Gardens of Southern England & Chelsea Flower Show

EXCEPTIONAL Gardens of Southern England, and Chelsea Flower Show

A delightful program which be planned for garden enthusiast groups!

A lovely tour combining the private gardens of Southern England along with the excitement of the renowned Chelsea Flower Show held annually in London. 

Admire the internationally renowned gardens of the Cotswolds where our group will also have the privilege of meeting the owners of these private works of living art.  Each garden has its own special atmosphere that will inspire every nature lover.  This is English countryside at its best, an area full of variety, beautiful landscapes, picturesque villages and of course…glorious gardens.  You will then have the chance to rub elbows with fellow gardeners from all over the world at the famous Chelsea Flower Show, while also enjoying the many attractions London has to offer.

Day 1 – Cotswolds

Arrival in Heathrow or Gatwick airport. Meet your driver/guide or pick up a rental car from the airport and transfer to the Cotswolds, England’s largest area of outstanding beauty.

Lunch in one of the lovely Cotswolds villages.

Afternoon visit to Hidcote Manor Gardens.

Although Hidcote Manor Gardens are among the most famous gardens in Britain, this wonderful garden still has the power to startle. Lawrence Johnston was a keen plants man with a strong sense of artistic composition. Yew, holly and beech hedges are used to define a series of garden rooms. This forms the setting for an immense range of plants, especially of old roses that are planted in swashbuckling manner, in contrast to the crisp authority of the layout.cotswold way  One room is occupied only by a circular raised pool.

Others have a character deriving from their inspired planting. The standard of building craftsmanship is high and the number of plants, which have the name ‘Hidcote’ point to Johnston’s expertise. Were it nearer London, the garden would be as famous as Sissinghurst.

Continue to your 4* hotel in Cheltenham area for dinner and overnight.

Day 2 – Cotswolds

Morning visit to Sudeley Castle. This large late-medieval castle is situated half a mile from the ancient Saxon capital of Winchcombe. Well known for its Royal connections, Sudeley was once the home of Queen Katherine Parr, the last surviving wife of King Henry VIII. She lived at Sudeley with Thomas Seymour whom she scandalously married shortly after the King’s death and raised her adopted protégé Lady Jane Grey, herself a future, albeit short-lived, Queen of England.

The Gardens at Sudeley are amongst the most beautiful in the Cotswolds and a perfect example of a Victorian Garden. Laid out in the nineteenth century during the restoration of the Castle, they are its perfect complement: varied, beautifully planted and on an intimate, informal scale rare for a house of this size. The glory of Sudeley today is the Queen’s Garden, laid out in the 1850’s on the site of the old Tudor parterre. The magnificent double yew hedges were planted in 1856, but what was originally a very formal herb garden is now the site for one of the most spectacular plantings of old fashioned roses in England.

On arrival you will be met by the Head Gardener for a private guided tour of the gardens and grounds.  Afterwards you can explore the castle at leisure.

In the afternoon, take another fascinating step back in time.

Painswick Rococo Garden, dating from the early eighteenth century, is a 6-acre garden set in a hidden Cotswolds valley with magnificent views of the surrounding countryside.   The garden is a unique example of the brief but flamboyant period of English Rococo design. Unfortunately, by the 1970’s the garden had been completely lost and over planted with woodland. Using a painting, by Thomas Robins in 1748, the garden is being fully restored to its eighteenth century character.   It is now again an excellent example of a type of Rococo Pleasure Ground. It shuns the extensive use of flowering plants, and concentrates on surprising the visitor with architectural oddities, sudden vistas and other features, which are all laid out in an asymmetric pattern. The tranquillity of the garden is extended with woodland walks through naturalised wild flowers.

This evening enjoy a private dinner at the Coach House Restaurant at Painswick Gardens with stunning views, and enjoy home made dishes prepared from local produce from the Kitchen Garden.

Return to the hotel for overnight.

Day 3 – Stourhead, Salisbury and Vann

After breakfast you will drive south to visit one of the most famous landscaped gardens of Southern England :  Stourhead.  Stourhead is the best example of a garden inspired by the great landscape painters of the 17th century. Ernst Gombrich suggests it should bear the signature of an Italianised French painter: Claude Lorrain (1600-82). The garden was made by a wealthy English banker who had been buying works of art in Italy at the time he inherited the Stourhead estate. Henry Hoare II’s ‘Claudian’ garden was made in an unusually well proportioned valley behind the house. The Temple of Flora was made in 1745 and the grotto in 1748. But the key date was 1754, when the lake and the Pantheon were made. The five-arched bridge was made in 1762 and the Temple of Apollo in 1765. Gothic features were added later in the century: Alfred’s Tower, a Rustic Cottage and a Hermitage. The woods were under planted with Rhododendron ponticum after 1791 and with more exotic species in the twentieth century.

Tour of the gardens with a private guide.

Lunch today can be taken at leisure in the beautiful Cathedral City of Salisbury.

Rising like a swan from the water meadows, the spire of the only Cathedral conceived and executed in the Middle Ages in a single style, dominates the medieval streets.

Salisbury was founded in 1220, when the old hilltop settlement of Old Sarum was abandoned, being too arid and windswept, in favour of this new site. The Cathedral, built in the early 13th century, also holds a Cloister, the Chapter House and the Library, where one of the 4 copies of the Magna Carta is housed. The Cathedral Close, originally designed to house the clerics, now forms a glorious precinct to the Cathedral.

Beyond the walls of the Cathedral Close, Salisbury developed its chessboard layout, with areas devoted to different trades, perpetuated in street names as Fish Row and Butcher Row. Now these pleasant cobbled streets and crooked market squares are lined with art shops, restaurants and tearooms.

In the early afternoon, drive towards London. In Surrey we will visit a truly unique private garden called Vann.

This private garden was designed by famous garden designer Gertrude Jekyll and stretches over 4.5 acres, surrounding Tudor and William and Mary house (not open) with later additions and alterations by the current owners, the Caröe family. The garden comprises an old cottage garden, pergola, ¼-acre pond, Gertrude Jekyll water garden, azaleas, spring bulbs and woodland, mixed borders, island beds and a crinkle crankle wall.

If she is available, Mrs Caröe will welcome the group with a cup of coffee and home made biscuits and give a brief introduction on the garden and its maintenance today.

Continue the drive to London for free time and overnight stay in 4* hotel.

Day 4 – London

Morning guided panoramic tour of London or free time for those who may have been here before.

Free time for lunch.

In the afternoon you will visit a beautiful Manor House and surrounding gardens in the west of London, Chiswick House.  In 1682 the first Earl of Burlington purchased a Jacobean mansion set in extensive acres at Chiswick. The magnificent avenue leads to a Palladian temple to the arts set in a high-walled, daringly informal but still Italian inspired paradise park. Built by the immensely refined Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, this county villa for displaying his art treasures and entertaining his cultured clique was modelled on Palladio’s Villa Capra near Vicenza, with injections from William Kent on the decoration and garden.

In accordance with the change on fashion from Wren’s ebullient Baroque to the classically inspired, Burlington designed this Palladian Villa, which strictly adheres to Palladio’s principles:

main front, garden façade, two identical lateral elevations; symmetrical arrangement of rooms along the main axis: he justified having a variety of shaped rooms by saying they were modelled upon study of Romans Bath detailed in Palladio’s Four Books of Architecture.  Return to central London for a quintessential pub dinner.

Overnight in London.

Day 5 – Woburn, Cambridge and Mill House

In the morning visit one of England’s most impressive Manor Houses, still lived in by the Duke of Bedford, Woburn Abbey.  Set in a beautiful 3,000 acre deer park, with 10 species of deer roaming free, Woburn Abbey has been the home of the Dukes of Bedford for nearly 400 years. Today it is occupied by the 15th Duke and his family. It is not an abbey as the name suggests, but a magnificent manor house, lavishly furnished and with numerous famous paintings, antiques and porcelain.

The park was designed by famous landscape designer Repton. Unique is that the “little red book” Repton used to design this garden, is still intact and kept at the Abbey. This is not normally on display for visitors.

The visit will be a free-flow of the house, a garden tour with the head gardener, and a private viewing of the Red Book.

After this visit continue to Cambridge for free time for lunch.

Cambridge conjures instant images to mind; the breathtaking view of King’s College Chapel from across the river, carpets of daffodils along the back of the colleges in springtime, thousands of students cycling frantically to lectures, lazy summer punting on the River Cam.  Yet Cambridge was important long before the University existed. Here, at the meeting of dense forests to the south and trackless, marshy Fens to the north, was the lowest reliable fording place of the River Cam, or Granta. In the first century BC an Iron Age Belgic tribe built a settlement on what is now Castle Hill. Around AD40 the Romans took over the site. The Saxons followed, then the Normans under William the Conqueror, who raised a castle on a steep mound as a base for fighting the Saxon rebel, Hereward the Wake.

The first college of what is now Cambridge University was founded in the 13th century. Most famous of its colleges is King’s College, which was founded in 1441. The crowning glory of English architecture must surely be the soaring splendour of King’s College Chapel where Rubens’ Adoration of the Magi can be seen.

After a guided walk of this city and a visit to King’s College, drive the short distance to the private garden of Mr and Mrs Jackson, Mill House.  This private garden has been designed and maintained by the owners. It comprises 3 acres of landscaped walled gardens, a pergola, tiered terraces and climbers, especially clematis.  The owner will give a group welcome and introductory talk to the group.  Drive back to London for free time for dinner and overnight.

Theatre tickets can be arranged in advance for those interested or a dinner cruise on the River Thames.

Day 6 – Chelsea Flower Show

Today is totally reserved to visit the most famous Flower Show, Chelsea Flower Show.garden tours england

Originally called The Royal Horticultural Society’s Great Spring Show, the history of the Chelsea Flower Show goes back to 1852 when the show was held in the RHS’s gardens in Kensington, London.

The show moved to Chelsea and was renamed in 1913 when a popular one off event, The Royal International Horticultural Exhibition, was held in the Royal Hospital, organized by Sir Harry Veitch. The Chelsea Flower Show has taken place at the Royal Hospital almost every year since.

After the show enjoy a farewell dinner at London’s famous SPRING Restaurant   Spring brings warmth and elegance within a beautiful dining space set in the New Wing of the iconic Somerset House, in the arts and cultural heart of London. At Spring food is celebrated for its conviviality and the joyfulness of sharing seasonal produce. The cooking is heartfelt, wholesome, produce driven, and cooked by a team of people who are passionate about what they do and who feel truly privileged to work with beautiful ingredients.

Day 7 – Departure Day and Hampton Court Garden

This tour will be dependent upon the group’s return flight schedule .

The original Tudor Mansion of Hampton Court was created by Cardinal Wolsey, one of Henry VIII’s richest and most powerful subjects. He presented it to the King in an attempt to remain in favour.  Hampton Court became one of Henry VIII’s favourite country houses and he soon set about enlarging it to create one of the most splendid places in his kingdom, favoured by most of the most famous English Kings and Queens.   The Chapel Royal is a stunning example of the Palace’s rich interiors and the Tudor Kitchens are the most extensive surviving 16th century kitchens in Europe.  Hampton Court is set in sixty acres of beautiful Tudor, baroque and Victorian gardens including its famous maze.  The renaissance garden, which Henry VIII made here in the 1530s, was converted to the baroque style between 1660 and 1702. Naturally competitive, Henry VIII wanted Hampton Court to outshine Francis I’s palace garden at Fontainbleu. Henry VIII’s garden had square plats of grass with lions, dragons and other painted heraldic beasts on posts.  When William of Orange left Holland to become King of England, in 1688, he and Mary were delighted with Hampton Court. The air was fresher than Greenwich and kinder to William’s asthma. Desiring a second “Het Loo”, William employed George London and Daniel Marot. They kept the canal, planted a network of avenues and made two great parterres, which later monarchs neglected. One of the parterres, the Fountain Garden, provided a semi-circle for the ‘goose’s foot’ of radiating avenues. It survives in plan but not as a parterre. William’s other parterre, the Privy Garden on the site of Henry VIII’s heraldic garden and mount, was restored between 1992 and 1995 with the greatest attention to historical accuracy. ‘Privy’ means private. Hampton Court is a very special kind of royal garden.

If time allows – lunch can be taken at leisure at the cafeteria in the Rose Garden.

Drive to the airport for check-in for departure flight home.

Farewell and Happy Gardening!


Group size is limited to 16 guests.

Tour groups with 20 or more guests can be arranged upon request.

Prices and Inclusions

Accommodation – based on sharing twin/double room.

All accommodations are 4* beautifully appointed centrally located properties.

  • 2 nights bed and full breakfast in Cheltenham area
  • 4 nights bed and full breakfast in London

Coaching and guiding

  • Touring coach for duration of trip including all driver’s costs
  • Air-conditioned coach
  • Fully qualified guide for the whole tour, including all accommodation and meal costs


  • 3-course Welcome dinner at hotel in Cheltenham
  • 3-course dinner at Painswick Gardens
  • 3-course pub dinner
  • Afternoon Tea at Vann
  • 3-course dinner in the Spring restaurant


  • Hidcote Manor Gardens
  • Sudeley Castle with Gardener Tour
  • Painswick Rococo Garden with Garden tour
  • Stourhead with garden tour
  • Vann private garden
  • Chiswick House and garden
  • Woburn Abbey (house and garden) with garden tour
  • King’s College Cambridge
  • Mill House private garden
  • Chelsea Flower show (1-day ticket)
  • Hampton Court (palace and garden)


  • Porterage at each hotel (1 bag per person in/out)
  • Service and 20% VAT

Price does NOT include:

  • Drinks with meals unless specified otherwise above
  • Tips and gratuities for driver or tour guide
  • Personal expenses
  • Travel insurance but is available for purchase upon request.
  • Any other services than the ones mentioned above.
  • Round trip airfare

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