Naturalistic Gardens of Southern England

  • July 2 - 10, 2024
  • $5,495 USD per person
  • Explore England's freshest gardens crafted by visionaries amidst climate change. Witness the magic of Piet Oudolf, Dan Pearson, and Tom Stuart-Smith as they weave beauty and resilience into every corner. Don't miss this chance to be inspired by these master garden makers.
Naturalistic Gardens of Southern England

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I’m fairly new to gardens and during this week I learned so much about the different ways to organize and plant them in this time of changing climate. I especially appreciated how the gardens reflected the surrounding landscapes and I’m hoping I can figure out how to do this in my garden too. Each garden on the tour really was like a dream — beautiful, peaceful, and magical. What a pleasure to visit each one.

2023 Tour Member

Naturalistic Gardens of Southern England

July 2 - 10, 2024


Welcome to a journey through the vibrant world of contemporary gardens in England's southern counties! In this era where garden-making is infused with creativity and a deep connection to nature, we're invited to explore a tapestry of new and revitalized outdoor spaces that reflect notions of beauty, belonging, and sustainability.

Amidst growing concerns about the climate crisis, gardeners and designers are reimagining the role of gardens in our modern world. Our tour delves into the heart of this movement, showcasing 21st-century gardens that burst with life—think lush naturalistic plantings, intricate pollinator meadows, and captivating wild gardens.

These present-day marvels might surprise you; nestled within traditional English layouts or quietly integrated into the larger landscape, they embody innovation and resilience. Join us as we immerse ourselves in their enchanting beauty and discover the boundless garden design possibilities in our time.


July 2, Tuesday – Arrive at Heathrow Airport
July 3, Wednesday – Malverleys, Moor Hatches
July 4, Thursday – Oudolf Field, Hillside
July 5, Friday – Yews Farm, Silver Street Farm
July 6, Saturday – Wildside, Garden House
July 7, Sunday – Sussex Prairie, Parham House
July 8, Monday – Knepp Estate, Gravetye Manor
July 9, Tuesday – Wisley, The Barn
July 10, Wednesday – Depart or continue travels

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.


Day 1, Tuesday, July 2 -- ARRIVAL

  • Tour members independently arrange travel to Heathrow Airport, walk to the Hilton 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, Wednesday, July 3 -- MALVERLEYS & MOOR HATCHES

  • We start our week of touring some of the freshest gardens in England by traveling west from Heathrow Airport into Berkshire to visit Malverleys Garden, a private renovated garden not yet fifteen years old. Designed by the talented head gardener Mat Reese in collaboration with the owners, it features conventional hedged rooms (like Hidcote & Sissinghurst) with exuberant plantings of modern color-themed perennials and annuals. Throughout, self-seeders are allowed to run and romp—with careful editing, of course—making an atmosphere that verges on wildness. Mat believes that when you give plants a bit of freedom to do what they like, you get surprises. “Things just happen,” he said in a 2019 article in Country Living. “Plants come up where you hadn't planned. There's a lot of satisfaction in those little incidences.” This comfort with spontaneity adds an intriguing spiritedness to Malverley’s naturalism. We’ll have lunch at a cafe or pub of your choosing in Amesbury (not included) on our way to our afternoon garden.
  • This afternoon, we journey southwest to Moor Hatches Garden, located on the banks of the River Avon just a few miles from Stonehenge. Designed by the renowned Tom Stuart-Smith, Moor Hatches could be described simply as a contemporary family garden, but it is much more. At the heart of the garden, enclosed by walls topped with thatch, is a magnificent 70-foot swimming pool surrounded by Tom’s signature sensuous plantings. Long rectangular beds brim with modern perennials and grasses in a pale silvery palette. Along the river, Tom has added little pools and brooks, creating a retreat for family members and a welcoming refuge for wildlife.
  • We check into Hotel Indigo Bath in the center of Bath for three nights and then gather for dinner in the hotel restaurant (included).

Day 3, Thursday, July 4 -- OUDOLF FIELD & HILLSIDE

  • This morning, we travel south from Bath to visit Oudolf Field, a glorious naturalistic garden. Designed by the celebrated Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf, it sits behind Hauser & Wirth, a modern art gallery in Bruton, Somerset. Wide curving grass paths cut through a 1.5-acre perennial meadow with a masterful planting design. A champion of sturdy perennials that don’t need to be staked or divided, and dynamic ornamental grasses, Oudolf arranged his plantings mainly in drifts, resulting in artful views wherever you look. Make sure to bring your camera to capture this dreamy garden. We’ll have lunch together on the gallery grounds at the Roth Bar & Grill (not included).
  • For our afternoon garden, we travel to the scenic hills north of Bath to visit Hillside, the home garden of one of England’s most respected designers, Dan Pearson, and his partner, Huw Morgan. They moved to this farmstead from London in 2010, wanting to be part of a more extensive landscape without the constraints of a city garden. Their site interventions show a deep appreciation for the land and rural architecture, and the planting style takes cues from native plant communities. Using a broad plant palette, Dan has filled their borders with flowers such as lavender, ferula, thalictrum, knautia, sanguisorba, euphorbia, and various thistles, to name just a few. Hillside is modern country gardening at its best.
  • We return to the Hotel Indigo Bath for the night. Dinner this evening is at a restaurant of your choice in the city or at our hotel (not included). Reservations may be necessary.

Day 4, Friday, July 5 -- YEWS FARM & SILVER STREET FARM

  • Our first visit today is Yews Farm, a walled garden located in the village of Martock, formal in layout yet exuberantly planted. The garden is Louise and Fergus Dowding’s creation, each with their area of expertise. Louise is a garden designer and oversees ornamentals. She has populated the garden with boxwood topiaries and hedges because of her love of architectural planting and shapes. On the other hand, Fergus is the mastermind behind the productive vegetable beds and trained fruit using organic and bio-dynamic principles. Paying careful attention to the health of the soil as well as the plants, he is an advocate of "no dig" gardening with regular composting and hoeing. The Dowdings have created a 21st-century village garden, harmoniously balanced between ornamentals and food production. We’ll have lunch in a cafe or pub on our way to the next garden.
  • For the afternoon, we visit Silver Street Farm, a country garden transformed from a farmyard, paddock, and fields. Garden designer Alisdair Cameron and his wife, Tor, moved to the property in 2011 to create outdoor spaces that spark happiness and delight. Today, the garden is a place for fun family activities and connecting with nature. The design is grounded in its rural landscape and inspired by how a river flows around boulders. Two perennial and grass borders with boulder-like mounding topiaries behind the farmhouse have internal paths, immersing friends and family in the naturalistic plantings alive with scent, color, and pollinators.
  • We check into the Leonardo Hotel Plymouth for one night. Dinner this evening is at a restaurant of your choice in town or at our hotel (not included). Reservations may be necessary.

Day 5, Saturday, July 6 -- WILDSIDE & THE GARDEN HOUSE

  • Today, we visit Wildside, a naturalistic garden created by visionary plantsman Keith Wiley and his late wife Roz starting in 2004. Keith's close study of plants in wild landscapes inspired him to transform the gently sloping land into hillocks, valleys, steep slopes, and deep ravines, creating a topography of microclimates that could accommodate a wide array of plants. Instead of matching plants to existing conditions, Keith has made the conditions his plants need, resulting in fascinating ecological vignettes showcasing nature's beauty and complexity.
  • Just a short distance away on the same road as Wildside is The Garden House, a slight departure from our tour theme of 21st-century gardens. We’ll have lunch (not included) before exploring the simple yet captivating 12-acre garden often called a plantsperson’s paradise. Well-tended pathways wind through vibrant flower beds, showcasing a colorful array of flowers mixed with textural grasses and sedges. Towering trees offer shade, while tranquil ponds and waterfalls add a peaceful ambiance. The property was originally a vicarage but took on a new life in the 1940s when it was purchased by Lionel and Katharine Fortescue as their private home. Over the next 40 years, they created the framework of the gardens, later enhanced by Keith Wiley (see Wildside above), who served as head gardener for 25 years. Today, the property is managed by a trust and cared for by a small team led by Nick Haworth.
  • For the rest of the afternoon, we travel northeast to Hampshire and check into Audleys Wood Hotel for three nights. We’ll gather in the restaurant for a group dinner (included).

Day 6, Sunday, July 7 --  SUSSEX PRAIRIE & PARHAM HOUSE

  • This morning, we travel to Sussex Prairies, Paul and Pauline McBride’s eight-acre garden made in a field on a farm owned by Pauline’s family. Inspired by Piet Oudolf's painterly designs, the couple, with the help of many friends, planted 30,000 plants of 600 different varieties in the shape of a nautilus shell in May 2008. Prairie gardens and meadows, with their swaying grasses and sturdy, late-season perennials, are a popular type of naturalistic planting throughout Europe and Sussex Prairie is one of the most extensive, immersing visitors in a sea of plants. We can have lunch here or in the next garden (not included).
  • We now travel to Parham House, the home of Lady Emma Barnard and her family. The house’s foundation stone was laid in 1577 and is one of the best surviving examples of Elizabethan architecture in England. A four-acre Walled Garden was added in the 18th century, along with seven acres of Pleasure Grounds. It is the not-too-carefully manicured Walled Garden where we will spend most of our visit exploring the wide, color-themed herbaceous borders, rose garden, cut flower garden, vegetable garden, and orchard. Head gardener Andrew Humphris is the creative force behind the current boldly colored and textured borders allowing a heavy dose of wildness. Tours of the house are available.
  • We return to Audley Woods for the night and dine together in their restaurant (not included).

Day 7, Monday, July 8 -- KNEPP ESTATE & GRAVETYE MANOR

  • We begin our day at the rewilding project at Knepp Estate Walled Garden, a compelling example of ecological restoration that embraces natural processes and aims to create successional habitats. The project, designed by Tom Stuart-Smith with advice by James Hitchmough, Mick Crawley, and Jekka McVicar, involved transforming an existing 19th-century walled garden with two distinct areas — a traditional kitchen garden with raised beds and a pool garden with a flat croquet lawn. In the kitchen garden, the emphasis was shifted to growing herbs with small quantities of vegetables and fruiting shrubs in no-dig beds. Added paths of varying ratios of existing crushed limestone and soil encourage herbs to self-seed. In the pool garden, the flat lawn was contoured into peaks and troughs up to 5’ above and below the original grade to create a variety of habitats to support greater ecological richness. Stuart-Smith chose plants considering predictions that southern England's climate will be much more Mediterranean by 2050. Gardeners are encouraged to allow a lot of spontaneity but not a free-for-all.
  • Today's final garden is the exquisite Gravetye Manor. At this luxury country house hotel, 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 showcased his ideas about naturalism and wild gardening, contrasting untamed plantings with more structured areas close to the house. Today, the gardens have been extensively restored but don’t expect a historical set piece. After a stint at Great Dixter, Tom Coward is the current head gardener and has skillfully added intense successional plantings, giving the garden a 21st-century twist all year long.
  • Tonight, we return to Audleys Woods Hotel and come together for dinner in the hotel restaurant (included).

Day 8, Tuesday, July 9 -- WISLEY & THE BARN

  • This morning, we travel to 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 July, 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).
  • We travel north of London for our tour’s last garden, The Barn at Serge Hill. In the previous 25 years, Tom and Sue Stuart-Smith created this garden around their home, a converted barn. Next to The Barn sits an intimate, modern courtyard with a Corten wall and water tanks Tom initially used in a 2005 show garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. Further away, hedged gardens overflow with the complex planting of perennials and grasses that Tom is known for in his professional work. In addition, Sue manages a kitchen garden while Tom oversees two meadows -- one filled with native English flowers and grasses and the other, an exotic prairie planted mostly with North American natives. A few years ago, Tom moved his design practice to the property and added a living Plant Library. Sue, a retired psychotherapist, is the best-selling The Well Gardened Mind author.
  • We return to the Hilton London Heathrow T4 hotel for the final night and gather in the hotel restaurant for our Farewell Dinner (included).

Day 9, Wednesday, July 10 -- DEPARTURE

  • 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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