Immerse yourself in several centuries of English garden styles and enjoy the beautiful weather and colorful abundance of late summer with others who love gardening just as much as you do, including Garden Gate’s Editor, Kristin Beane Sullivan. We’ll explore well-known historical gardens and discover fascinating contemporary gardens on a nine-day garden adventure you’ll never forget!
This tour occurred on September 10-September 18, 2022. Past tour information is preserved for informational purposes only. Visit Tour Highlights below to see a recap of this trip.
September 10, Saturday – Arrive at Heathrow Airport
September 11, Sunday – St. Timothee & Rousham
September 12, Wednesday – Bourton-on-the-Water/Village Visit & Highgrove
September 17, Saturday – Stonehenge & The Old Rectory
September 18, Sunday – Depart or continue travels
Tour members independently arrange travel to Heathrow Airport and transfer on their own to the Crown Plaza London Heathrow Airport Hotel at Terminal 4, where a room is booked for them (included in the tour price).
We’ll gather for a Welcome Dinner in the hotel restaurant at 6:30 PM (included in the tour price).
We begin our week of garden tours 20 miles west of Heathrow at St. Timothee, Sarah and Sal Pajwani’s 2-acre garden surrounding a 1930s house. Starting in 2011, the couple transformed an overgrown field, with only a few mature trees in it, into a stunning, year-round garden that won the 2021 Nation’s Favourite Garden award in England & Wales, a competition for gardens that open for charity with the National Garden Scheme. We will see color-themed borders, a wildlife pond, a boxwood parterre, and a rose terrace during our visit to this special place. Sarah will be available to introduce us to the garden and answer our questions. Be prepared to take notes, for this is a garden full of exciting ideas and inspiring plant combinations. We’ll have lunch at The Oxford Arms pub (not included) on our way to the afternoon garden.
After spending our morning in one of the newest gardens on our itinerary, our afternoon destination is the oldest. William Kent (1685-1748) designed Rousham Garden in the natural landscape style that he popularized for large estates. Many consider it the single best example of this type of garden in England today. The same family has lived there from the beginning, and little has changed over the centuries. The calming views and elegant accents Kent designed are still there to enjoy today while we stroll through this woodland garden along a river. Make sure to leave time to check out the walled garden with its long double borders, pigeon house, and kitchen garden.
We check into the Arden Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon for 4 nights & then gather for dinner in the restaurant hotel (included).
We start our day with free time in the Cotswolds village of Bourton-on-the-Water. The village is sometimes called the Venice of the Cotswold due to the gentle River Windrush flowing through the middle of the village, crossed by five picturesque bridges. Next to the river is High Street filled with small shops & galleries where we are likely to find that special souvenir or gift for someone back home. There are also cafes, pubs, and bakeries if you want refreshments. A bit further away is the Cotswold Motoring Museum plus a Model Village (a 1/9th scale replica of the village center), the Cotswold Perfumery, Birdland (a sanctuary for 130 species), and a Dragonfly Maze.
This afternoon we’ll visit Sudeley Castle, the last home of Henry VIII’s sixth wife, Katherine Parr. The castle and church themselves are fascinating, but we’ll also wander the expansive gardens, including the Queens’ Garden full of roses, the walled secret garden’s perennial borders and the courtyard knot garden. This site hosts several ruins, such as the tithe barn and part of the castle in which Elizabeth I once stayed. They’ve been turned into beautiful gardens as well. Sudeley Castle doesn’t just live in the past though. New displays of 30 life-sized animal sculptures in the CoExistence exhibit throughout the grounds seek to spread the message of peaceful coexistence with nature.
We return to the Arden Hotel for the night and meet for dinner in the restaurant (included).
First today, we visit Pettifers, a stylish townhouse garden designed by the owner Gina Price. With little gardening experience, Price started in the early 1990s with a conventional, old-fashioned garden. Gradually through visiting other gardens and asking for criticism from knowledgeable friends, Price began editing. Today Pettifers is known for its innovative plant choices, unusual plant pairings, and vivid color combinations, all within a confident structure. Price admits to being influenced by the New Perennials Movement but says she couldn't have a garden without English prettiness. Pettifers is a garden that's sure to please. Lunch today will be at a cafe/pub of your choice in the village of Banbury (not included).
Broughton Castle, our afternoon destination, is a moated manor house and parklands with a 700-year history. For most of that time, it has been the home of the Fiennes family. Gardens surround the castle, with the most picturesque being the walled Ladies’ Garden created by Lady Algernon Gordon-Lennox in the 1890s as a boxwood parterre in a charming fleur-de-lis pattern with pretty pastel flower borders. We will tour the castle's public rooms with a guide, ending up on the roof with marvelous views over the gardens and countryside, and then explore the gardens.
Once again, we return to our hotel and dine together in the restaurant (included).
This morning we visit the iconic Hidcote Manor. Starting in 1907, Lawrence Johnston, a talented American plantsman with a strong sense of design, created the garden considered by many to be a masterpiece. A series of hedged, intimate rooms, each with its individual character, are linked by narrow passageways that eventually lead to lawns and views of the countryside beyond. Throughout, Johnston used a wide variety of plants, many found on his plant-collecting trips. It's noteworthy that Hidcote, with its themed garden rooms, changed how gardens were made in England and still influences garden makers today.
Next, we travel the short distance to Kiftsgate Court to have lunch in their Tearoom (not included) before exploring their gardens. A visit to Kiftsgate is not complete without understanding how three generations of women in one family have shaped the garden and made it into a beloved treasure. The garden was started in the 1920s by Heather Muir, who fearlessly employed an intuitive approach to creating her gardens instead of using a more formalized plan. In the 1950s, Muir's daughter, Diany Binny, continued the garden’s evolution by introducing a semicircular swimming pool on the lower level, commissioning sculptural features, and opening Kiftsgate for public enjoyment for the first time. Today, Anne Chambers, daughter of Binny and granddaughter of Muir, shapes the garden. Her new Water Garden is a contemporary oasis and is evidence of her desire to bring the garden into the 21st century.
We stay in the Arden Hotel for the last night. This evening, dinner is at a restaurant/pub of your choice in Stratford (not included). Or you can make a reservation in the morning at the hotel’s front desk to dine in their restaurant (also not included).
Lovely Iford Manor is our garden this morning, an Italianate garden in a beautiful river valley of the southern Cotswolds. It was created in the early 20th century by the architect Harold Peto who had made Iford Manor his home. Peto recognized that the surrounding steep valley made an ideal backdrop for the garden architecture he liked. Using the topography, he created ascending terraces with every level having its own mood enhanced by handsome statues and ornaments collected on his travels to Italy. We’ll make sure to pause on each terrace to take in the bucolic views over the countryside. Lunch will be in Iford’s Restaurant (not included) before we leave for our afternoon garden.
We now travel to Hanham Court Gardens. Garden designers Isabel and Jullian Bannerman designed and planted them while they owned the property from 1994 to 2012, just for their own pleasure. Known for their love of fragrant plants, they filled the garden to overflowing with roses, peonies, and lilies. They also designed architectural elements — contemporary arches, gates, and railings that reference historical examples. Richard & Julia Boissevain, the current owners, are committed to restoring and preserving this beautiful design.
Tonight we check in to Audleys Wood Hotel for three nights & then gather in the hotel restaurant for dinner (included).
We start our day at Hauser & Wirth, a modern art gallery with a naturalistic garden designed by the celebrated Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf. Wide curving grass paths cut through an artful 1.5-acre perennial meadow. A champion of sturdy perennials that don’t need to be staked or divided, and dynamic ornamental grasses, Oudolf arranges his plantings in drifts resulting in dreamy views wherever you look. They are lovely in late summer and fall when the grasses peak, sending up feathery plumes that catch the light as they move in the breeze. Make sure to bring your camera to capture this photogenic place. Lunch will be in the close by village of Bruton at a cafe/pub of your choice (not included).
Our afternoon destination is Stourhead, a 250-year-old garden made in the English landscape style, a design philosophy that idealizes nature. The 18th-century banker Henry Hoare II created the garden after being inspired by landscape paintings he saw on a trip to Italy and France. He chose a secluded woodland valley and, over 40 years, dammed up a stream to make a lake, carved out a grotto, built classical temples (sometimes called follies) with stunning framed views, and created elegant bridges over the water. He planted many trees and shrubs, which today are some of the finest specimens found in England. This garden has been called a masterwork. After strolling around the lake on the shaded path that touches each architectural feature, you may agree.
We return for the night to Audleys Wood Hotel & then gather for dinner in the hotel restaurant (included).
On this last day of the tour, we depart from garden touring to visit Stonehenge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stonehenge dates back to prehistoric times and has fascinated archaeologists and the general public for centuries. Who built these circles of monumental, upright, standing stones — some sarsens and some bluestones -- and for what purpose? The builders left no known written records, so speculation abounds. In the 12th century, some theorized that Stonehenge was a memorial to Britons killed by Saxons — and that the wizard Merlin had the stones brought from Giant's Ring, a stone circle with magic powers located in Ireland. Others thought Druids built Stonehenge and used it as a temple, and still others believe it was an astronomical calendar used to predict eclipses. And then there’s the contingent, who are sure it’s a landing pad for ancient space aliens. Our visit will undoubtedly make for some fascinating discussions on our ride to the next garden. We’ll have lunch in the Stonehenge cafe (not included).
Our final garden for this tour is perched on a high point overlooking the Berkshire Downs and surrounds a former parsonage called The Old Rectory, Farnborough. The house was built in the 1730s, but the garden wasn’t created until Caroline and Michael Todhunter purchased the 4-acre property in 1970. Caroline is the creative force behind the garden rooms and the plantings that display a satisfying balance of both formal and natural styles. In addition to the herbaceous borders that one expects to find in such a quintessentially English garden, there is also a Pool Garden, an orchard, woodlands, a vegetable garden, a ha-ha, and across the way, the original parish church (12th-century) with 1950s stained glass windows.
We return to our hotel for our last night & celebrate our week of garden visits with a farewell dinner in the restaurant.
Our time together has ended, but garden lovers always find fresh inspiration wherever they are. Tour members can choose to return home or carry on the adventure. We’ll provide coach transfer to Heathrow Airport at 7:00 AM for those with flights leaving at 11:00 AM or later. Alternatively, you can take a taxi at the time of your choosing from the hotel to the airport.
September 10 – Crowne Plaza London Heathrow T4
September 11 - 14 – Arden Hotel
September 15 - 17 – Audleys Wood Hotel
In her time at Garden Gate magazine, Kristin Beane Sullivan has been lucky enough to meet hundreds (if not thousands) of gardeners, tour and photograph countless gardens and learn something from every single gardener she’s met. She comes from a long line of farmers and gardeners, and today tends an ever-expanding urban garden with her husband and three children who are a lot more help in the garden than she was at their ages.
As a professional garden designer, Carolyn Mullet balances her appreciation for the history of garden making and traditional approaches with an eager and welcoming attitude toward the progressive ideas of modernism. Her passion for garden design and a desire to share what she loves prompted her to launch CarexTours and begin the rich journey of crafting garden travel experiences.