The Watch House, February 2018
I have a dream. A dream that sometime in the next five years I will travel around the globe visiting the world’s finest gardens. This page is devoted to planning, perfecting and promoting this special, once-in-a-lifetime event. If you’re interested in my quest I’d appreciate your help, whether by suggesting gardens not to be missed, or recommending the best means to get around in your home country. Later on I may need places to stay and introductions to private garden owners. Potential sponsors and travelling companions are also welcome to get in touch. I’m easy to travel with and open to any suggestions that might help to make my dream a reality.
The Back Story
I am a keen gardener and passionate plantsman; I have been since I was a child. My passion for plants is as constant and unwavering as any love I have ever known. The enjoyment I get from visiting gardens is on a par with my enthusiasm for travel, so bringing those two activities together makes perfect sense.
Having completed twenty-five years service at John Lewis (which is where I work), ‘Partners’, as we are known, are rewarded with six months paid leave. I will qualify for my ‘long leave’ in three years’ time. Of course, a lot could happen between now and then, but I started to daydream about what I might do with that precious time at least two years ago. A generous sabbatical is not the kind of opportunity one wastes; friends and colleagues have spent the time in many different ways, including travelling, moving house, learning a new skill, doing charity work and indulging in a hobby. It’s the first and last activities on that list that appeal to me most.
I have had many ideas about what I might do, but one resurfaces time-after-time: a round the world trip visiting some of the finest gardens on the planet. Big, small, perfect or unkempt, I want to see them all. Once you’ve had an idea like that, it’s hard to make it go away. Such an adventure would be a very special and memorable one; an exciting trip to do whilst still in the prime of my life (I hope!).
Recording the journey through this blog would certainly be part of the plan, both during the trip and for many months and years afterwards. But what I look forward to most is the prospect of long, unhurried garden visits and meeting the exceptional people who created them. I might even follow in Monty Don’s footsteps and write a book about my adventures.
Whether I visit 8, 80 or 180 gardens the trip will require meticulous planning and a not insignificant budget, especially if I am to reach some of the more obscure gardens on my list. And if I’m going to do this, it needs to be done safely and in reasonable comfort. I’ll also need to think about how I keep my own garden growing whilst I’m away. This trip, and a few other ideas I am working on for the future, go under the name ‘Project Dahlia’.
Having launched Project Dahlia in a post earlier this month I already have some recommendations from readers and followers and I thank them for their generosity. I am confident I won’t be capable of whittling the list down to as few as 80 gardens, as Monty Don did for his BBC series which began to air over 10 years ago. Monty did not undertake his entire circumnavigation in one go, breaking it down into several smaller journeys. This is also a consideration for me. I would miss my own garden, friends, family and creature comforts too much to be away for six or eight months in one stretch. Very possibly I will visit some of the gardens in the UK and Europe on separate trips either side of the my six month break. Let’s see. Planning it will be half the fun!
Here’s my list of gardens so far. It’s a work in progress so may be full of glaring omissions. Please help me to correct them by leaving your recommendations in a comment below. Thank you. TFG.
- Tresco, Isles of Scilly
- Alnwick Castle
- Inverewe, Scotland
- Powerscourt, County Wicklow
- Serre de la Madone, Menton
- Le Jardin de la Louve, Bonnieaux (recommended with thanks by Tipsy-dipsy)
- Villa Lante
- Garden of Ninfa (recommended with thanks by The Compulsive Gardener)
- La Mortola (Giardini Botanici Hanbury), Genoa
- La Mortella Gardens, Forio d’Ischia
- Chanticleer Garden, Wayne, Pennsylvania (recommended with thanks by Jennifer Lennon Petritz)
- Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
- Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island (recommended with thanks by Kathleen Bizjak)
- Kirstenbosch (recommended with thanks by Clare Hogan)
- Mayfield Garden, New South Wales (recommended by Jane, janesmudgeegarden)
- The Garden Vineyard, 174 Graydens Road, Moorooduc 3933 (recommended with thanks by Deryn Thorpe www.derynthorpe.com.au)
- The Garden of St Erth; Heronswood Garden and Cloudehill, Victoria (all recommended with thanks by Chrissy Gordon)
- Lambley Nursery and Gardens, Ascot, Victoria (recommended with thanks by Sandra)