16 July 2019
What could be finer than strolling through an English country garden at the height of summer, when the flowers are at their peak and the scent of roses fills the air. This four-day trip features private visits to world-class gardens in Kent and Sussex, plus two exclusive events hosted by the inspirational Sarah Raven.
Anyone with a passion for gardens and gardening will delight in the itinerary. Highlights include the shrubs and perennials of Great Comp Garden; magnificent Lullingstone Castle, home to the World Garden of Plants; the roses and lavender of Pashley Manor, a classic English garden at Great Dixter; the superb nursery at Marchants Hardy Plants (as seen on the BBC's Flying Gardener series) and the stunning herbaceous borders at Parham House.
We have arranged a private after-hours tour and three-course dinner at Sissinghurst, the famous Kent garden created by the writers Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson in the 1930s. Once it has closed to the public, we will enjoy a glass of sparkling English wine on the Tower lawn and listen to a talk about Sissinghurst's family history from one of the grandchildren of Vita and Harold, before Sarah Raven tells the fascinating story of the famous gardens. We then have the chance to explore at our leisure before ending our evening with a three-course dinner that will also feature Sarah's own recipes.
The following day sees a trip to glorious Scotney Castle, then on to Sarah's garden at Perch Hill, where, during a private afternoon event, she will give a special talk, telling the story of Perch Hill's 25-year transformation from a ramshackle former dairy farm into 90 acres dedicated to flowers and inspirational gardens. After afternoon tea, we enjoy a flower-arranging demonstration by Sarah, a deliciously fresh vegetable and salad tasting and a tour of the gardens.
Further visits include the beautiful seven-acre Great Comp Garden and the historic manor house and garden at Lullingstone Castle, which dates back to the time of the Domesday Book; garden writer Christopher Lloyd's celebrated English country garden at Great Dixter and the magical four-acre walled garden at Parham House.
Our hotel: we stay throughout at the four-star George in Rye Hotel. This stylishly hotel is ideally located at the heart of the charming seaside town, and boasts its very own Georgian ballroom.
- Services of a professional tour manager
- Comfortable coach travel throughout
- Meals - as per the itinerary
16 July 2019: Itinerary
We depart from our pick-up points in London and Gatwick and head towards Kent and our first visit, Great Comp Garden – a beautiful seven-acre garden with many beautiful and rare shrubs, perennials and other hardy plants. This Kent garden is a plantsman’s haven. The year starts with Helleborus, followed by magnolias, rhododendrons and azaleas, then the remainder of the year follows with rare and exotic shrubs and perennial plants such as the huge collection of Salvias. There are areas of formal and informal plantings linked with meandering grass paths and ruins homing in on an Italian Garden.
From here we continue to the magnificent Lullingstone Castle. A historic family mansion dating back to the time of Domesday, frequented by Henry VIII and Queen Anne, the manor house and garden are set in the beautiful Darent Valley. The garden was designed by horticulturist Tom Hart Dyke, a modern day plant hunter who follows in the traditions of plant hunters who used to risk their lives and limbs in pursuit of fantastic blooms and plants, during his nine month kidnap at the hands of the Columbian Guerrillas in 2000. On his release he created the World Garden of Plants, which he continues to grow and build each year adding rare and important botanical plants to its collection.
We continue to our hotel, the 4-star George in Rye Hotel, Rye. Dinner will be served in the evening.
Meals include: Dinner
Hotel: The George in Rye, Rye
This morning, after breakfast, we will set off for the gardens at Pashley Manor, an award-winning, quintessential English Garden on the Kent/Sussex border which offers a sumptuous blend of romantic landscaping, imaginative plantings and fine old trees, fountains, springs and large ponds. The roses and lavender should be at their fragrant peak at this time of year.
We continue to another classic English Country Garden – Great Dixter. The distinguished garden writer Christopher Lloyd (who died in January 2006 at the aged of 84) was the genius behind Great Dixter, with its timbered 15th century house. Restored by Edwin Lutyens who also planned the garden, Mr Lloyd has firmly put his lively stamp on it. A recent experiment involved installing a summer tropical garden rich in bold shapes and brilliant colours. No gardener could come to Great Dixter without making discoveries and rekindling a zest for gardening.
This evening we have a treat in store as we transfer to the magnificently manicured gardens of Sissinghurst. This famous garden was created by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson from 1930 onwards and became the most admired English Garden of its time. Few great gardens live up to their reputations so effortlessly as this. Sissinghurst is a large connoisseurs’ garden consisting of a series of small romantic areas enclosed by the surviving parts of an Elizabethan mansion. It never disappoints its visitors, it has the power of enchantment, but it is also an unending source of inspiration for all gardeners. Sissinghurst is surely as close to gardening perfection as you can get, and it continues to be one of the most-copied flower gardens in the world.
Exclusive Event: Our visit begins at 6.00pm (after the garden has shut to the public) with a glass of Chapel Down sparkling English wine served on the Tower lawn. Sitting on the Tower steps we will then enjoy a talk on the family history with one of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson’s grandchildren, followed by a talk on the history of the garden and Vita’s garden style from the well-known gardener, cook, writer and broadcaster Sarah Raven. We then have an hour or so to explore the garden at leisure before we make our way to the restaurant and enjoy a three-course dinner with wine, featuring Sarah’s recipes.
Our coach will return us to the hotel after dinner.
Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner
Hotel: The George in Rye, Rye
This morning after breakfast we depart for a visit to the gardens at Scotney Castle, a country house south-east of Lamberhurst in the valley of the River Bewl. The central feature of the gardens is the ruin of a medieval, moated manor house, Scotney Old Castle, which is on an island on a small lake. The lake is surrounded by sloping, wooded gardens with fine collections of rhododendrons, azaleas and kalmia. At the top of the garden stands a house which was built to replace the Old Castle between 1835 and 1843. This is known as Scotney New Castle, or simply Scotney Castle, and was designed by Anthony Salvin. It is an early, and unusually restrained, example of the revived influence of Tudor architecture in 19th century Britain.
In the afternoon we depart for Sarah Raven’s own garden, Perch Hill. Once a rather ramshackle ex-dairy farm with a lot of concrete, corrugated iron and not much else, the land has been converted to an organic 90 acres of new seed and plant varieties. The constant supply of favourite flowers comes from the large cutting garden where the central four beds are filled with hardy and half-hardy annuals and biennials. There are also two purely ornamental gardens at Perch Hill, not dedicated to harvesting – the Oast garden with an extravagant mix of colour and structure and the front farmhouse garden, which is designed to have a calmer feel.
Exclusive event: On arrival we are welcomed by Sarah Raven who will introduce us to the garden. After tea/coffee and cake we have a practical demonstration led by Perch Hill gardeners and a guided tour of the garden.
Dinner is served back at our hotel in the evening.
Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner
Hotel: The George in Rye, Rye
This morning after breakfast we will leave the hotel and head for Marchants Hardy Plants at Ripe, near Lewes. The garden is not large but it is well designed and diversely planted and has gained much attention over the years, having appeared in major periodicals and papers as well as on BBC TV's "Flying Gardener" series. The nursery has gained recognition as one of the leading small nurseries in the country with an excellent range of herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses – a chance to pick up a lasting souvenir of your holiday.
Our final visit take us to Parham House and its award-winning gardens. It was featured in Simon Jenkin’s England’s Thousand Best Houses, where he wrote that “nothing at Parham is superfluous, nothing unloved. It is a house of magic.” The gardens consist of beautiful Pleasure Grounds and a four-acre Walled Garden. There are stunning herbaceous borders, a glasshouse, vegetable garden, orchard and a 1920s Wendy House. A nursery and shop provides a final retail opportunity before we return to our original pick-up points in the late afternoon.
Meals include: Breakfast
16 July 2019: Additional Info
16 July 2019: Accommodation
A comfortable blend of old and new, with a relaxed, informal and individual atmosphere.
The four-star George in Rye Hotel has been stylishly renovated, but still retains its historic grandeur, for exaple boasting its very own Gerogian ballroom. It is ideally located in the heart of the charming town of Rye, East Sussex, and its enviable heritage - the building dates from 1575- gives this hotel a charming historic feel, equipped with modern-day comforts.