Well, who would have thought that a tiny line of copy (so tiny, it was tacked onto the end of a blog post like an after-thought), would lead to such a wonderful, heart-warming display of garden love?
It was such a small idea: the seed of an idea, really. To be honest, I didn't think many (any) would respond. Well, who has time to do anything but work now? I barely have time to weed our garden. (Which looks more like the film Grey Gardens every day. Only without Jackie Kennedy's cheques to fund the place.) The idea of flying halfway around the world to wander around the potagers, peonies and garden paths of someone else's seemed like folly.
But gardeners love a bit of folly. And ideas – even seeds of ones – can blossom into magnificent things.
And so I'm pleased – really pleased – to announce that there will indeed be a Garden Tour to England in 2013. Providing I can configure it all. (And soon!)
Scheduled to include the 100th Anniversary of the Chelsea Flower Show (aka 'The Big One'), our 'Flowers, Frocks & Botanical Fantasies Tour' (working title; need more G&Ts to workshop it) is shaping up to be a wonderful celebration of gardens, horticulture, glamour, London, literature (we'll be seeing several writers' gardens), and the gloriousness that is England's countryside in high summer.
We'll be seeing this private garden (above and third image from top), if I can secure us a tour. They only allow groups, apparently. So do email me if you're interested in coming and I'll add your name to The Royal List. (Tip: It's best to see this garden before its owner becomes King of England and it becomes off-limits to happy, chattering little gardeners traipsing all over its herbaceous borders. Which may well be soon.)
We'll also be wandering around this famous Arts and Crafts garden, which has inspired and influenced so many gardeners over the years, including Stella McCartney, who drew on its horticultural style for her own country estate.
We'll pop into this garden, once owned by a lovely gardener who contributed a lot to Highgrove's style, and was also known for her skill with vegetable gardens. (Such as her own, above.)
Some of us may even be lucky enough to stay here, in her house. Others with a limited budget, such as this librarian writing this post, will happily stay at the swanky pub across the road (owned by the same people), and walk across to The Big House for dinner. Oh – and Elizabeth Hurley/Shane Warner live right next door, so if we're lucky, we might be able to say "G'day, how's the garden looking, Warnie? That espalier needs a bit of a clip!" across the top of the box hedges.
And we'll take the tour bus up to this now-famous (some would say infamous, because of its high prices) place, which seems like a farm but is in fact a haute-cultural hideaway of the highest order. Lots of slick farm shops at this place, with lots of hand-made things to buy, including gorgeous gardening stuff, so if you're practising The Art of Frugality, like me, best keep that handbag close.
There will be walks through the English Cotswolds, including the village where Prince Charles proposed to Diana next to a cute old turnstile. (NB I found this supposed image of the Cotswolds on the Net, but I think it may actually be Castle Combe in Wiltshire, another of my favourite places, so don't get your hopes up as we may not go. Unless you all want to trundle down to Wiltshire?)
We'll stay here...
(NB A famous interior designer designed it so it's more than your average coaching inn. Also has a lovely kitchen garden so our vegies will be crisp-fresh.)
(Look at the wicker cloches on the dining table. You can tell they love gardeners.)
And perhaps here too, when we're in London.
(Garden colours. Very pleasing. The bathtubs and showers are also very decadent at this place.)
Or here, if I can organise enough rooms?
I travel on a frugal budget (drummed into me by my frugal mother), so I usually opt for a single room in this hotel. But even these are beautiful. Normally this much pink would scare me (I love pink, but perhaps not dreaming in a cloud of it), but this was heavenly. Just heavenly. These rooms even have French doors leading to a huge terrace overlooking the charming architecture.
Don't worry. If you come on The Tour, I'll give you all these Frugal Contacts.
Some of us may also stay here, depending on budgets.
(Look at the watering cans. All the hotels I've picked have a garden theme, but this is really cute.)
We'll be heading for Chelsea too. It's the 100th year of the iconic flower show, so there will likely be a memorable display of head-turning botanica. Chanel and Karl L won't be there again, sadly (above pic), however fingers and spades crossed that another designer will do a cheeky haute-garden design. Tom Ford, are you listening?
We may even see a celeb or three, carting all their horti-goods to their cars. ("Mr Don, would you like a hand with that?")
And of course around the streets of Chelsea there will be flora galore too, with the Sloane in Bloom competition that coincides with Chelsea. Look at Cartier's window. And French Sole's. There are free guided tours of all these beautiful boutiques and their fine floral displays during Chelsea Week. Don't worry. We'll get you on them. You can thank us with a Cartier ring afterwards.
We'll also have some High Tea (or Bubbly) at this delectable place.
And do some shopping in Soho. (Tip: The fabric stores are fab here.)
And lots more too.
In short, we'll have a wonderful time.
So take those gardening gloves off, pack up your trenchcoats, wellies, walking shoes and cameras, and come with us to England. It will be a gardening tour full of laughter, leaves, light, planting schemes, stories, and a flower or two.
(PS There are lots more gardens than these scheduled on the tour. And great London places too.)
PS I lived in London for many years, and although my former husband and I lived in a teeny studio, (barely bigger than a dead rose petal really), it was still in a perfect position, just around the corner from Sloane Square, which is near where the Chelsea Flower Show is held each year. So I wandered these streets for six years. I can tell you every gorgeous boutique, every glamorous shoe shop, every secret vintage clothing shop (Chanel for a song!), every inspirational homewares store, and every great bar/pub/bistro within 5 miles. Probably 10. And I'll be more than happy to share every address.