Category Archives: Garden travel and tours

Huphry Repton, the Schlosspark Klein-Glienicke and landscape architecture


The garden court at Schlosspark Klein-Glienicke has a distinctly Reptonian character

The garden court at Schlosspark Klein-Glienicke has a distinctly Reptonian character

Humphry Repton’s influenced landscape and garden design outside as well as inside the UK. I see his books as England’s most important contribution to the theory of garden design and landscape architecture. They were lavishly produced, opulently published and sought after by collectors. Foreign travel was enormously hard in his lifetime, not least because of the Napoleonic wars, and many people found out about the English style of making gardens from books. Among them was Peter Joseph Lenné.

The Klein-Glienicke garden has a domain of art near the house, a Brownian park and distant views of lakes and forests

The Klein-Glienicke garden has a domain of art near the house, a Brownian park and distant views of lakes and forests

The Schlosspark Klein-Glienicke in Potsdam Berlin was designed by Lenné with help from Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau.  The latter invited Humphry’s son,  John Adey Repton, to Potsdam. Though remembered as an architect, and not known to have helped with the Glienicke design, John was familiar with his father’s theories.  The Glienicke layout shows clear evidence of Repton’s Landscape Style.

The Lion Fountain

The Lion Fountain

Glienicke was planned with a Beautiful area near the house and a transition to a Picturesque park (in the Serpentine Style) and a Sublime background (the Potsdam lakes and forests).

After their republication by John Claudius London, Humphry Repton’s works had a wide influence on the English-speaking world and were a starting point for Frederick Law Olmsted’s practice and the development of landscape architecture as an organised profession. Repton also influenced UK town and country planning with the principles that:

  • cities should be compact
  • agricultural land should be protected from urban sprawl
  • national parks and natural parks should be protected from development

The Wallenstein Garden was made by one of Europe’s greatest military commanders

The Wallenstein Garden

The Wallenstein Garden

The garden is beautiful and secluded. But the Wallenstein Garden in the Czech Republic was made by  a cold, egotistical and autocratic man. In his plays about Albrecht von Wallenstein, Friedrich Schiller wrote that

  • Life is earnest, art is gay.
  • Posterity weaves no garlands for imitators.

The design style of the garden is somewhere between Early and High Baroque on our Garden History Style Chart.


Stourhead is a great English landscape garden

Stourhead Landscape Garden has a good claim to being ‘England’s greatest landscape garden’. Though changed, as all gardens must change, it retains much of its eighteenth century character. Tour operators are right to make it a priority in English garden tours.

Henry Hoare’s aim was to recreate the landscape of antiquity. Not having too clear an idea of what it looked like, he turned to the great  landscape painters of Italy, including Claude Lorrain and Nicholas Poussin.

In the Great Gardens postcard, below and at the start of the video, the plan of Stourhead is on the left and the garden design style diagram it represents is on the right. The style chart shows this style in its historic position. Stourhead owes much to Augustan ideas.

Great English Garden postcard of Stourhead, showing the garden plan and the garden design style

Great English Garden postcard of Stourhead, showing the garden plan and the garden design style

The Promenade Plantee predates the Highline

The Promenade Plantee is older than the Highline and is spatially more varied

The Promenade Plantee is older than the Highline and is spatially more varied

I wonder why the Highline in New York City has become much more famous than its older predecessor, the Promenade Plantee in Paris. I don’t think it’s a consequence of the design, the location or the scenic quality.  Could the explanation be an application of triumphal American marketing to the Highline?  Or does the Highline have more oomph? Paris is fast becoming a cycling city and the Promenade offers a great ride.

See also: Garden Tours in France

Not too late for a garden tour to the Italian lakes

Villa Balbianello on Lake Como in Italy

Villa Balbianello on Lake Como in Italy

Still desperate for a garden tour in 2017? I recommend the Italian Lakes. Villa Del Balbianello is on a wooded peninsula projecting into Lake Como. It was built in 1787, on the site of a Fransiscan monastery, by Cardinal Angelo Durini. Steps lead from the landing stage into a terraced garden with a beautiful loggia. It was renovated by the American General Butler Amos and given to the Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano (FAI) in 1988. This guidebook to the gardens of the Italian Lakes is also recommended.

Steven Desmond Gardens of the Italian Lakes – book review by Tom Turner

gardens Italian lakes

Marianne Majerus’ photographs of the gardens of the Italian lakes are delightful

The Italian Lakes are a fantastic place for gardens, comparable with Kashmir. They have great scenery, wonderful light, a terrific climate and extremely wealthy residents who have been building luxurious villas and gardens since Roman times. Though only a small proportion of the total, many villas and gardens are open for visits. Even better, you can travel to them by public ferries, which is so much better than driving long distances on exhausting roads. The book describes 17 gardens.
Of its type, this is a very good book. Readable, well-illustrated and and informative. If you are wondering about a visit to the gardens of the Italian lakes, this is the book to buy. The last chapter has maps and details of garden opening times ‘at the time of writing’. Garden owners do tend to be conservative about opening times but, in case they change, you can find links to the the garden websites below.
But what type of book is this? More than anything, it puts me in mind of a set of articles which might have been written for a glossy magazine. Steven Desmond, the author, ‘is a gardener’ who leads garden tours and ‘advises on the conservation of historic gardens and writes for Country Life.’
He is good on general chit-chat and sets the gardens in the context of the personalities and historical contexts in which the gardens were formed. The plants and planting are very well handled, picking out notable examples but keeping horticulture in balance with other considerations.
The things I miss in the book are garden plans and an art-historical account of the styles represented in the gardens. The terms Renaissance, Mannerist, Baroque, Romantic etc are used but without any information either about their characteristics or about how they apply to gardens (see our Style Guide for further information on design styles and please contact us if you offer tours of the gardens of the Italian lakes to add to our Garden Tours section on Italy.

Gardens of the Italian Lakes by Steven Desmond was published by Frances Lincoln in May 2016



1 . ISOLA BELLA Open from late March to late October, daily 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
2. ISOLA MADRE The garden is open from late March to late October, daily 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
3. VILLA TARANTO The garden is open from late March to the end of October, daily 8.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.; during October, the garden closes at 4 p.m.
5. VILLA DELLA PORTA Bozzolo The garden is open from March to November, from Wednesday to Sunday 10 am to 6 pm
6. VILLA CICOGNA MAZZONI The garden is open for guided visits on Sundays and public holidays from April to October, 9.30 a.m. to 12 noon, and 2.30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
7. VILLA PALLAVICINO The garden is open from mid-March to the end of October, daily 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the last entry at 5 p.m.
8. ALPINIA The garden is open from mid-April to mid-October, daily 9.30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
9. BOTANIC GARDEN OF THE BRISSAGO ISLANDS The garden is open from late March to late October, daily 9am to 6pm.


10. VILLA MELZI The garden is open from late March to the end of October, daily 9.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.
11. VILLA CARLOTTA The garden is open from early April to mid-October, daily 9 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. (the ticket office closes at 6 p.m)
12. VILLA DEL BALBIANELLO The garden is open from mid-March to mid-November, daily except Mondays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with last entry at 5.15 p.m.
13. VILLA SOMMI PICENARDI The garden is open by prior arrangement
14. VILLA SERBELLONI Tours are available from mid-March to the end of October, daily except Mondays, at 11 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. I POI-points-ofinterest/villa-serbelloni-garden
15. VILLA CIPRESSI Access to the hotel garden by ticket from reception:
16. VILLA MONASTERO The garden is open from March to the end of October, daily 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
17. VILLA D’ESTE The garden can be visited by arrangement with the hotel:

Most of the gardens are beside the lakes and easily accessible by ferry

Most of the gardens are beside the lakes and easily accessible by ferry

Cotswold Garden Tour of Hidcote, Highgrove and private gardens

Chipping Campden garden tour

Chipping Campden is a ‘garden town’ in the Cotswolds

Chipping Campden is a small market town in the Cotswolds, described as ‘the most beautiful village street now left on the island’ (G.M. Trevelyan English social history, 1944). The Cotswolds is an area of gently rolling hills famous for its sleepy villages, fine gardens and concentrated ‘Englishness’. The June tour from Cotswold Walks starts with 3 days visiting its private gardens. They are open (for charity) only for a week in June. After that the guests move to another Cotswold town (Barnsley, Bibury or Cirencester) for visits to other gardens, including:

Hidcote Manor  was designed and created by an American, Major Lawrence Johnston and examplifies the Arts and Crafts style of garden design with well-designed  garden rooms and linking spaces.

Rockcliffe garden was designed by its owner, Emma Keswick and her taste shines through the the design.

Temple Guiting Manor garden was designed by a well-known designer at the Chelsea Flower Show, Jinny Blom

Barnsley House Garden was owned and designed by Rosemary Verey

Highgrove is the country home of HRH Prince of Wales. He has had a remarkable success as owner, patron, designer and part-time gardener.

Asthall Manor garden is owned and designed by Julian and Isabel Bannerman, who also help Prince Charles with the design of Highgrove.

Chelsea Flower Show, Sissinghurst, Wisley and Tatton Park Garden Tour

England is rightly famed as ‘the garden country’ and it would be a pity, surely, to visit England without seeing some of its gardens. So we recommend a 3-day classic gardens tour which includes visits to Chelsea, Sissinghurst Castle Garden, the RHS Wisley Garden and Tatton Park.

Chelsea Flower Show garden tour

Chelsea Flower Show Garden Tour

Chelsea Flower Show Garden Tour

The three main reasons for visiting the Chelsea Flower Show:

  • to see the show of flowers in the great tent
  • to see the show gardens which surround the great tent
  • garden-related shopping

The show is international. Flowers, products and garden designers come from around the world. So do the visitors. The demand for tickets is high and unless you buy a ticket long in advance of the show, or try your luck with ticket touts, there is little chance of getting in.

Sissinghurst Castle Garden Tour

Sissinghurst Garden Tour

Sissinghurst Garden Tour

Sissinghurst Castle Garden is, quite simply, the most famous garden in England. This is partly on account of its high design quality and partly because of the fame of its creators: Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson.

Wisley RHS Garden Tour

RHS Wisley Garden Tour

RHS Wisley Garden Tour

RHS Wisley is the home garden Royal Horticultural Society. It has a fantastic collection of flowering plants in every category: herbaceous plants, Alpine plants, flowering shrubs, trees – everything.

Tatton Park Garden Tour

Tatton Park Garden Tour

Tatton Park Garden Tour

Tatton Park Garden is set in a vast park designed by Lancelot Capability Brown. The garden has a Red Book by Humphry Repton and was largely designed by Joseph Paxton (who also designed the Crystal Palace in London) and was planned to give views of the Brown lake and deer park.

Bring the royal barge, Gloriana, to Greenwich

Gloriana royal barge

Bringing Gloriana to Greenwich is a great idea

As explained on the video about Greenwich Park, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were rowed from Whitehall Palace to Greenwich Palace in a royal barge. So keeping Gloriana in Greenwich is a really great idea. The Gloriana is a 94-foot-long (29 m) royal barge which was privately commissioned as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II. The project to build Gloriana was initiated by Lord Sterling, who liked the idea of a waterborne tribute to the Queen for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The Greenwich Park video has a short clip of the Gloriana passing some suburban houses. She would look much better traveling between Whitehall and Greenwich – preferably with wealthy tourists paying a fortune for each trip. It costs £2,800 for a ceremony in the London Eye. How about £10,000 for a couple of hours on Gloriana? I would see it as a contribution to London’s urban design.

Is Greenwich Park London’s most interesting Royal Park?

I think the answer is ‘yes’ – and it should certainly be included in London garden tours. For a start, it is the oldest of London’s Royal Parks. Greenwich has associations with the period in British history most loved by the BBC and English schools. Only the 1930s and ’40s rival the Tudors.
Greenwich was enclosed by Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, who also built what became the Royal Palace of Placentia. Henry VIII was born here. So was his daughter, Elizabeth I. The design and the design history are also of great interest. Greenwich Park began as a late-medieval Hunting Park with an Early Renaissance garden. It was then influenced by the Baroque Style in the seventeenth century by the Serpentine style in the eighteenth century and by the Gardenesque Style in the nineteenth century. The green laser beam is a Post-Abstract twenty-first century addition – and a great idea. The designers who influenced the park include Inigo Jones, André Le Nôtre, John Evelyn Christopher Wren, Lancelot Brown and John Claudius Loudon.

Persian garden tour April and May 2014 Iran

iran_persia_garden_toursPersian Gardens have a 2500 years history. They overcome environmental constraints and manifest the cultures and beliefs of people living in an often-harsh climate. In collaboration with the Iranian Society of Landscape Professionals (ISLAP) offer a specialized tour and workshop called “Taste Paradise”. This is a unique opportunity for Landscape professionals, architects, botanists and Landscape historians to exchange information with Iranian specialist experts while visiting Persian Gardens. After our very first successful international tour and workshop “Taste Paradise I” in May 2013, The Cultural Landscape Association (CLA) is planning to offer another journeys (Taste Paradise II and III) for experts and professionals all around the globe, to visit and enjoy the cultural beauty of Persian Gardens. You can find More Information here:
The dates are:
Taste Paradise II: April 12-18, 2014
Taste Paradise III: May 03- 09, 2014
Further information on Garden Tours in Iran and on Iranian Gardens:

London Sightseeing – a cruise on a River Thames Boat

How do Londoners and tourists regard the river Thames? This video was taken on a London City Cruise and you can hear the waterman’s commentary. I guess he loves the river but, like  Joseph Conrad, sees it as being as much a place of darkness as a place of light – while also being a river of  greatness, cruelty and folly, a place where kings are cruel and greedy, where most architects are fools and where the people  remain cheerful, cynical and long-suffering. My view is that the river and its banks need enlightened planners, brilliant architects and imaginative landscape architects. That, and some money, could put London high in lists of the world’s top waterfront cities. The Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority (GLA) put their weight behind the 2012 Olympic Bid. They should now accept the challenge of getting near the top of these lists:

Great Waterfronts of the World
17 International Cities With Wonderful Waterfronts
World’s Top Waterfront Cities
Top 10 waterfront cities in the world

I do not know whether Joseph Conrad belonged to The Company of Watermen and Lightermen but he had many years experience as a seaman on the high seas, on the River Thames and in the West India Docks. I’m sure he would like to have London on these lists. He loved London, loved the Thames and lived in Tachbrook St, London SW1V 2NG. wins 2013 Award for Best Garden Tourism Website

We were delighted to receive the 2013 Website of the Year Award. It was one of the Canadian and International Awards handed out during the Garden Tourism Conference in Toronto, Canada. The Garden Tourism Awards are presented to organizations and individuals who have “distinguished themselves in the development and promotion of the garden experience as a tourism attraction. Recipients travelled from across North America and as far away as Japan, France, Portugal, Italy, and Australia”.
“It is an honor to be part of the international community that has established an awards program to recognize the invaluable contribution the world’s outstanding garden experiences make, not only in terms of environmentally friendly and sustainable tourism, but also in terms of the equally important intangible benefits that nature brings to the soul,” said Alexander Reford, Chair of the Canadian Garden Tourism Council as he handed out the Awards. Michel Gauthier, Conference Chair, closed the event by saying, “According to Richard Benfield, authorof ‘Garden Tourism’, more people visit gardens annually in the US than visit Disneyland and Disneyworld combined, and more than visit Las Vegas in any given year. Given those impressive statistics, we’re certainly on the right track as we recognize the country and the world’s finest garden experiences in this vibrant, thriving and rapidly growing segment of the international tourism market.” The inaugural Garden Tourism Awards were presented at the 2011 Garden Tourism Conference held in Toronto. To view past winners, visit: and click on the ‘media’ tab. In the spirit of highlighting Canada and the world’s most dynamic garden experiences and GardenTourism’s limitless potential, the Canadian Garden Tourism Council, in consultation with a Canadian and international jury network, proudly announce the 2013 recipients of the Garden Tourism Awards.

Garden tourism: 'Is London the World's Gardening Capital?'

I am a Londoner – and with understandable bias regard London as the capital city of world gardens, garden design and gardening. As argued in the above video, the reasons for this are both geographical and historical. Britain was emerging from the Pleistocene when horticultural techniques were devised (about 12,000 years ago) and they did not reach Britain until c3,800 BC. The art of making pleasure gardens came to London with the Romans, ended when they left and resumed when the Normans invaded England in 1066. Since then, there has been a steady advance in the popularity of gardening. Long may it continue! Britain is always likely to have a hard time competing with the Mediterranean countries for beach holidays – but it has very considerable opportunities for developing garden tourism. We were delighted to hear of the 2013 Garden Tourism Conference to be held in Toronto, Canada, in March – and have entered the Website in hopes of receiving an award in the Garden Tourism Website category. Further information on the London Gardens Walk – and free routemaps.

Shalimar Bagh Kashmir: historic garden conservation

As a generalisation, the condition of historic gardens in most countries is getting better. They enjoy more expert attention, more visitors and more resources. Shalimar Bagh in Kashmir is an exception. When I saw it in 2006, it did not seem to be in quite as good condition as when Susan Jellicoe (black and white photo above) photographed it c1970. And when I saw it again in 2012 (colour photo, above) it seemed in even worse condition. Oddly, there were also far more visitors than in 2006. Does anyone know what the problem is? Lack of money? Lack of will? A concern for the bugs which enjoy rotting timber? A lack of concern for India’s Islamic heritage?

Make it extraordinary

What makes the setting of a town extraordinary? What makes a development extraordinary? What makes a garden extraordinary?

Is it the subtlety of colour? Is it the unexpected? Strong formal qualities? A sense of fun? Or a location to die for?

Or the delight of the whimsical? Or recognition of the familiar?

Just what is the X-factor that makes a design extraordinary?

Impressive gardens: revisiting the Golden Age in America

‘The Golden Age of American Gardens’ begins “In the 1880s America’s millionaires were looking for new ways to display their new wealth, and the acquisition of a grand house with an equally grand garden became their passion.”

It is said that the style of architecture and gardens, evidenced in Lila Vanderbilt Webb’s 1886 model agricultural farm Shelburne Farm (among others) “was a mix of eclecticism and the latest advances in artistic and cultural developments as promoted in popular English style books and periodicals of the time.” The tubbed bay trees on the terraces overlooking Lake Champlain, as a consequence, were said to have been climatically challenged!

The Golden Age ended with the Jazz Age in which a distinctly American sensibility in gardens and lifestyle emerged. European influences still dominated design ideas, but new approaches were gradually emerging as is shown in the Chartes Cathedral Window Garden (photograph by Saxon Holt shown above), one of three walled gardens on the estate.

Filoli, the home of shipping heiress Lurline Roth, whose daughter debuted to jazz strains in 1939 at the property, maintains a strong jazz tradition.

Perhaps she danced to the classic‘I wish I could shimmy like my sister Kate’, said to be a charleston/belly dance fusion, and which inspired The Beatles to release a song of the same name in 1962?

Monty Don on the best garden in the world: Ninfa?

Monty Don, in a recent TV series on the gardens of Italy, remarked that his friends know he has visited a lot of gardens and often ask him ‘What is the best garden in the world?’. So, while visiting Ninfa, he told us: ‘This is it’. I too have visited a lot of gardens and, though I could not name a ‘best garden’ have ventured a list of The World’s Top Ten Gardens. My list does not include Ninfa. Nor have I been there, but I would like Monty to be questioned or psychoanalysed to discover the reasons for his choice. My theory is that Monty Don is more interested in plants and planting than art and design. I like him as a presenter but despair of his garden history and regret his being such a gusher. Critics should be critical and, to be fair, he did visit Isola Bella to say ‘it’s kitch but I love it’.

Image courtesy sunshinecity

John Ruskin: picturesque tourism, poverty, love, life and sex

John Ruskin was one of the most brilliant writers of the nineteenth century. We all tread in his picturesque footsteps when exploring foreign cities and taking street photographs. But take care. Ruskin wrote that “Yesterday, I came on a poor little child lying flat on the pavement in Bologna – sleeping like a corpse – possibly from too litte food. I pulled up immediately – not in pity, but in delight at the folds of its poor little ragged chemise over the thin bosom – and gave the mother money – not in charity, but to keep the flies off it while I made a sketch. I don’t see how this it to be avoided, but it is very hardening.” Or was he a hard man? The beautiful Effie Gray (right) thought him oppressive. Her marriage to Ruskin was never consumated because, it is said, he knew of female beauty only from marble statues and was horrified to discover that real girls had pubic hair. Effie divorced Ruskin and had 8 children by his friend, the Pre-Raphaelite painter, Sir John Everett Millais.

Above image of India courtesy Dey Alexander. Below drawing, by Ruskin, of Piazza Santa Maria del Pianto, Rome.

How green is my neighbourhood?

One of the unfortuneate consequences of the fight against urban sprawl, which has been largely taken up in the name of Jane Jacobs, is the loss of green space and the urban forests of many communities. They are disappearing in the manner environmentalists call ‘death by a thousand cuts’, that is (sometimes) slowly and incrementally.

Sherwood Forest is one of the old, upscale, districts of Detroit, ‘the city of Neighbourhoods’;

“Developers thought that the area should resemble an English village; thus, they selected appropriate English names and curved and winding streets. You will not find a rectangular street pattern here or in old English villages. There are about 435 homes, most of them built before the Depression terminated housing construction in the city. Many of them are Georgian Colonials or English Tudor homes in keeping with the English theme. Some of the homes are newer, having been constructed after building resumed in 1947. They are large, even by the standards of early 21st-century architecture since they average about 3,600 square feet with four to six bedrooms.”

In the adjacent suburb of Palmer Woods is the Dorothy Turkel House by Frank Lloyd Wright, which undoubtably also relies on its leafy surrounds for its ambience.

British biologist Professor Jeff Sayer in his lecture at James Cook University asked the apt conservation question, ‘Conserving the forests for whom?’