Many of the garden tours I took were sponsored by Horticulture Magazine in Boston. Beginning in the early 90s Horticulture teamed with gardening groups and societies from all over to sponsor tours of great public and private gardens. Several were led by Nan Sinton, a transplanted Irishwoman who worked and taught horticulture and garden design in the Boston area. In '93 I joined Nan for the first of several tours. Destination: Southern England, The Cotswolds, & London Including Chelsea Flower Show. In the couple of hours a day when the temps are below 90 degrees, I thought you keen gardeners may enjoy seeing some photos of the best of English Gardens.
So, I saved my pennies for a year, put the dogs in a nice kennel, and flew off to London to learn about English gardens and meet some truly gifted plant lovers of all ages. For the first three nights of the tour we had the Park Lane Hotel in Picadilly (photo above) as our base of operation. Notice the window boxes that combine flowers, trailers, and miniature evergreens. A first example of English gardening.
After the overnight flight from Boston to Gatwick I was too excited to crash in my nicely appointed room--especially appreciated the kettle and tea tray with English biscuits, and the pants press. The hotel was perfectly situated for some on foot exploring. Just out of the front door I headed across this great commons area, St. Stephen's Green (I think):
Just on the other side of the green, I ran across the Queen's digs. Yes, Buckingham Palace was within walking distance of our hotel and I just happened to catch the changing of the guards:
There was all manner of horsemen around including these showing uniformed police on crowd patrol in front of Buckingham Palace:
After an afternoon of exploration on foot, I met my tour group of about 25 gardeners back at the hotel for a Welcome Dinner, which, according to my journal, included some firsts for me: a terraine with asparagus, watercress soup. and lemon souffle. One thing you want to do on these kinds of trips is to find you a buddy, especially if you travel alone like me. You quickly discover people who share your interests, sense of humor, etc. I made plans with a mother-daughter duo to get tickets for Phantom of the Opera in its original run at the Queen's Theater for the second night we were in London. We sat in a second tier box and looked down on the stage. Very cool.
The morning of our second day in London we enjoyed a guided tour of the city with stops at all the famous points of interest including London Bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral, Big Ben. Trying to look at things with a gardener's eye, I spotted these simple, but lovely, window boxes--cinerara (I think):In the afternoon we headed to the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew for a walking tour led by one of Kew Garden's horticulturists. I saw examples of gardening techniques that before I'd only studied in magazines and books. Here's a sampling:
Apparently every gardener at Kew has his or her own tools. Here's Arv West's--including the handmade twig broom to sweep the grass--no kidding!
Arv probably used his extra sharp spade to cut these precisely shaped rosebeds. Not a trace of powdery mildew, black spot or insect damage to be found on these young bushes:
This long beech allee led to Kew Palace, site of a 17th century garden, herbals and lilacs:
In the new Princess of Wales Conservatory were saw amazing plants like the New Zealand tree ferns (on another Horticulture tour to New Zealand I saw these giants growing in the wild.):
One of the many gates leading into Kew Gardens. This is a formal planting of sweet william--notice the skillful melding of all the shades of red:
When I pick up this travelogue later in the week we'll finish with London and head south into Sussex and the Cotswolds. Pull on your gardening boots and join me!