The Green Giant, Lost Gardens of Heligan
Green Giant, Lost Gardens of Heligan

FLORA Garden Tours take you to the finest gardens in Britain. As well as the famous gardens the tours visit lesser known but lovely ones, some rarely open to the public. The tour director and leader is Dr Barbara Sommerville, a biologist of international repute who has a deep interest in the history of gardening, landscape and architecture.

Cornish and Devon Gardens

A four and a half day tour April 16th to 20th 2015

This is an excellent time to visit because Spring arrives early in this, the mildest part of England. The bulbs and alpines will be ablaze and there will be Camelias, Magnolias, Rhododendrons and fruit trees blossoming. The typical Cornish garden has tree ferns, palms and many species of Magnolia, some 50 feet high covering the sides of steep valleys running down to a river estuary.

We shall be based at The Mannings Hotel in Truro and since this cathedral city is 260 miles from London, the old Great Western Railway is the most convenient approach. Trains run from London Paddington every other hour and take 4−5 hours travelling along the iconic part-coastal track built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the 1830s.

To allow time for the train journey, the tour will start at 2:30pm on Thursday 16th April. We shall visit Trelissick, Glendurgan Garden, Trebah, The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Lanhydrock, as well as Cothele, The Garden House, Bosvigo House and gardens and several small private gardens.

The Cost of this tour is £1090 which includes a return railway ticket London Paddington/Truro and B&B and evening meal in the hotel restaurant. Included is a cathedral tour, transport to the gardens, garden entrance fees, leading throughout and optional evening power point talks.

You may download a PDF of the itinerary.

Cotswold Gardens 2015

A five day tour 28th May to 2nd June [Chelsea Show is 19th to 24th May]

The Cotswold Hills, lying between Birmingham to the North and Oxford to the South, are renowned for their picturesque honey coloured sand-stone villages. Here are some world-class gardens commemorated in the names of famous flower and fruit cultivars such as Blenheim Palace, Hidcote Manor and Kiftsgate Court. There are also the homes of famous gardeners like Beatrix Havergal at Waterperry who ran one of the first horticultural colleges for women.

The tour is based at Chester House Hotel, Bourton on the Water and we shall visit most of these gardens as well as Sezingcote House with a Humphrey Repton designed garden, Bourton House, Upton House, Oxford Botanic garden, Buscot Park designed by Harold Peto and the spectacular medieval moated Broughton Castle dating from the 12C, home to Lord and Lady Saye and Sele [Fiennes].

The Cost of this tour is £920 which includes B&B but not evening meal. Included is transport to the gardens, garden entrance fees, leading throughout and optional evening power point talks.

You may download a PDF of the itinerary.

Wiltshire and Somerset Gardens 2015

A five day tour June 17th to 21st

The tour starts and finishes in Bath and stays at The Cross in a quaint old village near Wells. Bath is easily accessible by fast trains from London Paddington to Bath Spa station.

The tour will begin with coffee in the elegant Georgian Spa pump room followed by a visit to the Roman Baths, one of the best preserved sites in Britain, its use dating back into prehistoric times. We shall be driven to see the Royal Crescent and other Georgian buildings before making our way to The Cross which was an old 16C Inn. During the next five days we shall visit the Bishop’s Palace and Cathedral in Wells and visit Glastonbury, a town rich in Arthurian legend. This is in Somerset where there are the limestone gorges of the Mendip Hills and the wilderness of Lorna Doone’s Exmoor. There are excellent gardens in both these counties, in Wiltshire Ifield Manor and Stourhead which is perhaps the most famous ‘English Landscape’ garden replete with magnificent temple follies, a lake, rustic bridges and a grotto. In Somerset we visit Milton Lodge, Hestercombe designed jointly by Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens, Montacute House, Dunster Castle, Tintinhull, East Lambrook Manor, the home of Marjory Fish, Barrington Court and some small private gardens.

The Cost of this tour is £980 which includes B&B and a home cooked evening meal. Included is a visit to the Roman Baths and tour of Bath, tour of Wells with a visit to its magnificent cathedral, transport to the gardens, garden entrance fees, leading throughout and optional evening power point talks.

You may download a PDF of the itinerary.

Hampton Court Flower Show, Kent, Surrey and Sussex Gardens

A five day tour Tuesday 7th to Sunday 12th July 2015

Between London and the South coast are the chalk hills of the North and the South Downs and in between these two ranges is the fertile clay of the ‘Weald’, where some of the most romantic gardens in the world have been created. Several have graced the homes of famous people like Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst, Anne Boleyn's Hever Castle and Churchill’s Chartwell. Others, such as Nymans and Great Dixter, are the creation of famous gardeners. We also visit the award winning garden at Pashley Manor. This tour visits a selection of these and many other great and small gardens: the most romantic Scotney Castle, Polesdon Lacy - an artist’s garden set in ravishing scenery; and, of course, Wisley, the home of the Royal Horticultural Society.

This tour spends a day at the Hampton Court Flower Show [or alternatively Hampton Court Palace] This is one of the largest flower shows, which we approach along the time honoured route of the River Thames.

Our base is the historic spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells where we stay at the Russell Hotel quite close to "The Pantiles", a pillared pedestrian precinct by the Chalybeate spring, paved in 1700. It was very popular in Georgian times when Richard “Beau” Nash organised the seasonal entertainments.

The price of this tour is £890.This covers B&B for five nights in double or twin bedded rooms but not evening meal; all transport; garden entrance and personal guiding through out.

There will be a Cambridge and East Anglia tour running in September based at Cambridge and the village of Oxborough in Norfolk.

Other tours will be run in response to a group of at least four people applying and will take place at times to suit this group. There will be space for others to join a tour once it is guaranteed to run.

The itinerary of each tour may be adjusted to suit the initial group but the list is a guide to suitable locations for visiting gardens.

We experienced the gardens and houses of the Cotswolds at all levels: the grand, the intimate and the fun’s fancy. This was all made possible by Barbara’s flexibility and wonderful connections with the locals from drivers to land owners.

– A.L. from Cambridge Massachusetts USA

Special Tours

In addition to the scheduled tours mentioned above FLORA Garden Tours offers two special services:

  1. Any of the scheduled tours may be run on other dates for groups of four or more people;

  2. Tours to other parts of the British Isles, or tours centred on special interest themes can be arranged on a tailor-made basis. Such tours can incorporate castles and stately homes, as well as gardens: see, for example, the North of England (Gardens of Yorkshire and Northumberland).

    Special interest themes include National Garden Shows in 2015, Garden Design and Garden History, Tours for Gardeners, Flower Arrangers and Artists, Mediaeval Architecture and English History and Prehistoric and Archaeological sites.

Please make your requests: FLORA Garden Tours will be happy to oblige.

Your guidance was inspirational! Gardens, gardens, gardens is your motto. I loved the small cottage gardens and have wonderful visual memories!

– D.C. from Alaska USA on a special tour of Yorkshire and Cumbria

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For printed information, please contact

Dr B Sommerville
FLORA Garden Tours
Hythe Cottage,
Ferry Road,
Norfolk, PE33 9PT
United Kingdom

e-mail: enquiries@flora-garden-tours.co.uk or tours-2014@flora-garden-tours.co.uk
Tel: International +44 1366 328 946 (with answering machine outside office hours)