While there doesn’t need to be a special reason to enjoy time in a garden, as we tentatively emerge from lockdown, like a bear out of winter hibernation, let’s celebrate with some garden love whether that’s a few acres, a cherished lawn, or a balcony with potted herbs. Gardens and gardening have long been recognised as beneficial to our wellbeing, and even more so in recent times. Digging your hands into the earth and tending a plant is as natural to human beings as breathing, and exposes our bodies to beneficial bacteria. It could be considered one of Maslow’s physiological hierarchy of needs. So to kick off the summer season here’s a round-up of horticultural tidbits to admire and inspire. Happy gardening!
Key dates 2021
- National Gardening Week (April 27 – 2 May). Details to be announced. Supporters in 2020 included Alan Titchmarsh MBE, Simon Lycett, Nicki Chapman, Arit Anderson, Rachel De Thame, Carol Klein, and Frances Tophill. #NationalGardeningWeek. www.rhs.org.uk
- Garden Day UK (9 May). Invite friends around to enjoy your garden, picnic in a local park, visit a historic garden or share your celebrations virtually with friends and family by video call. Make a flower crown, a buttonhole or floral corsage to wear, post a photo or live stream on social media #GardenDayUK @GardenDayUK. www.gardenday.co.uk
- Harrogate Flower Show (20 – 23 May) www.flowershow.org.uk
- Hampton Court Palace Gardens (6 – 11 July) celebrating summer and including garden designs, celebrity talks, demonstrations and workshops, stunning Flower Marquee and The Festival of Roses, all in a magnificent and unique setting. www.rhs.org.uk
- Buckingham Palace Garden will open to the public from 9 July to 19 September. www.rct.uk
- Chelsea Flower Show 2021 will be held for the first time ever in autumn (21 – 26 September) incorporating the cutting-edge world class garden design, floral displays and shopping that we’ve come to expect from this classic flower show. www.rhs.org.uk
Chelsea Physic Garden
Botanical gardens were preceded by medieval physic gardens where medicinal plants were grown. Chelsea Physic Garden has occupied four acres of land on the edge of the Thames since 1673. The Garden Day UK web site mentions ‘Flower Crown pop-ups’ here but further details are not evident on the Chelsea Physic Garden site. However, they do have an interesting events programme, including Living Medicine: Self-Care Basics with Alex Laird BSc DipHerbMed FCPP, Medical herbalist (Sunday 30 May, £120). www.chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk
The tiny Physic Garden in the small market town of Petersfield in Hampshire is a private garden run by the charitable Hampshire Gardens Trust. The site is one of the original 12th Century ‘burgage’ plots at the rear of number 16 High Street. Open to the public daily it offers a quiet spot to take a coffee and enjoy the outdoors for a spell. Run by volunteers the garden has a simple layout with a knot garden, some espaliers, apple, pear and Medlar trees, a wild garden area and a little arbour. Free entry. www.petersfieldphysicgarden.org.uk
Waddesdon Manor Garden
The Grade I listed house of Waddesdon Manor was built in the Neo-Renaissance style of a French château between 1874 and 1889 for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839–1898). Intended as a weekend residence for entertaining and to house his remarkable collection of arts and antiquities, there were no gardens at that time. The garden and landscape park were therefore added, laid out by the French landscape architect Elie Lainé, and are now listed Grade I on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.
In May, visitors can enjoy the return of Waddesdon’s Artisan Food Market (second Saturday of the month, 8th May, 10am-2pm), and the reopening of exhibition by fashion photographer and image creator Nick Knight: Roses from my Garden (The Stables, exhibition free with grounds admission) which has been affected by the national lockdowns, so grab the opportunity to view Knight’s impressive images while available. Entry, adults £12. waddesdon.org.uk
Ever since the age of seven, having visited the local Horticultural & Allotment Society Annual Show in his home town of Warwick, Simon Lycett has wanted to spend his time amongst flowers and plants. Now over 45 years later, and having worked all his life as a florist, he still finds solace and serenity within his garden.
Simon Lycett is one of the UK’s most sought-after and well-known names in the industry and one of only two cross-palace suppliers for The Historic Royal Palaces. In 2020 Simon participated in the new floral-design reality HBO Max TV show and has just finished filming a second series in Los Angeles with The Society of American Florists.
“Prior to 2020, I would use my garden as a place to relax and unwind after manic 7-day working weeks, creating floral fabulousness around the world for clients. Following the Covid-19 Pandemic, the events industry was hit harder than most and like many others, I have had to make redundant loyal members of Team Lycett who were my Flower Family for over 20 years. I had to watch as debt piled up and I and my Team felt lost, without work, revenue, purpose or validity. And so my garden became my Safe Space, enabling me to immerse myself in nature, bury my hands in the soil and nurture, plant seeds and look to the future.”
For Simon, Garden Day is a unique and special occasion when ‘those of us who love flowers and plants, gardens and growing can share with a wider community just how relaxing and uplifting, exhilarating and enjoyable being amongst greenery really is.’
“We leave the watering cans and trowels to one side and raise a cuppa or glass to ourselves and to one another, to the powerful and potent band of brilliant horticultural heroines and heroes, many of whom are now firm Flower Friends.” Simon Lycett. #GardenDayUK.Tweet
Time spent in the garden has enabled Simon to clear his mind and process the never-ending repercussions of this dreadful and challenging global chapter. He has shared gardening on Instagram with daily Lycett Lives across much of the spring and summer of last year and whilst those who joined Simon some afternoons said it was entertaining and informative, he says ‘its benefits to me were legion – giving me back a sense of purpose and self worth, and on some days simply making me brush my hair, wax my ‘tache and go and present as “Simon”, a spur to make me keep on keeping on, to do what I love doing!’.
Garden Day UK
“I cannot wait to don my Flower Crown again on 9th May and say Hello, virtually and hopefully in person, (whilst socially distanced of course) with some very special folk.” Instagram @SimonLycett www.simonlycett.co.uk
The Newt, Somerset
Explore the history of gardening and the impact of gardens around the world on people and culture, as part of a multi-sensory immersive experience at The Newt in Somerset. The Story of Gardening woodland experience is approached via The Viper a treetop canopy walkway suspended 12 metres above the forest floor.
Picnics are available to pre-order and from 12 April visitors will be able to dine outdoors at the terraced Garden Café. ‘Garden Lates’, a sunset picnic accompanied by live music, will return from June. For day trippers The Great Garden Escape will run from London Paddington to The Newt, in partnership with the Great Western Railway. Access to The Story of Gardening is by prior Garden Membership to comply with social distancing guidelines. Price £30 adults, £10 children (aged 5-15) for unlimited repeat entry for 12 months. The Great Garden Escape £295. thenewtinsomerset.com
Buckingham Palace: A Royal Garden
A new book Buckingham Palace: A Royal Garden by Claire Masset charts a year in Her Majesty’s London garden. Discover the challenges of maintaining the 39-acre oasis located in the very heart of the busy city. Pick up tips from Head Gardener, Mark Lane, in the ‘seasonal activities’ sections and explore the history of this truly special space through anecdotes and art works. This isn’t a gardening manual but rather a gorgeous book to cosy up with on the sofa on a rainy afternoon. I took these photographs on my last visit to Buckingham Palace in 2019. Read my full review and browse some of the stunning new professional photographs by John Campbell at Luxury Lifestyle Magazine.
Experience the garden in springtime, with its meadows carpeted with primroses and bluebells, and flowering camellia, magnolia and azalea shrubs and trees, on weekends in April and May by joining a pre-booked guided tour. (17 April to 16 May 2021, Adults £21.50).
The palace garden will open to visitors from 9 July to 19 September this year, allowing the grounds to be explored through a self-guided tour for the first time. There will also be the chance to picnic on one of the sweeping lawns as part of the visit. Now there’s an opportunity not to be missed! Adults £16.50. Concessions. Booking only in advance. www.rct.org.uk
Staycation Garden Tours
Exclusive Escape to the North York Moors 13th -16th June 2021 (3 nights). Explore some pretty private gardens in the North York Moors National Park, staying at a small country hotel. Gardens visited include those at: Havoc Hall within the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; Georgian Newby Hall, complete with exquisite garden shell house; an Arts & Crafts-style house, owned by the family since it was built at the turn of the 20th century; and more. Sisley Garden Tours promise ‘delightful gardens, great food and welcoming hosts.’ Tour Price: from £2,100 per person (double/twin room share). www.sisley.co.uk
Summer Rosé launch
To finish this week, enjoy an outdoor picnic or just a lazy afternoon with your bubble group with a glass of chilled rosé. The official rosé of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021 is a new vintage Babylonstoren Mourvedre Rosé from the South Africa Cape Winelands. I haven’t had the opportunity yet to try it but the tasting notes promise ‘floral notes of rose petals and creamy flavours of rhubarb’, two of my favourite things. Price £14.90. Available to order direct via Babylonstoren’s sister estate, The Newt shop.thenewtinsomerset.com; at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in September; and RHS Garden Wisley garden centre from launch in May until the end of September 2021.
If you’re in the UK I hope you’re enjoying a little more freedom as lockdown eases but wherever you are in the world, stay safe and well.
Gardens and other public venues are operating Covid-safe visits with timed admissions and tickets pre-bookable online. Please check the individual web sites for full information before you visit.
As always please check the regional and Foreign travel advice web sites for the latest on domestic and international travel guidelines.