fills the entire central aisle and a day at the Chelsea Flower Show. The next few days can then be spent in the English countryside where the highlight could be the majestic nine hundred year-old Chichester Cathedral which will have been transformed with over eighty stunning arrangements all following the theme of the Festival’s title: ‘The Artist’s Palette’.  A dazzling array of imaginative and beautiful flower designs are guaranteed to interpret the theme to sensational effect.  You could of course find that your local garden club also likes the look of this very different approach to a 2016 Chelsea Flower Show tour. 

Cathedrals, Castles and the Mystery Plays

Here’s an idea that will work beautifully for those of you that can fly nonstop to Manchester from Atlanta, Boston (seasonal flights), Chicago, JFK, Newark, Philadelphia and Washington DC. This fabulous combination runs in late June and starts with the Blackburn Cathedral Festival of Flowers before heading through James Herriot’s Yorkshire Dales to York (it’s his centenary year in 2016).  Using the city as a base, include a day at the Castle Howard Flower Show and an evening performance of the York Mystery Plays.

233f540Paull Tickner, UK based member of the Travel Institute is an expert in developing customized special interest travel programs for the United Kingdom and Ireland. Check out his website at and email him at