Behind every garden lies a story, and it’s my privilege to be able to unveil these hidden narratives. While you’ll often find me surrounded by a huge pile of landscape books, or knee-deep in a muddy plot somewhere, some of my favourite moments of the year come when I get to lead a garden tour.
It’s a huge pleasure for me to be able to step behind the scenes in some of Britain’s finest old estates, and share my love for their landscapes with small groups of visitors.
Often when I’m guiding people around, I’ll think back to the teams of gardeners who tended to these grand landscapes in the 18th and 19th Centuries.
It’s my role to translate their vision to a new generation of guests, and unpick the layers of detail that are woven into the fabric of a place – whether that’s a bloom of winter honeysuckle over a Cotswold stone arch, or fragrant bursts of sweet peas trailing a kitchen garden wall.
With that in mind, I do hope you’ll join me on some of my upcoming dates this year. It’s a great chance to admire the heritage and history of country homes that are normally tucked away from the public eye. Better still, you can walk away with a trove of ideas for your own garden.
I’ve also listed some design talks and tutorials I’m involved in this year – as further food for thought on your gardening journey:
Historic Planting Design tutorial at The London College of Garden Design
I’m delighted to be asked back for a second year to teach garden design students about historical planting styles – using the Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew as our muse.
Together, we’ll take a rousing gallup through garden history, illustrated by my own extensive picture collection, and drawing inspiration from our world-famous setting.
We’ll be located in the wonderful Orangery, built in 1761 by Sir William Chambers. Pub quiz fact: it was actually too dark to grow oranges here back in the day, but the name stuck and that was that.
26 March, more info here
Artists and Actors Garden Tour at the Broadway Arts Festival
We all know gardens can be a source of creative inspiration – and that’s especially true in the Cotswold village of Broadway.
I’ll be leading a ramble around three private gardens here as part of the Broadway Arts Festival, telling the stories of the artists and garden makers who made Broadway their home in the late 19th Century.
This includes Shakespearean actor Mary Anderson de Navarro, who developed her garden at Court Farm in the 1890s with the help of her friend, garden designer Alfred Parsons RA. We’ll also take a look around the gardens of Russell House, where American artist John Singer Sargent painted his Impressionist masterpiece, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose.
This is a rare opportunity to see inside some beautiful gardens, and get a feel for their artistic past during peak June-time bloom.
12 June, book here
In conversation with Ursula Buchan at the Broadway Arts Festival
Who doesn’t love a deep and meaningful conversation? I’m delighted to join renowned author Ursula Buchan (also the granddaughter of The Thirty-Nine Steps author John Buchan) as we delve into the history of Arts and Crafts Gardens.
This movement was inspired by textile designer William Morris, among others, and gave rise to an exquisite style of formal garden, with pergolas, topiary and bold pops of floral colour.
We’ll consider the Victorian background of these decorative gardens, and what makes them so enduring to this day. Our talk will cover early influencers, along with later designers and the crafts, materials and plants behind Arts and Crafts Gardens – with beautiful images to match.
12 June, book here
Exploring English Nature with Natural Habitat Adventures
With its wildflower commons and gold-tinted valleys, the Cotswolds really is a glorious corner of Britain to explore. Natural Habitat Adventures gets right under the skin of the region with these bespoke eight-day escapes, featuring a series of exclusive, nature-led experiences.
My role here is to lead guided tours at various locations around the Cotswolds, allowing guests an intimate view of some truly spectacular homes and gardens – many of them private.
This adventure is all about unveiling hidden nooks and natural habitats of the English countryside, served with a side helping of luxury.
Those lucky enough to join the tour can expect to be lavished with picnic lunches, private presentations and private access to venues such as Sudeley Castle and Highgrove House and Gardens (the royal estate of the Prince of Wales).
Various dates, find out more here
Living the high life with Violets & Tea Luxury Garden Tours
Speaking of luxury – Violets & Tea do garden tours on a different level to anything you’ve known before. We’re talking afternoon tea in the grounds of a 17th Century estate, or private garden access with Pimm’s on tap.
If you think of gardens as theatre, these are the dress seats: and I’m thrilled to be part of the show. With Violets & Tea, I’ll be taking you backstage in some of the finest English Gardens in the land, sharing my knowledge and some fun stories along the way.
This is a very curated experience, covering anything from special guest speakers to champagne at the Chelsea Flower Show. For me, it’s all about providing rich sensory insights that will fire you up for many months to come.
May and June, various dates, book here
Discovering Arts and Crafts Gardens with Boxwood Garden Tours
The Arts and Crafts movement had a real moment in the Cotswolds in the early 20th Century, as artists and architects flocked to the area, bringing with them new ideas and intriguing craft traditions.
This is a specialty area of mine, so I’m really excited to have been invited to take part in a special tour hosted by gardening magazine Hortus Journal.
I’ll be bringing to life the features and stories of some beautiful Arts and Crafts Gardens in the area, and I’ll also be giving an illustrated lecture before the tour embarks at Rodmarton Manor (itself a stunning example of an Arts and Crafts estate).
15-18 September, find out more here