Chelsea Flower Show & Great English Gardens

  • May 20 - 28, 2024
  • $5,450 USD per person
  • Visit beautiful England in late spring when gardens are adorned with rainbow-colored tulips and elegant allium orbs. Discover contemporary design at the Chelsea Flower Show. Experience the romance of Sissinghurst. Revel in cutting-edge plantings at Gravetye Manor. Embrace Fairlight End’s hillside of wild meadows.
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Testimonial

Thank you for the lovely experience you put together for all of us. The gardens were beautiful and so lush! As much as I enjoyed seeing the gardens in all of their glory, I really loved the opportunity to see so much of the glorious English countryside with the very able skills of our coach driver. He was a delight and terrific! Those verdant, rolling hills dotted with sheep will bring back happy memories for a long time to come.

2023 Tour Member

Chelsea Flower Show & Great English Gardens

May 20 - 28, 2024

Itinerary

Welcome to our May tour, where our love for plants and the belief that gardeners make the world a better place are at the heart of it all. Join us to discover the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show, a celebration of contemporary garden design and the latest horticultural knowledge.

But that's not all! We couldn't travel to England without taking you to its best country gardens. Get ready to explore classic, early 20th-century gardens like Hidcote, Sissinghurst, and Great Dixter and enchanting private gardens of today like Fairlight End and Pettifers.

Join us on this delightful journey, where you'll experience the beauty of these lush wonders in the company of fellow garden enthusiasts.


AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

May 20, Monday – Arrival day
May 21, Tuesday – Garden Museum & Chelsea Flower Show
May 22, Wednesday – Sissnghurst & Great Dixter
May 23, Thursday – Fairlight End & Gravetye Manor
May 24, Friday – Folly Farm & Hidcote
May 25, Saturday – Pettifers & Free time
May 26, Sunday – Rousham & Kiftsgate
May 27, Monday – Wisley
May 28, Tuesday – Departure Day

CarexTours strives to operate according to our published itinerary. However, adjustments may be necessary if unforeseen circumstances beyond our control occur or opportunities arise that would enhance the itinerary.

FULL ITINERARY

Day 1, Monday, May 20 -- Arrival

  • Tour members independently arrange travel to Heathrow Airport, walk to the Crowne Plaza London Heathrow T4 hotel just outside Terminal 4, and check into the room booked for them (included in the tour price).
  • We'll gather in a hotel restaurant at 6:30 PM for a Welcome Dinner (included).

Day 2, Tuesday, May 21 -- Garden Museum & Chelsea Flower Show

  • We begin our week at the Garden Museum in the middle of London, where we’ll have lunch in a private room in the museum’s cafe (included). The museum is all about British gardens and gardening, with temporary exhibits and displays from its permanent collection. There is also a new garden, a glass-enclosed courtyard filled with unusual plants. Dan Pearson, the garden designer, calls the space a “Wardian case full of beautiful treasures.”
  • In the afternoon, we travel to the Chelsea Flower Show. Each year, this garden event attracts gardeners and designers from every corner of the globe. The show consistently celebrates design excellence with its Best in Show, Best Fresh Garden, and Best Artisan Garden competitions. The Great Pavilion, where nurseries and plant societies exhibit the best and newest in international horticulture, is not to be missed. We’ll be tired but inspired by the time we leave, having explored what many call the best garden show in the world.

Day 3, Wednesday, May 22 -- Sissnghurst & Great Dixter

  • Today, we start at the iconic Sissinghurst Castle Gardens. These treasured gardens result from the commitment and imagination of writer Vita Sackville-West and her diplomat husband, Harold Nicolson. In the 1930s, he planned the gardens’ architecture, and she filled it with lush, romantic plantings. Besides exploring the series of famous garden rooms, make sure you climb the tower and take in the panoramic views from the top. From this vantage point, it’s easy to see why thousands of garden lovers consider a pilgrimage to Sissinghurst an absolute must. We’ll have lunch (individually) at Sissinghurst’s Granary Restaurant (not included) before traveling to our afternoon garden.
  • This afternoon, we visit Great Dixter, perhaps the best-known and most loved of all English gardens. It exists as a living testament to the late owner, plantsman, and writer Christopher Lloyd’s life and passions. Head gardener Fergus Garrett, who worked for Lloyd during the last years of his life, carries on the tradition of experimentation that Lloyd started. Although this garden’s structure is early 20th century, the spirit of the plantings is most certainly contemporary. Under Garrett’s leadership, the garden is being developed and maintained to such a high level that you are unlikely to find any other garden like it. Great Dixter is a visionary, exuberant plant lover’s haven. Expect to see contemporary planting design at its best.

Day 4, Thursday, May 23 -- Fairlight End & Gravetye Manor

  • Our first garden today is Fairlight End, a relatively new private garden set on land that slopes steeply from the house downward across wildflower meadows to a pond at the bottom. Chris and Robin Hutt, who bought the property in 2004, were baffled by the unwieldy topography and brought in landscape architect Ian Kitson, whose signature gesture is the curve. At Fairlight End, he inserted a single curvaceous corten steel retaining edge to separate the more refined garden close to the house from the wilder areas below. Fairlight End is not the only example we’ll see this week of the current English taste for wild gardens, but it is undoubtedly the most stylish.
  • This afternoon, we travel to Gravetye Manor in Sussex. It’s a country house hotel where we’ll have a special lunch in its Michelin Star restaurant (included) and then stroll the gardens with lovely views of the surrounding countryside. Created a century ago by Irish writer, designer, and owner William Robinson, the gardens were used to showcase his ideas about naturalism and wild gardening, contrasting untamed plantings with more structured areas close to the house. Today, the gardens have had an extensive restoration, but don’t expect a historical set piece. After a stint at Great Dixter, Tom Coward is the current head gardener and has boldly added experimental plantings, giving the garden a 21st-century twist.

Day 5, Friday, May 24 -- Folly Farm/Malverleys & Hidcote

  • Our first garden today is Folly Farm, an early 20th-century house designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens with a garden by the revered Gertrude Jekyll. One hundred years later, Dan Pearson was asked to make a master plan & update the plantings. The resulting renovation created a magical blending of old and new, and is considered one of England's most beautiful gardens.
  • Lunch today (not included) will be at our afternoon garden, the acclaimed Hidcote Manor Garden. 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 outdoor 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.

Day 6, Saturday, May 25 --  Pettifers & Free time

  • This morning, 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, by 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.
  • For the afternoon and evening, we take a break from group garden visits to explore Stratford-upon-Avon. The medieval market town is the birthplace of William Shakespeare and the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Tour members are free to check out the numerous cultural sites connected with Shakespeare, stroll the streets to admire the timber-and-white façaded buildings with thatched roofs, or shop in the many boutiques along the way to pick up a special souvenir. Dinner this evening is at a restaurant of your choice in town or in the hotel (not included). Reservations may be necessary.

Day 7, Sunday, May 26 --  Rousham & Kiftsgate

  • Today, we visit Rousham Garden, designed by William Kent (1685-1748), the landscape designer who popularized a natural landscape style for large estates. Rousham is the only 18th-century garden featured on our tour and is considered by many to be the single best example of a landscape garden in the country. Little has changed over the centuries at Rousham. The views and accents Kent designed are still there for us to enjoy today. Make sure to leave time to check out the walled garden with its long double borders, pigeon house, and kitchen garden.
  • We’ll have lunch at Kiftsgate Court (not included) before delving into its gardens. Kiftsgate exists due to three generations of women in one family who shaped the garden and made it a beloved treasure. The gardens were started in the 1920s by Heather Muir, who boldly employed an intuitive approach to creating gardens instead of using a 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, Binny's daughter and Muir's granddaughter, continues to create the garden. Her new Water Garden is a contemporary oasis and is evidence of her desire to bring the garden into the 21st century.

Day 8, Monday, May 27 -- Wisley

  • This morning, we travel back towards London, stopping at the Royal Horticultural Society Garden, Wisley in Surrey. For more than 100 years, Wisley has been a center of British gardening excellence. Although the garden spreads over 240 acres, we’ll focus on the demonstration gardens, which feature everything from stream gardens to meadows to double borders. In May, plantings of camassia, roses, peonies, rhododendrons, and azaleas are of particular interest. Also not to be missed are the perennial borders near the Glasshouse created by influential designers Tom Stuart-Smith and Piet Oudolf. Lunch will be at a cafe or restaurant of your choice at Wisley (not included).

Day 9, Tuesday, May 28 -- Departure Day

  • Our time together comes to an end, but garden lovers are likely to find inspiration wherever they are. Tour members can choose to return home or carry on the adventure.
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