Chelsea Flower Show 2018 & Gardens Tour

Chelsea Flower Show & Gardens Tour 2018

May 22nd – 30th, 2018

”…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford.” Dr. Samuel Johnson 1709-1784!

I haven’t been going to Chelsea all that long, only since 1996. There are many who have gone for more years than I but there is one thing I will say – you must if you are a gardener or lover of plants go at least once! It used to be called the Great Spring Flower Show, first held at the RHS garden in Kensington. Then the garden closed. It moved to Temple Gardens and in 1912 the show was cancelled to make way for the Royal Horticultural exhibition and it was Sir Harry Veitch who got the grounds at the Royal Hospital to take the show in 1913 for this one time – well it was such a success held on these grounds – the rest is now history! Chelsea has stood the test of time and designers and still continues to bring the very best from around the world to our eyes. There are always the show gardens to visit each year…all made within weeks to look like they have been there for years…the excitement of who won what is always there. The huge tent filled to the brim with the most incredible displays you will ever see. Some have shown at Chelsea since it began! I do love the one large tent now – bright, airy and so much easier to walk around. There is always something new to see at Chelsea…you may not agree with it all but it does make you open your mind to the possibility…

Then there are all the smaller gardens, the exhibits, the floral displays, and all the shops that sell everything from sculpture to greenhouses to garden gloves…it is truly amazing.

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is still viewed as the most important event in the horticultural calendar and is as popular as ever. The new trends constantly appearing at the show illustrate the changing face of garden design and mark this country’s ever changing horticultural history. A new professional floristry competition was launched at the show in association with the British Florist Association and there was a new category FRESH, replacing the old category Urban Gardens.

This year’s choice of gardens that you will visit are some of my very favorite ones…you are sure to enjoy strolling through them, enjoying their beauty and peacefulness….now come along and discover them….

Please click on each day to bring up the itinerary for that day.

Tuesday 22nd May - Arrival day and Welcome Dinner at our Hotel

You will arrive into London and make your way to our hotel, the 4 Star Superior Millennium Gloucester Hotel. Set against fashionable South Kensington, Millennium Gloucester Hotel London Kensington is a perfect combination of charm, comfort, and attentive hospitality. With its convenient location at the heart of the city and Gloucester Road Underground Station just next door, you’ll discover how easy it is to explore the city. Sightseeing is easy as you’ll find Hyde Park, the Royal Albert Hall, and Kensington Palace are all just a short walk away.

Please note that check in time is 2 p.m. so if early you can leave your luggage with concierge.

Wednesday 23rd May - Pashley Manor Gardens and Merriments Gardens

Without a doubt Pashley Manor will take your breath away, it always does. Who can resist when you see a romantic Tudor/Georgian manor house dripping with pink roses on the front and a magnificent purple wisteria draping the back…after all, it is not often that you can see a Grade I listed timber framed house dating from 1550. Although the home is private, the façade creates a very memorable backdrop to the delightful gardens beyond. Relish the detail in these gardens as you stroll through historic 1720 walled gardens to a pool and Victorian green house surrounded by sculpture, to sweeping herbaceous borders and woodland paths. There is sculpture placed throughout the gardens for your enjoyment and appreciation. Around every corner, there is something to bring you joy. Local legend has Anne Boleyn visiting Pashley Manor as a child and not that impossible to believe as Hever Castle, the Boleyn family home is near. Look for a sculpture of Anne in the gardens, it really is quite beautiful. A winner of the HHA / Christie’s Garden Of The Year Award.

Merriments Gardens is a wonderful happy place to visit and spend some time..after all, it is not only full of 20 enchanting show gardens full of plants and ideas, but it is also a garden centre! In fact, it is one of the top garden centres so you can be sure to find lots to tempt you while here. The restaurant is also a must so plan on taking your lunch here…excellent food and ambiance.

Thursday 24th May - Full day Chelsea Flower Show including a Show Program

We begin our day early as we want to get there just as the gates open. Once you are at the show you will have until 8 p.m. if you like as you will leave and return to the hotel at your own pleasure. I will have lots of info to share with you on this day and special places to visit afterward…

Friday 25th May - Great Dixter and Sissinghurst Castle Garden

A lovely day planned today as we visit two iconic gardens. Great Dixter is a Tudor house with an Arts & Crafts garden designed by Nathaniel Lloyd and planted with great flair by his son Christopher who was born here as well and devoted his whole life to just this one garden. Christopher Lloyd passed away in 2006 but as you walk through these incredible gardens you can still feel his presence. Fergus Garrett is the head gardener and it is just a joy to see how these gardens are thriving under his care and supervision as Christopher would have wanted. As you tour the house you will likely now be able to see Christopher’s office, which was usually closed when he was alive…he spent more than 40 years in that office writing books and articles. I was lucky enough to be able to sit in his chair on one of my tours and I will forever remember…

Further reading….his last book, ‘Exotic Planting for Adventurous Gardeners’ by Christopher Lloyd

Sissinghurst Castle Garden was the home of poet and writer, Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson, who was also an author and diplomat. They discovered Sissinghurst, fell in love with it and began transforming the gardens in the 1930’s. His architectural planning of the garden rooms together with her colourful planting schemes reflect the romance and intimacy of her poems and writings. In fact, her office is still in the Tower, just as she left it. When you gaze at it, you expect to see her sitting at her desk. I have seen this garden many many times and each visit is new for me as gardens change and weather patterns are different. As they discover more of Vita and Harold’s original designs, they are changing the gardens to reflect those designs.

‘The more one gardens, the more one learns; And the more one learns, the more one realizes how little one knows.’ Vita Sackville-West

Further reading…there are many many more books… ‘Vita and Harold: The Letters of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson by Vita Sackville-West, Harold Nicolson, Nigel Nicolson (Editor)

Saturday 26th May - Day of Leisure

Your day to sleep in but I don’t think so…there is just so much to do. If nothing else just get out and walk. I will have lots of ideas for you in my final tour notes. This is also the evening that I suggest you book a show or theatre as on our tour days we cannot rely on being back to the hotel in time for anything planned in the evenings… We just never know what the traffic will be like.

Sunday 27th May - The Manor House, Upton Grey and West Green House with Afternoon Tea

The garden ‘that was’ at Upton Grey was indeed a very special gift when Rosamund Wallinger discovered it over 32 years ago…and from then on she has made it her life’s goal to recreate the garden that Gertrude Jekyll had designed in 1908 for a house belonging to Charles Holme, a leading figure in the Arts and Crafts movement. This is the most authentic Gertrude Jekyll restoration and we are in for a treat. She has written two books on it as well for further history. For those who have visited Munstead Wood, many of the plants here were supplied to Upton Grey. Gertrude Jekyll, 1843-1932, was probably the most respected gardener of her time and her influence on the art of gardening is evident throughout the world today. She designed about 400 gardens (three of which were for clients in the United States) but, because so few survive and only a handful are accurately restored, it is by her books and articles that she is best remembered. She taught the world the full craft and art of gardening. She appreciated the beauty of both natural and formal styles and explained the importance of structure, proportion, colour, scent and texture in gardens of almost any scale. As her obituary stated, to Gertrude Jekyll…is due not only the complete transformation of horticultural design but also that wide diffusion of knowledge and taste that has made us almost a nation of gardeners.

Further reading… Gertrude Jekyll, The Making of a Garden: an Anthology’

‘The lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives.’ Gertrude Jeykll

After this special visit, we are off to West Green House Gardens, a magical garden, created by garden designer and writer Marylyn Abbott. Nestled in a corner of Hampshire is this ravishingly attractive 1720’s manor house (not open) where bust of gods, emperors and dukes and now framed with roses, watch over the gardens. West Green House Gardens demonstrate how creative energy is poured into garden making. It is a garden with a special and distinctive sense of place, made by Marylyn selected as one of the top 20 living garden makers by Stephen Lacey for the Telegraph. He writes “her swash buckling annual potage displays, fountain gardens and torch lit operas reflect her energy and zest. Through her books, she has pumped fresh air and sparkle into the world of period gardening” The garden combines neo-classical style with contemporary design. A grand water staircase provides a focal point to the Nymphaeum Fountain designed by architect Quinlan Terry. The magnificent Walled Garden, faithfully restored to its original lines, is entered through an arbor of wisteria. An allee of apple trees divides its elaborate potager with its berry filled fruit cages, annual flowers and colourful vegetables from its signature perennial borders exuberantly planted in subtle hues of mauve, plum and blue.

We shall enjoy Traditional Afternoon Tea in the flower filled glass house too!

It is by rare good fortune that West Green House has slipped into the hands of this gardener and storyteller.’ Financial Times

Further reading… ‘The Resilient Garden: Planning and Planting for Unpredictable Weather: How to Cope with the Changing Weather’ by Marylyn Abbott

Monday 28th - May Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

It is hard to think of Kew being on this spot for 250 years…but it has and as you stroll through these gardens take time to look up, down and back as well as forward because these trees have had to face some very harsh conditions living here, so close to a huge city. Kew is filled, not only with historic buildings like Kew Palace but iconic glass houses, formal gardens, water features, living plant collections and an arboretum. The Palm House, a Victorian glasshouse is probably the most recognizable building and is an amazing glass house to wander. I well remember seeing the first Wollemi pine planted with a cage around it to protect it from ‘escaping’ and now upwards of 6 meters. 14,000 trees are here to enjoy, some dating back to Sir William Hooker, the first director at Kew. One of my very favourite galleries to visit is the Marianne North Gallery. There are no less than 833 of her botanical paintings displayed in geographical order which she hung here herself after her travels around the world. Mind boggling, what a priceless display. There is a kitchen garden, which was voted the most inspirational vegetable garden in 2016, created for BBC ‘Kew on a Plate’. It was grown on a site formerly used to grow produce for George III. The Princess of Wales Conservatory contains ten different environments with a range of tropical conditions. The Queen’s Garden features plants grown in Britain up to the 17th Century and is home to some of the gardens oldest sculpture. I could go on and on – the Rhododendron Dell, the Rock Garden, the Shirley Sherwood Gallery, another huge collection of botanical art. We will enjoy our time here and when done back to our hotel for leisure….

Tuesday 29th May - Nymans & Gravetye Manor with Farewell Lunch

Nymans is a garden lovers dream, extensive yet intimate and all set around a romantic house and ruins. The dramatic architecture of the house is part Regency and part Pseudo-medieval and now part ruin following a fire in 1947. Romantic ruins, intimate gardens, and internationally recognized plant collections against a backdrop of Wealden woodland – a garden lovers paradise, and all here for your enjoyment. The wall garden is a feast for all your senses. The Messel family lived at Nymans in the spring and summer months so the garden is planted to hold most interest during this time. The little bookshop is chock full of secondhand books that fund vital conservation projects so if you still have room in your suitcase you may want to check it out.

Our last visit on our tour will leave you breathless…Gravetye Manor was built by Richard Infield in 1598 for his bride, Katharine Compton. The Manors most notable owner, William Robinson, was one of the greatest gardeners of all time. He bought it in 1884 and was his home until he died in 1935. Here he realized many of his ideas for the English natural garden, a style admired and copied all over the world now. The variety and charm of the arrangements of trees and shrubs and the layout of the different types of gardens at Gravetye are still his creation and memorial. Even when very old and partly crippled he would go out in his wheelchair and scatter bulbs and seeds from a bag on his lap; the garden room he built at the end of the formal garden provided him with a shelter from which he could watch his beloved flowers and trees from a fresh viewpoint. The garden room is now used by the in house floral designer. The gardens at Gravetye Manor are a very special place and can be considered among the most influential in English gardening history. Tom Howard, the Head Gardener, worked with Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter for three years before coming here.

Further reading…. William Robinson: The Wild Gardener by Richard Bisgrove

Gravetye Manor is now in good hands, as part of the Relais and Chateaux brand of exceptional places and we end our time here with a Farewell Lunch enjoying fresh ingredients from the kitchen garden. Smart casual is the dress for this Michelin Star experience.

Wednesday 30th May - Departure day

NOTE:  If you wish Pre Tour and Post Tour Nights:

May 21 2018 

Price per person in twin or double 110 GBP

Price per person in single room 210 GBP

May 30 2018

Price per person in twin or double 110 GBP

Price per person in single room 210 GBP

All above prices are inclusive of VAT and English Breakfast


  • 8 Nights 4 Star Millennium Gloucester Hotel London
  • All Breakfasts
  • Welcome Dinner – 3 course
  • Exquisite Farewell lunch at Gravetye Manor
  • Afternoon Tea at West Green House Gardens
  • Self Guided Visits: Pashley Manor Gardens, Merriments, Upton Grey Manor House Gardens, West Green House Gardens (includes talk prior to Gardens), Great Dixter House & Gardens, Sissinghurst Castle & Gardens, Kew Gardens including Kew Palace, Nymans Gardens, Gravetye Manor including guided tour of Gardens
  • Chelsea Flower Show Ticket – Full day including Show Program
  • Leisure Day in London
  • A/C Coach Transfers during our tour
  • Drivers Tips
  • Incredible Memories!

Chelsea Flower Show & Gardens Tour 2018

May 22nd – 30th , 2018

Land only per person sharing in twin/double 2991 GBP

If you wish your own room please add 950 GBP – Single rooms are very limited

This tour is priced in British Pounds as that is the currency of the country.

NOTE:  Minimum of 10 tour registrants required for this tour to run so do not book your air until you have heard that the tour is confirmed.


Tour itinerary is subject to changes…

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