Calling all green-fingered travellers! 2013 is the Year of the Garden and horticultural enthusiasts have a lot to celebrate. As well as the Royal Horticultural Society's world-famous Chelsea Flower show turning 100 this year, there's a veritable floral smorgasbord of anniversaries, new openings and celebrations to enjoy.
We asked VisitEngland to picked their fragrant 2013 highlights, from country house gardens to futuristic urban parks, have a look at their favourites below.
The UK’s only blossom trail in Worcestershire's Vale of Evesham celebrates its 30th birthday this Spring. Explore the 50-mile fragrant stretch of apple, plum, damson and cherry blossom from the Cotswold village of Broadway to Pershore in the west. Visitors can walk, cycle or drive the Blossom Trail or take one of the official Blossom Coach Tours. As well as enjoying the spectacular scenery, the tour takes in a host of farm shops, pubs and nurseries offering treats and cooking demonstrations straight from the orchard like apple scones, blossom marmalade, Pershore plum jam and blossom cake. The best time to visit is mid-March to mid-May.
2013 marks the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Stephenson R Clarke, creator of one of the most stunning gardens in the country: Borde Hill Garden in Sussex. As patron to some of the most prolific plant collectors, Clarke filled his garden with rare trees and shrubs from exotic locations. Today, his foresight and hard work allows visitors to experience a world-renowned botanical collection surrounded by stunning Sussex countryside that has hardly changed in the last century. Adults £8, Children £5
From late April until mid-June, vibrant rhododendrons sprawl across the 18th century Bowood House & Gardens in Wiltshire. A new four-acre section of garden was opened in March and, also new for 2013, is ‘Tractor Ted’s Little Farm at Bowood’. Based on the series of books, the attraction gives children the opportunity to meet friendly farm animals and try a mini tractor track and digger den. The popular guided tours of the Private Walled Gardens will return for 2013 and this year you can enjoy entry to Bowood, a two-course lunch and the tour for £27.50 per person. The rhododendron walks are £3 extra.
One of England’s most iconic events, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (21 to 25 May 2013) celebrates its centenary. Established in 1913, on the grounds of the Chelsea Royal Hospital in London, the show has become one of the most celebrated annual events in the world and has grown from 244 exhibitors to over 500, attracting 161,000 visitors. The show has seen radical changes in horticultural fashion, from Japanese dwarf trees to an 80ft high pyramid garden and Chelsea is still viewed as the most important event in the horticultural, and social, calendar.
New for this year, Salisbury Cathedral has launched ‘Cathedral Flowers’ group tours. The two-hour visit will include a guided tour around the Cathedral to learn about its flower-themed architecture and windows, a specialist talk about cathedral flowers and a demonstration of an arrangement suitable for a cathedral or church. You might also get to see behind the scenes and visit the Cathedral’s cutting garden. Designed by the Cathedral’s creative director and Chelsea gold medalist, Michael Bowyer, the tour costs £18 per person, based on a group of 10.
Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds has launched two new gardening tours of its award-winning gardens. The tours have been created by Sudeley’s Head Gardener, Jon Hodder, in support of the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s Living Gardens. On the 75-minute tour, visitors will see how the castle’s grounds support hundreds of wildlife species within its many niche gardens, castle ruins and ponds including toads, bee orchids, disease resistant elms, dragonflies, kingfishers and nuthatches. Tours run throughout from May to October and cost £18 per person.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will be largest new urban park in this country for a century. The northern part – opening in July – will focus on wildlife, biodiversity and ecology. The southern part – due to open in Spring 2014 - will be more urban, featuring a 21st century pleasure garden and a series of outdoor rooms. The two will be linked by a 13-metre wide tree-lined avenue and in total more than 4,000 trees, 127,000 shrubs and over a million herbaceous plants will be planted across the park. You can visit now on Park in Progress tours which run on weekends and school holidays from 29 March to 6 May. Adult £15 Children £7, under-fours free.