Last Updated on December 14, 2023
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Updated for 2022 – 2023
By Jim Ferri
English garden tours can be a delight. After all, gardening is such a popular pastime in Britain it’s practically been elevated to an art form. And many gardens are interesting to visit.
After all, the British have been mucking about in their gardens ever since Roman times. And they still take such delight in it that you find beautiful gardens all over the country. Ranging from little plots outside a kitchen door to vast parkland surrounding palatial manor houses, many are places of incredible beauty.
Luckily, many of the grandest of these can be seen on English garden tours, when gardens are open to the public, flaunting their floral finery for all who come.
Of course, you can find stately gardens all over the world. There are the gardens of the grand chateaux of France, botanic gardens scattered about North America, in Ireland and beautiful contemplative places Asia and elsewhere. But Britain there are so many, in such a relatively small space, that there’s nothing else quite like it anywhere.
Enjoying the Blooms Without Leaving London
London’s Chelsea Flower Show (scheduled for May 23-27, 2023) heralds the arrival of summer and beginning of the “Summer Season.” The show is held under the auspices of The Royal Horticultural Society and Britain’s leading horticulturists. They transform several acres of the grounds of the Chelsea Hospital into a vista of beautiful gardens. It’s a perennially popular event that allows one to go on an English garden tour without ever leaving the city.
If you’re a casual gardener visiting Britain, you may be sated by beautiful plantings you see in various places in or around London, since you don’t necessarily have to travel vast distances on a garden tour to see gorgeous gardens in England. All over Britain you’ll find huge green spaces, some of them the most famous in the world. Many of them you can visit à la carte on day trips out of London and other cities.
But if you’re serious about things horticultural, you may want to make these green spaces the focus of your journey. So if you’re off to the British Isles, you may want to join an English garden tour. If that’s the case you may want to, if you’ll pardon the pun, do advance digging prior to your trip. A good place to start is Great British Gardens. It’s an online resource that lists gardens by geographic areas and types of plants. Great British Gardens is a commercial site that also offers to book you a nearby hotel. But it’s free to browse and has a wealth of good information.
Where to Find Great English Garden Tours
Anytime from April through autumn is a good time to plan an English garden tour. And you’ll find and plenty of places to visit.
Outside London you’ll find a bounty of blooms at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, Hampton Court Palace and the Savill Gardens in Windsor. Wisley Garden in Surrey has 200 acres of gardens, while in Great Dixter near Rye, the family home of late gardening writer Christopher Lloyd, there are extensive cottage gardens. The 100-acre garden in Sheffield Park in East Surrey dates from the 18th century.
Sussex, Kent and Surrey are a treasure trove for the tourist- gardener. There you’ll discover beautiful formal gardens around many stately homes and estates. These gardens explode with color in spring and summer. Others, such as Polesden Lacey in Surry, famous for its walled rose garden, also have winter displays.
Trebah Gardens in Cornwall, rated one of the 80 finest gardens in the world, is a wonderful venue for an English garden tour and famed for its a sub-tropical jungle that has stunning coastal views. The other-worldly looking Eden Project in nearby Bodelva, has recreations of some of Earth’s most fertile environments inside two 50-meter biomes, including the world’s “largest rainforest in captivity.” During the summer months the Project hosts rock concerts in a summer music series.
Gardens in Wales and Scotland
Further north in Wales is the largest greenhouse in the world, covering 560 acres of gardens containing 8,000 different plant varieties, in the National Botanic Garden of Wales. Still further north, way up in the Scottish Highlands, Inverewe Garden grows exotic species in its 50 acres of gardens. Amazingly, the Garden is home to over 2,500 species of colorful sub-tropical plants, their survival made possible by the warming currents of the Gulf Stream.
If you plan to take an organized English garden tour in Great Britain, many companies can be found through online searches. Just Google “English Garden Tours” for a tsunami of information. You may also want to contact any one of the several botanical gardens throughout the U.S. to see what they offer. The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, for example, gives garden tours abroad.
Finally, many of these great gardens, as well as other popular sites throughout Britain, are under the stewardship of the National Trust. If you plan to visit three or more National Trust properties in England, a National Trust Touring Pass (£23 for one person, £41 for two), which provides admission to more than 300 houses and gardens England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The pass is date-stamped, and is good for either 7 or 14 days. Prices range from £37 for one person for 7 days, to £91 for an entire family for 14 days. It can be a very good buy.
You may also enjoy: Things to Do in the Cotswolds, England’s Charming Countryside / Four Wonderful Gardens in Ireland /