5th Anniversary
Chelsea Flower Show
Paris and London

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London, Sissinghurst, Kew, Wisley, Great Dixter, Chelsea
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The next morning we were all ready to leave on time, and set off to the station where we were catching our Eurostar for London. This went very smoothly and soon we were ready to board. We had assigned seating so we didn’t have to rush on board. Very nice trains – ours traveled about 300 kms an hour I think and 3 ½ hours later we were at the London Waterloo Station and ready to board our coach. On our way to the hotel we had a sightseeing tour to get ourselves acquainted with this beautiful city. It doesn’t matter how many times I have been there, I am always seeing something I haven’t seen before! Hilda mentioned things on this tour that we hadn’t seen on the others because we were coming in from a different area.


We had a short walking tour which started with the new Millennium Bridge over to the Tate Gallery, then down to the Globe Theatre and around that area..saw where Christopher Wren lived when he was building St. Pauls Cathedral, also stopped at Regent’s Park, a beautiful park full of roses, water and birds. Then we arrive at our hotel, and get settled for our time here before meeting for dinner. We stayed at the Jolly St. Ermins this time which was right across the street from Scotland yard and very close to Westminster Abbey and the BC London Eye.


Our first day here was spent at Sissinghurst Castle Garden. The weather was perfect, actually it had been the whole tour, but it was perfect here and we got in right at 11 which meant we were the first tour group in that morning so had plenty of time to actually walk up the tower where Vita Sackville-West worked and wander around the gardens. So much in bloom, it was really a treat and always something new to see. We had our lunch here as well. I had the most delicious bowl of broccoli and apple soup! I also found out that a couple of our group members got served by Nigel Nicolson in the bookshop!


One of the world’s most celebrated gardens, the creation of Vita Sackville-West and her husband Sir Harold Nicolson. Developed around the surviving parts of an Elizabethan mansion with a central red-brick prospect tower, a series of small, enclosed compartments, intimate in scale and romantic in atmosphere, provide outstanding design and colour through the season.


After this we headed to Christopher Lloyds Great Dixter where the garden is very much different from Sissinghurst and offered a delightful change. We found out here that this garden had been vandalized a couple of months ago. They attacked some topiary in one of the gardens…it will take years to get them back where they were before this.


Great Dixter is a charming 15th century timber-framed manor house set in one of the most beautiful gardens in England. Records for the manor of Dixter go back to the 13th century but the core of the present house was built in 1464 by the Etchingham family.


By the early 20th century the building was in a very poor state of repair but it was saved by Nathaniel Lloyd who bought the property in 1910.


He commissioned Sir Edwin Lutyens to renovate and extend the medieval hall house between 1910 -14. Lloyd and Lutyens found a derelict 'Wealden House' that was about to be pulled down in the nearby village of Benenden. Lloyd bought the building and the timbers were carefully numbered and transported to Great Dixter.


The house forms a superb backdrop to the garden laid out by Lutyens and the Lloyd family. Lutyens' input can be seen in the way the stone steps and paths are laid.


Christopher Lloyd is a renowned garden writer and he uses his flair and plantsman's knowledge to great effect at Great Dixter. He has a bold style and uses strong shapes and colour to give interest throughout the year. The garden is divided into a number of ' outdoor rooms' by huge yew hedges and several red-tiled, timber- framed outbuildings.


This morning we were off to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew…The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is situated on the banks of the River Thames between Richmond and Kew in south-west London. The Gardens comprise 132 hectares, most of which is intensely managed, and includes a very extensive arboretum, water features, herbaceous bedding, some of the world's largest and most famous botanical glasshouses, and many historic buildings. The Gardens are "royal" because for many years before Kew became a national botanical institute kings and other members of the royal family either lived on or owned the land and buildings at the present site. The plural form, "gardens", is correctly used because two separate parts of the royalty owned adjacent plots of land - the Richmond Estate and the Kew Estate - which were combined into a single area around 200 years ago.


And then to…


RHS Wisley… it has the best garden bookshop that I have ever seen, plus a great garden giftshop too!. This garden is so large that you can come back each time and find something new that you haven’t seen before…Wisley is Britain’s best loved garden with 97ha (240 acres) offering a fascinating blend of the beautiful with practical and innovative design and cultivation techniques. For many, it is the beauty and tranquility of the garden that captures the imagination, with its richly planted borders, luscious rose gardens and the exotica of the glasshouses, but a closer look reveals the real value of Wisley. In the trials fields, the finest flowers and vegetables are identified from the countless new introductions. Elsewhere in the garden, cultivation techniques, such as composting or pleaching, are tried and tested, and a series of model gardens answers the needs of a variety of conditions and circumstances.


The next day, what we have all waited for and talked about and planned…Chelsea! This year I was very impressed with the show. The gardens were much more to my liking than in previous years, and I truly enjoyed my time taking photographs and just walking around and looking at everything.


Chelsea is a show that every gardener must see at least once, and I have been privileged to see it a few times now and the quality of the gardens has always impressed me, even if I don’t care for some of them. On our way back from Chelsea, Wendy and I even had a chance to visit Westminster Abbey. Also included here was a visit to the College Garden at Westminster Abbey…a wonderful little garden that started out over 900 years ago as a infirmary garden by the then Senior Monk of the Abbey. It was also a valuable food resource for the Abbey, providing fruit grape vines, and vegetables. Now it offers a tranquil space for the residents and staff of the Abbey and has only been open to the public for a short period of its history.


As our group met that night for our last dinner together they could talk of nothing else but Chelsea and the time they spent together on this tour…I was blessed with a great group, great gardens to visit and the knowledge that I would indeed be putting another Paris Chelsea tour together – so watch for it. It won’t have all these gardens in it, because each tour always brings some old friends back, but it will still offer some of the best that these two great cities have to share.


One thing to note is that I have seen in previous tours some of these gardens and have in the past tour recaps, pictures of them that you can also take a look at so while it may look like I have only a few on this tour, I do have others in previous tours…


  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row