The wide world of garden tours

Green is chic — why not spend your holiday paying homage to the great outdoors with a garden-themed trip?

Green is chic — why not spend your holiday paying homage to the great outdoors with a garden-themed trip?

British Flower Shows
The British are obsessed with their gardens. The highpoints of the British garden lover’s year are the RHS flower shows. The most famous of these is the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show at the end of May, where top garden designers compete for the finest show garden and the latest gardening trends are set.

However the insider’s choice is the Hampton Court Palace Flower show in July — it’s bigger and less crowded. There’s an inspiring range of displays from small gardens to front yards, family-friendly planting, extravagant conceptual designs, vegetable patches and how to make your garden sustainable, (rhs.org.uk) If trekking round the shows hasn’t satiated your needs for horticultural inspiration, then pay a visit to the famous 250-year-old botanical gardens at Kew, in London. These stunning grounds are home to a palace, themed gardens, a tree top walkway, and impressive plant collections housed in extravagant greenhouses, www.kew.org.

Bulbs in Benelux
Holland is lifted by a riot of colour when spring arrives and the country’s trademark flower — the tulip — starts to bloom. The best place to enjoy these bold flowers is at Keukenhof, the world’s largest flower garden where they are laid out in vast multicoloured carpets. Established 60 years ago as an exhibition at which growers from the flower bulb industry could present their latest flowers, it’s now a sort of fabulous floral theme park.

Every year seven million flower bulbs in 1,600 different varieties supplied by 93 different exhibitors are planted throughout this 32 hectare estate. You can admire the configurations of different colours and shapes of bulb, and of course buy some to take home afterwards. Until May 21, www.keukenhof.nl.


Zen gardens of Japan

You might have missed the spring cherry blossom in Tokyo, but there are plenty more opportunities to enjoy the flora of Japan. Far from the fussy, flowery gardens of Europe and the U.S., these gardens found in the grounds of Buddhist temples, historic castles and private homes, are carefully-constructed minimalist havens, with gravel paths, sparse planting, artfully-placed rocks, pavilions, bridges, tranquil ponds and relaxing water features. Some gardens are religious, others ceremonial, artistic or designed for strolling through.

Kyoto is awash with splendid examples, including those in the grounds of the city’s 13 World Heritage Sites, including the gardens at Nijo Castle Ninomaru, Tenryu-ji Temple, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, the beautiful moss garden of Saiho-ji Temple, and the rock garden at Kinkaku-ji Temple, where nature is represented by stones and gravel swept into simple patterns with a broom; jnto.go.jp.

Biodiversity in Costa Rica
Flora and fauna fans will be overwhelmed by the diversity that Costa Rica has to offer. This tiny country in Central America country covers only 0.1 per cent of the world's landmass, but is home to five per cent of global biodiversity.

Almost a quarter of the country is made up of national parks, protected by the environmentally-conscious government. These tropical paradises are home to a bounty of more than 100,000 exotic and colourful plant species, alongside thousands of types of animals and birds.

Highlights include the botanical gardens of the Centro Neotropico SarapiquiS Gardens, the Arenal Botanical Gardens, the Elsie Kientzler Botanical Garden, the botanical gardens of CATIE, the aerial tour of the Braulio Carrillo National Park, the La Paz Waterfall Gardens which is full of butterflies and hummingbirds and the Lankester Botanical Gardens in San Jose, home to more than a thousand varieties of orchid; visit www.costarica.com.

Tropical gardens in Madeira
There’s more to this Portuguese island in the middle of the Atlantic than the sweet wine. Madeira is known for its exotic flora and a visit will not disappoint garden fans — the tropical climate and the volcanic soil create perfect conditions for growing all manner of exotic plants from gardenias and freesias to hibiscus, agapanthus, mimosa, bougainvillea and orchids.

All of these flowers are on show in the wealth of well-tended gardens including the Botanical Gardens, the Tropical Gardens of Monte Palace with its collection of cycads, the Garden of Quinta da Boa Vista, with its collection of orchids, as well as private gardens like Quinta Palmeira and Quinta do Palheiro, famous for its camelias.

Another great way to discover the spectacular scenery is to take a walk along the levadas, a series of water channels created to bring water from the highlands to the lower parts of the island; www.madeiratourism.org.

 
 
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