My Updates

December 2023 🌼

Our tree of travel memories….

You all know that we live in Panama, the home of the Panama Canal…and have been here for 17 years since moving from Canada. Yes, it can have its challenges but every place you live now seems to have them and I think it is what you do with those that define your.. place.. in.. time. We love it here…every day is summer, every day is green with pops of colour from trees, like the Spathodea campanulate or African Tulip tree as shown in the photo, that always sends it bright orange/yellow flowers out for us to enjoy every year at this time…decorating the streets and our riverbank with holiday cheer. We love walking along the Cinta Costera or main road in Panama City that runs along the length of the waterfront all the way to Casco Viejo which is our favourite walk. “Casco Viejo: Where every cobblestone whispers stories of the past and every sunset over the Pacific paints a picture of timeless elegance”


…The Causeway is another place we love to walk….so many small boats in the harbour as well as all the big ships waiting to go through the canal…this area was created when digging out the canal and is filled with walkways, shops, restaurants and many benches to sit and watch those ships sailing past us heading to the canal entrance for their 50 mile trek through.

We love that we don’t have to wear winter clothes and if it does get chilly, a t shirt with short sleeves will do the trick instead of a sleeveless top. Even when it rains, we enjoy it…a warm rain. We love the fact that we have so many fresh fruits and veggies that are grown here as well as incredible coffee. Everything here has a story, a history…..

Panama is only 480 miles long and between 37 and 110 miles wide and yet is amazing in its climate, mountains, hills, jungle, plants, birds and even the oceans on either side of us are unique and different.

Every year I put up our Christmas tree and while doing so, I am reminded of each the places we have been to over our 48 years of being married, but I do have to tell you that I often forget our anniversary – December 27th – as it blends in too nicely with the holidays themselves! Every bear and soldier we have collected has been from a different country on this tree not counting all the ones I left behind in Canada when we moved…those found new homes to be loved. I tidy them up, wipe their eyes off so they can see each other and when done feel a sense of much history and joy as I think of how blessed we are to be able to travel and for me to do what I love…showing others the beauty that is out there.

This year we will be doing a Christmas cruise leaving from our port in Panama for 7 nights. This will be different for us, no Christmas dinner to cook, Caribbean islands all decked out for Christmas, the ship in Christmas finery as well. You can see where we will be going on my FB page Then early January we will be spending Tom’s special birthday in an exqusite hotel in Casco Viejo, the Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo. Have waited years to stay here!

….it’s time to go out and seek those hidden treasures….perhaps a Christmas present to yourself!

I am so very pleased that my first tour in 2024 is to Greece and has enough to go….I can still take a couple more so please take a peek at it…it truly is one of a kind and not to be repeated. Many private gardens on this tour in Corfu, Pelion and Athens and so much more…and did I say amazing food! This photo is of just one of the many wildflowers you will see in Pelion where you will also enjoy a time for some botanical watercolour!

My next tour is to Chelsea in London, England…the Chelsea Flower Show Tour is always filled with the best gardens and one hotel makes this such a nice holiday. you will never forget your visit to Chelsea!

Madeira, Portugal is also a go and again not to be repeated, very special to have just the one hotel in Funchal, a very walkable and beautiful city. Gorgeous weather, wonderful food and yes, so much more…including many tiles with a special visit included to friends of ours who make Funchal their home!

The above three tours are timed so that you can do them one right after the other if you like, saving on flights.

My final tour is to Spain in September 2024. All about gardens and we will see many in Granada, Cordoba, Sevilla, and Barcelona, plus plus plus….

‘To all of you who have been yearning to travel, I’d like to say just one thing….it’s time.

It’s time to go to the edges of the world and see that there is no end to discovery.

It’s time to go out and seek those hidden treasures.

Only then you will find that the most precious things on Earth aren’t things at all…’ unknown

Wishing all of you a Happy New 2024….and I leave you with this…as we say Goodbye to 2023 and welcome 2024…

… take only photos and leave only footprints

My Updates

Pen & Tea - Nov 2023

Without serendipity, there are no surprises…

It is funny how things work in life….26 years ago I had just finished my master gardener program and rewarded myself by booking a tour in London to go to the Chelsea Flower Show and see other English gardens.  I had heard how magnificent it was and a must visit for someone who loved gardens and gardening.  I took the tour and afterwards felt a bit sad – both at how short it was and how little time we actually had in the gardens.  I thought on the plane back to Canada that I would do things differently if I was running a garden tour…so over a year later of endless research and to make a long story very short, my first tour was to the Chelsea Flower Show!

Fast forward to November 2nd, 2023 in Victoria, BC, Canada At the International Garden Tourism Conference, echoing the convention’s theme of ‘Seizing the Moment,’ the winners of the 2023 International Garden Tourism Awards were revealed to discover that I had been awarded the Garden Tourism Person of the Year.

“As we bring the garden and tourism together at this conference, we take great pride in unveiling in the 2023 awardees of the ‘International Garden Tourism Awards’,” says Ibo Gülsen, Chair of the International Garden Tourism Network. “These recipients exemplify true leadership in the world of garden tourism.”

The ‘International Garden Tourism Awards’ are presented to organizations and individuals who have distinguished themselves in the development and promotion of garden experiences as tourism attractions and motivators for travel. The awards are proudly organized by the International Garden Tourism Network with recipients being selected by a jury.”

‘Seizing the Moment’  Serendipity….who knew….

By now, many of you have put your gardens to bed for another year…even though I was sad to see them go, I also  got immense pleasure in knowing that all was done, compost bins full, ‘lost’ tools were found when cleaning up and I could go on to other things over my winters in Alberta.  You know I still remember all of this even though I have not had a garden for the past 18 years after moving.  I remember it all like it was yesterday and still miss my peonies and sweetpeas…that is why I so look forward to going to the Chelsea Flower Show!  GOSH, how many have I been to? 20+ would be an honest guess and every show has been different.   My hotel room would hold my treasures in hotel glasses so I would have them to greet me after each day visiting gardens….I am quite the creature of habit when it comes to Chelsea and love the fact that for the entire time we are there we have the same hotel…unpack just once, hide the suitcase and enjoy!  Then I pop off to Marks and Spencer at the Kensington Street Station and pick up my fresh flowers, my peaches, apricots, strawberries and McVities chocolate covered digestives and head back to my room to make a cup of tea…

If you have not booked this tour yet, please consider it….it is so full of eye candy and variety and pleasure….and almost full!

JUST 2 PLACES LEFT NOW… I will be placing my order for Chelsea tickets very soon.  This tour features my very favourites…of course I have many over the course of taking tour groups to England in the past 24 years, but these ones are special as they will give you a really good low down on how wonderful and unique and creative English gardens are. 

Our hotel is just a few minutes walk from the Kensington High Street Station.  This area is wonderful for walking and shopping and of course there are gardens like Kensington Palace and Gardens, Holland Park with a lovely pond and garden, Kyoto Gardens.  Then you can continue walking through Hyde Park from there…so much to see in this area – Royal Albert Hall, Harrods, Whole Food Market, Victorian architecture – it goes on and on.  Usually after my time at the Chelsea Flower Show I walk back to the hotel going through Sloan Square to see Chelsea in Bloom and just be in the moment….the shops go overboard to adorn their windows and doorways with flowers celebrating Chelsea week.  I will also have all kinds of things for you to visit or do in my tour notes closer to our tour….WE HAVE THE WHOLE DAY AT CHELSEA! 8 am to 8 pm.  We will drop you off so you are there before the crowds start arriving…then after you are done, you can make your way back to the hotel.  This is also the evening to book a show as I do not suggest booking anything on our tour days – you just never know about the traffic.

Committed to harnessing the power of more sustainable gardening techniques, RHS Chelsea 2024 will be created using low-impact materials and processes that reduce by-product waste. Every single garden on display will relocate after the show so that communities across the UK will benefit from a wonderful new communal garden.

Running along Main Avenue, the Show Gardens exemplify the most remarkable horticultural offerings in the world of garden design and landscaping. They are the biggest gardens at the show, so expect to be totally bowled over by the garden designers’ efforts to create dazzling and thought-provoking displays full of memorable details.

The Sanctuary Gardens more closely reflect what we might see at home in our own back gardens, exploring both modern and more traditional garden concepts. The focus here is on the calming and uplifting benefits we can get from our very own private green spaces, so wellbeing themes are central here.

The Balcony and Container Gardens provide much-needed inspiration to renters and urban dwellers, proving you don’t need a big garden to do something bold and beautiful with your outdoor space. These creative and resourceful displays will be sure to spark the imagination of even those with the smallest balconies and terraces. Remember, every plant matters when it comes to supporting our fragile natural ecosystems, particularly in cities.

All About Plants was the first garden category that showcased in the Great Pavilion (joining the growers and nurseries). Here you will find small-scale garden displays that focus entirely on the significance of plants, highlighting the many unique ways in which they positively benefit us. It’s an important reminder of why we must do everything we can to protect the natural world around us.

The Great Pavilion is widely considered to be the crème de la crème of the RHS Chelsea show. Every year, the enormous white tent is packed full of exquisite spring flowers. Get ready to see unforgettable floral displays put together by the world’s most distinguished growers and nurseries. Here you can also find educational exhibits that provide a fascinating insight into the most exciting recent discoveries in horticultural science.

RHS Wisley is our first visit and a joyful and relaxing way to start our tour – we will spend hours there!  Just so very much to see in this RHS garden.  The Azaleas and Rhododendrons should be at their height of bloom and fragrance-of course depending on the British spring, the long beds and little secret gardens are a pleasure to visit and stroll, the long water and secret gardens behind the bridge are gorgeous,  the wisteria will be in bloom.  So much to see…I never get tired of visiting this teaching and pleasure garden.  When you need a break they have a wonderful café that looks out onto the lawns and gardens and the new bookshop is incredible.  Filled with not just books!  You will have the chance to visit this garden on your own so you can set your own pace and enjoy what you would like to see while here….there is much!

Hidcote Manor Garden – run by the National Trust, created by American plant collector Lawrence Johnston in the early 1900s, Hidcote Garden has since achieved worldwide fame. Like Sissinghurst, Hidcote features a series of rooms separated by hedges, and also includes sculptures and water features. Johnston’s intention for Hidcote was to craft “a wild garden in a formal setting.” Arts and Crafts-inspired garden with intricately designed outdoor spaces in the rolling Cotswold hills.  Everyone who has visited has been enthralled with this garden, just a joy to visit….and don’t forget the vistas!  We will enjoy an introductory talk here before enjoying the gardens on your own.

Of course there is a café and plant centre and shop to browse after you have finished your visit.

Kiftsgate Court Gardens – Above all Kiftsgate is a family home and has been since the present owners grandparents, Jack and Heather Muir, bought the property in 1918. At that time there was no garden and neither of them were gardeners. However Lawrence Johnson had started to create the gardens at Hidcote Manor next door, and with his encouragement Heather began planting hedges and laying out the bones of the present garden today. She had a natural colour sense, which is still seen in the borders with pinks and mauves together and yellows and blues in a separate area. In the 1930’s she tackled the very steep bank which faces west and with the help of Italian gardeners terraced this steep hillside to the lower garden some 150 ft below. Her daughter, Diany Binny, took over the garden in the fifties and added many of her own features and plants. She in turn handed the baton on to her daughter in the eighties and since then Johnny and Anne Chambers have lived at Kiftsgate working full time in the garden.

In 2000 the run down tennis court was converted into a water garden, very modern in design with no plants. Simon Allison designed the elegant fountain with stainless steel stems topped with gilded bronze leaves that reflect well in the black water. The garden is planted to reveal something to see at any time of the year.  We will enjoy the gardens on our own. The Kiftsgate book written by Venessa Berridge has won the Garden Media Guild’s Garden Book of the Year 2019.

Sissinghurst Castle Garden – Historic, poetic, iconic: a refuge dedicated to beauty. Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson fell in love with Sissinghurst Castle and created a world-renowned garden.  This garden has captivated many and so have it’s owners.  There has been much written about them and Vita’s office is still there, like she just popped out for a cup of tea or to greet a guest coming to see the gardens.  Vita Sackville-West, the poet and writer, began transforming Sissinghurst Castle in the 1930s with her diplomat and author husband. Harold’s architectural planning of the garden rooms, and the colourful, abundant planting in the gardens by Vita, reflect the romance and intimacy of her poems and writings.

Sissinghurst Castle Garden was the backdrop for a diverse history; from the astonishing time as a prison in the 1700s, to being a home to the women’s land army. It was also a family home to some fascinating people who lived here or came to stay. They have undertaken research to find out more about Vita and Harold’s original design and are taking steps to recapture the vision that they had.  Don’t miss the vast panoramic views from the top of the Tower, the working farm and the 450-acre wider estate.  We will enjoy the gardens on our own.

Like Great Dixter, this garden is a must visit.  I have visited at least 20 times I think over the years and it truly is extraordinary, much like Vita and Harold.  Café and giftshop

Great Dixter House & Gardens – Great Dixter was the home of gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd (1921-2006), who developed it into a hub of ideas and connections that spread out across the world. The gardens have been taken over by the Great Dixter Charitable Trust since 2018 of which Anna Pavord agreed to be its patron. Everyone I think in the gardening world has heard of Fergus Garrett, who mentored under Christopher and developed a deep connection not only with Christopher but with Great Dixter and today his creativity shines brightly throughout the garden.

We will enjoy not only the visit of the gardens but a visit throughout the home where Christopher lived and wrote.  I have visited this garden I think since the first tour I took there in 1999…perhaps 20 times? And to me it has always been the same but always looks different with each visit and by that I mean it gets better with every visit.  Café and giftshop

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew – like Wisley, this is another huge garden of delights…but that is where the similarity ends… Absolutely packed to make your visit totally amazing.  We will visit on our own because over the years I have learned that everyone has different memories that they want to make…and like Wisley we will have hours here to enjoy the glasshouses, gardens, walking through and under the magnificent trees, the Alpine House, the Marianne North Gallery, the Palm House, the Rock Garden, the Rose Garden, the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, the Temperate House, the Waterlily House and so much more…  and the wonderful café and gift shop.  The time here will be priceless.

West Green House and Gardens – for the past number of years I have ended my Chelsea tour with this very special place.  The joy you will find here, just walking through the gardens will relax you and fill you will such contentment.  The delight at enjoying Afternoon Tea here in the glasshouse is the icing on the cake so to speak….and the perfect ending to our tour.

Also to be mentioned is that you will have a Day of Leisure to do what you want to do…whether it visiting museums or galleries or a bit of shopping or book that show or theatre night…this day is yours to enjoy.

Under the listing for the tour at  as you open up each day you will find links to all the gardens so be sure to visit and learn more about this most delightful Spring in England tour.  You will also find the registration form to secure your place on it, pricing and what is included.

Hopefully, I shall see you in London!  Any questions, just email me at

Travel….the best way to be lost and found at the same time…..

Press Release

November 2, 2023

Victoria, BC – At the International Garden Tourism Conference, echoing the convention’s theme of ‘Seizing the Moment,’ the winners of the 2023 International Garden Tourism Awards were revealed. “As we bring the garden and tourism together at this conference, we take great pride in unveiling in the 2023 awardees of the ‘International Garden Tourism Awards’,” says Ibo Gülsen, Chair of the International Garden Tourism Network. “These recipients exemplify true leadership in the world of garden tourism.” The ‘International Garden Tourism Awards’ are presented to organizations and individuals who have distinguished themselves in the development and promotion of garden experiences as tourism attractions and motivators for travel. The awards are proudly organized by the International Garden Tourism Network with
recipients being selected by a jury.

The 2023 International Garden Tourism Award winners are . . .

1. Garden of the Year
The Newt in Somerset, United Kingdom
2. New Garden City of the Year
Sejong City, South Korea
3. Garden Tourism Person of the Year
Donna Dawson, Panama
4. Garden Festival of the Year:
International Garden Festival, Canada
5. Flower Festival of the Year:
Tulip Time, USA
6. Garden Event of the Year
Gardens of Light, Canada

7. Garden Tourism Website of the Year, USA
8. Garden Tourism Tour Operator of the Year
Brightwater Holidays, United Kingdom
9. Garden Tourism Honorable Mention
Caribbean Horizons Tours, Grenada
10. Garden Tourism Lifetime Achievement
Gilles Vincent, Canada
11. Lifetime Achievement
Luc Behar Bannelier, France

“In the spirit of highlighting the world’s most dynamic garden experiences, we are pleased to announce the 2023 recipients of the ‘Gardens of the World Worth Travelling For in 2024’ Awards,” says Ibo Gülsen, Chair of the International Garden Tourism Network. The ‘Gardens of the World Worth Travelling For in 2024’, listed in alphabetical order, are as follows:

1. Bellingrath Gardens, USA
2. Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden, Thailand
3. Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
4. Giverny Monet’s Garden, France
5. Mount Congreve Gardens, Ireland
6. Adelaide Botanic Garden, Australia
7. Le Jardin Secret, Morocco
8. The Butchart Gardens, Canada
9. Trentham Gardens, United Kingdom
10. Vallarta Botanical Garden, Mexico
11. Classical Gardens of Suzhou, China
12. Sigurtà Garden Park (Parco Giardino Sigurtà), Mexico

International Garden Tourism Network

To be the platform for stimulating more visits and business for gardens, horticulture exhibitions and garden and flower festivals across the world, by positioning them as an important part of a destination’s tourism experience offer and appeal.

For more information please contact:
Ibo Gülsen, Chair of IGTN

Michel Gauthier, Executive Director, Canadian Garden Council

My Updates

Pen & Tea - Oct 2023

‘Wear gratitude like a cloak, and it will feed every corner of your life” Rumi

I try in my every day life to practice an attitude of gratitude…now some days I am challenged but mostly I so appreciate where I am in my life…doing what I love…and sharing it with others.  27 years ago coming back from London, England  to Alberta on my very first trip to see the Chelsea Flower Show (as a reward for passing my two year MG program) I had time to think about the tour I had just taken and how I could make it better….in 1999 I was preparing for my very first tour there….and 2024 will be my 25th Anniversary.   I had a dream that I am still experiencing and sharing.  I have seen many guests over the years and some have gone from being a gardener to a garden lover and I know we all cherish this change.

We have been blessed with age and wisdom.   I will continue to do this… travel to places while I can…until I cannot….and I encourage you to do the same while you can.

We had such a wonderful time on my tour to Turkey…did you see all the photos I posted on my FB page?  Hope so.  It was magical.  Tom also joined me on this tour as he knew it was my last tour there and really wanted to go.  We arrived a couple days before the tour started and filled them with a lot of walking in Istanbul and shopping and eating.  Our hotel was five minutes walking distance from a super long shopping street filled with shops and restaurants.   After the tour was over the two of us boarded a cruise ship and set off on a Greece Intensive cruise for ten days.  The photo above is of me in Amorgos, Greece.

My first tour up is Greece in the early part of May, 2024.  Corfu, Pelion and Athens where each and every magical place we visit is unique and full of history.   I have just 3 spaces left on this tour, my last tour here.

Greece is not just a destination, it’s an experience that will stay with you forever…

“Some call Corfu the Garden Isle. Certainly its lush-but-rugged natural beauty makes it garden enough, a magical landscape of centuries old gnarled olives and dark green sentinel cypress trees cloaking hillsides and mountains. In spring the huge silver green canopies of Corfiot olive groves are under lit by drifts of wildflowers such as the luminous purple honesty (Lunaria annua) in stunning combination with the acid green Bupleurum rotundifolium, while the daisy flowers of chamomile, irises, and perfectly formed orchids – to mention just a handful – dance along the edges.  Who hasn’t dreamed about visiting, it is a beautiful garden island waiting for you to discover.”  Landscape Architect/Gardener Jennie Gay

The entire island is a gardener’s paradise. Corfu is the name of both the island and its capital, used through history by the Venetian, French and British rulers, but the Greeks call it Kerkyra pointing back to the island’s ancient Corinthian name, usually transliterated as Corcyra. The duality of Western influences and Greek spirit gives the island its unique qualities. Unlike most of Greece, Corfu never fell to the Ottoman Empire despite two strong attempts to seize it. One of the seven Ionian Islands, it came under the control of Venice in 1386 and, over the next few centuries, the Italian language, culture and Roman Catholic Church were dominant. In 1797, Corfu was taken over by the French following the defeat of the Venetian Republic by Napoleon Bonaparte. Later, in 1814, the Ionian Islands became a British protectorate. Over the next fifty years, many public works were completed, such as the town’s water supply, and fine public buildings were erected in the Classical Revival style. Finally, in 1864, Corfu with the other Ionian Islands was returned to Greece with the accession of King George I.

Since antiquity, from Homer’s “The Odyssey” across the centuries to the Durrell family’s sojourn on the island before World War II, writers, poets, artists and garden designers, travellers, statesmen and members of royalty have all been bewitched by the magical beauty of Corfu with its lush vegetation, wildflowers, and silver olive-groves punctuated by cypresses – a captivation which continues today.

Pelion has always been known as The Garden of the Gods and home of the Centaurs. “If you are a nature lover, Pelion will seduce you. It is filled with breathless views of unspeakable beauty… The Pelion region was, as the legend says, the summer residence of the Olympian Gods as well as the country of the Centaurs. It is a striking, bright green region between Pagasitikos Bay and the Aegean Sea. There the divine wedding between Peleua and Thetis, parents of Achilles, took place. The traditional villages, each with its own history, nestling on the slopes of the mountain are unbelievably enchanting, where the scenery leads into the embrace of the sea, in the deep blue of the Aegean Sea on the eastern side and the silver and gold waters of the Pagasitikos Bay from the West side.

Athens, the capital of Greece, is a heady mix of ancient history and contemporary cool. Athens is also one of the oldest cities in the world, with its documented history spanning uninterruptedly from 3.200 BC until today. That is an astonishing 5.000 + years of history and culture. Nowadays Athens is a modern city offering a wide variety of options from lively hotels, lavish restaurants, Greek and world cuisine and shops featuring the latest fashion to museums, ancient ruins like the finds on the Acropolis hill, neoclassic and modern architecture, cultural venues and contemporary art.

The private gardens you will visit belong to members of the Mediterranean Garden Society.  On this tour you are privy to these exceptional gardens and even will be staying in a hotel in Pelion owned by a member (and my ground handler)…this is where you can enjoy a morning of botanical watercolour if you like or walk slowly into the sweet little village of Lafkos nearby – along the lanes covered in spring wildflowers, or just laze around the pool and be in the moment at the hotel.

While in Corfu you will also meet the writer of ‘Gardens of Corfu’, Rachel Weaving, a very special visit with lunch at the Stockdale Estate and that lunch will be prepared by our guide and her partner…it is again another priceless moment on this tour.  Christina and her partner have been charged with bringing the gardens back to life and on the last tour we were already amazed at the landscaping progress they had made…

There is much I have left out of this newsletter on the tour but some of the highlights are:

  • Visiting Mon Repos House and Gardens in Corfu where the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was born – reputedly on the dining room table
  • Exploring the beautiful Venetian backstreets of UNESCO-listed Corfu Old Town with an expert guide
  • Visits to Vlacherna Monastery – built on a small island and Achilleion Palace – the former summer residence of Empress Elisabeth of Austria
  • Private Garden Visits in Corfu with a picnic lunch – we will fill our day with fun, food, flowers and friends
  • Very special visit to the private Rothschild Estate – lunch at a taverna by the beach – and then visits to more Private Gardens in the afternoon
  • Scenic ride on a ferry from Corfu to Pelion – stop for lunch at Loannina Lake then on to Lafkos
  • Private Garden Visits in Pelion – lunch at Damouchari, film location for Mama Mia
  • Botanical Illustration Water Colour – Wine tasting at Milea Winery, nestled in vineyard as the sun sets
  • Greek Pottery Museum Visit and Private Presentation from Landscape Gardener & Private Garden Visit & Picnic lunch
  • Visit to Ioannis Gryllis Water Lilies and private lunch on our way to Athens
  • Visit to Sparoza, home of the Mediterranean Garden Society
  • Visit to Vorres Museum & Gardens
  • Very special visit to the Private Gardens of Liberto Dario – he has two and both are very different
  • Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre and Gardens
  • Acropolis and Parthenon visits
  • Time for some shopping in Plaka, the best area in Athens for shopping for that memory or gift
  • 4 Nights Elea Beach Hotel Corfu
  • 4 Nights Lagou Raxi Hotel, Lafkos, Pelion
  • 4 Nights Athens Cypria Hotel – JUST CONFIRMED

Get your registration in soon to secure your spot on this truly magical Greece tour….

“It takes a lifetime to discover Greece, but it only takes an instant to fall in love with her.” Henry Miller


My Updates

Pen & Tea - Aug 2023

And Just Like That….

….It’s almost the end of August and life has a way of happening in spite of what you do… doesn’t it. The last newsletter to you was in April so you can’t say I send too much out, but as I sit here with a nice cup of tea, I cannot believe that was the last travel newsletter I sent out to you….life happens.

Tom and I have been out to the movies over the last few months…’Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One’, ‘Oppenheimer’, ‘Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’, ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’

Waiting for ‘Dune: Part Two’, and ‘Napoleon’

Tom and I have very different likes for movies but I am trying to see them his way….watching lots of series too. I had forgotten just how great ‘Boston Legal’ was and of course watching ‘And Just Like That’, mostly to see how the girls have changed. No denying we all have changed over the years and with that comes more wisdom? maturity? empathy? I hope so….but most of all I have learned with the passing of time that life is indeed short.

It also should mean getting out and enjoying life which we do and not letting a little ache or pain get to you…of course there are things that happen as we get older but for me at least it tells me that I want to get out and travel more before I cannot.

We do our twice daily walks, visit local restaurants for dinners or just a drinks and tapas, walk along the causeway to see all the ships waiting to go through the canal, head to the beach for a bit of relaxation and the latest fun thing for us was a whale watching day excursion…that was amazing. We feel so blessed to be living where we live and I find our green season – the best – as everything is lush and green.

In just a short while I will be heading off to Turkey for my tour and since this is my last tour there Tom will be coming along as he has always wanted to go after seeing my photos and hearing my stories…and the last morning of the tour, when everyone will be heading home or off to another destination, we will board a small cruise ship to visit some of the islands in Greece for 10 days.

Now to me who absolutely loves Turkish food and Greek food, this is a little bit of heaven but this pales in comparison to what we as a tour will see in Turkey and we as a couple will see in Greece.

With every tour that I create, my mind is already there…experiencing the food we will eat, the things we will see, the people we will meet and the memories we will make.  I have been so incredibly fortunate to have been able to share with you so many countries in these 24 years and next year will be 25 years!!

I am reminded of this:

“We are no longer at the age where we can afford to postpone what needs to be done or experienced, It May Look Like An Eternity, But It’s A Short Trip, Enjoy Life And Always Be Kind.

I also invite you to follow me on Facebook if you like as well as Instagram….and of course, if you have friends who you think might like my tours, please pass along to them and they can sign up for this newsletter as well!

There simply is Nothing like the Chelsea Flower Show

Specialist nurseries reveal new plants for the first time; the best designers show off their astonishing creations; fashion brands and manufacturers launch their latest lines at the trade stands. The Great Pavilion alone is roughly 11,775 square metres or 2.90 acres, enough room to park 500 London buses! Creativity and imagination abound making Chelsea a show every gardener should visit at least once!  The Show Gardens are the main event but there are many other gardens to see plus each year they focus on containers, window, courtyard, front entry gardens which are so manageable and filled with inspiration.  There is a lane chock a block full of just the best stands to shop at too…there are cafes and restaurants and even a bandstand area to sit and listen to music.  It’s a full day of wow and I will fill you in on the best way to enjoy it.

PLUS, there are the gardens we visit each day…each one a jewel and each one unique.  I have seen each one of these gardens many, many times and each time I find something new.

RHS Wisley…if we are lucky we should be able to see Piet Oudolf’s new landscape that will transform the Glasshouse Borders as he did 20 years ago. Showcasing over 160 different perennials compared to the current 50.  36,000 perennials will be grown to help increase biodiversity and reduce water need.  Also worth noting will be a new Orchid House.
Sissinghurst Castle is busy restoring Vita’s Writing Room in a battle to preserve a collection of phone numbers handwritten by Vita on the crumbling wall. This should be completed by May 2024.  Probably one of the most important rooms on the property as this was a good part her life….

Great Dixter – latest spring newsletter to read

RBG Kew….now this is amazing!

Kiftsgate – some lovely articles to tempt you further

Hidcote’s astonishing maze of garden ‘rooms’ is just as magical today as when it first opened 75 years ago

West Green House is all about the gardens and yes even opera…but oh…wait until you see the glasshouse where we will enjoy our Afternoon Tea and the shop!!!

Madeira Gardens & Flowers Tours May 2024

Nicknamed ‘The Land of Eternal Spring’ for its subtropical climate, Madeira is blessed with beautiful weather. Madeira has become an important destination for garden and plant lovers from all over the world and has some of the most interesting, thought provoking and captivating gardens I have ever visited.  We will be in just one hotel in its capital, Funchal, which has a natural harbour where, on old trade routes, visiting ships took on supplies often giving plants from their native lands in return. This may explain why this archipelago is such a botanical paradise today….. Our hotel is not far from the main walking street where all kinds of shops and restaurants are located and just a block over is the walk along the waterfront.  This is a magical area in the evenings. Come along with me on this very special tour …

Here you will learn about the flora on Madeira this link

Madeira also has a unique wine history and landscape and for those into wines, presents the opportunity to try them on this beautiful tour.  You can read more about the wines of Madeira here.

Corfu, Pelion & Athens Greece Tour May 2024

Beautiful, beautiful Greece….Glorious Gardens, Mythical & Historical Sites and Delicious Organic Traditional Food…what more could you want…Corfu, the garden isle of the Mediterranean and what gardens we shall visit, what amazing owners we will get the chance to chat with.  Pelion, known as the garden of the Gods and home of the Centaurs.  Pelion will seduce you with nature and you can even capture a bit of that with a watercolour session I am including.  Lastly is Athens, the capital and a truly heady mix of history and contemporary cool which we will discover together.  The capper on all of this will be the variety and tastes you will experience, both with your eyes and with your tastebuds.

…..I have just this week gotten an update on this tour from my ground handler and we can say all is well with our itinerary…which is great news!

Spain – Spectacular Gardens & Gaudi Tour September 2024

It truly is my happy place and it will become yours as well… so full of gardens, history, culture, food, and even shopping on your day of leisure in Barcelona if you so choose.  I know you will find lots of things to do as well.  I think I have done at least 4 or 5 tours here and been to Barcelona on many other occasions and I still delight in walking the streets and discovering….sitting in the local cafes sipping coffee or tasting the many tapas while having a drink in the many bars.. We will see so very much on this tour in Granada, Cordoba, Sevilla and Barcelona that you will be left dreaming about the gardens, the tiles, the sights and the food long after you return home.

We start in Granada and end in Barcelona and what I have usually done is get a return flight out of Barcelona and just take one of the local airlines to Granada.  So easy to do.

As always, if you have any questions, I would be more than happy to answer them…I am always an email away!   I hope you see something here that says to you that ‘yes, I want to go, I have put it off too long and I am coming’….