After a long winter, spring has finally arrived and flowers are blossoming in the park near our New York offices. We’re excited to see the change of season, but as travel specialists we’re also aware that hitting the road lets you enjoy fabulous flora all year round.
Some of Academic Arrangements Abroad’s programs have featured events such as the Chelsea Flower Show, and during journeys our travelers often stay at hotels with amazing gardens, such as La Mamounia in Morocco, the Oberoi Udaivilas in India and the Merrion Hotel in Ireland.
Here are a few of the world’s best hotels for garden lovers:
Built by James Barry for the Duke of Sutherland, this great Thames-side mansion is known for its stunning gardens. Owned, managed and maintained by the National Trust, the grounds include 376 acres of formal gardens and woodlands. You can also get lost in a maze, which opened in 2011. Our upcoming “Noble Dukes & Victorian Masterpieces” program features an optional Clivenden Postlude.
This luxurious hotel has a park, which it describes as “more than a green oasis in the heart of the city.” It includes seasonal flowers, fruit trees and hundred-year-old olive trees. There’s also an organic vegetable garden where the hotel’s chefs harvest herbs, tomatoes, turnips, lettuce, radishes, rhubarb and “lesser-known plants.”
This five-star hotel has two landscaped period gardens, which were designed by Irish landscape artist Jim Reynolds. The smaller one, “Lady Mornington’s Garden,” links The Main House to the Garden Wing, where many guest rooms have garden views. Both of the gardens “re-create the feel of an 18th-century garden with box hedges, water features, pathways, statuary and obelisks.” During our 2013 “Houses of the Irish Aristocracy” program, travelers will stay at this historic hotel.
Located on the shores of Lake Pichola, the Oberoi Udaivilas is surrounded by contemporary terraced gardens. In the April 2010 issue of Garden Design , Emily Young wrote, “Landscape architect Bill Bensley of Bensley Design Studios in Thailand researched traditional Mewari gardens to give visitors the royal treatment from the moment they arrive and are greeted by two stone elephants and pink-blooming Bauhinia trees.” You can escape the winter chill and stay at the Oberoi Udaivilas during our 2014 Rajasthan program.
Hailed by Condé Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure as one of the best hotels in the world, the opulent Villa d’Este overlooks Lake Como. The resort is also known for its gardens, which attract admirers from around the globe. Landmarks in the garden include a 500-year-old plane tree. A recent addition is a Chef’s Garden, where fresh vegetables, berries and herbs are grown.
What are some of your favorite gardens at hotels around the world?
At Academic Arrangements Abroad one of our favorite trips each winter is “Gardens of the Caribbean.” During this coming year’s sojourn aboard the sailing yacht Sea Cloud II, travelers – accompanied by horticulturist Patrick Bowe –visit some of the islands’ top gardens. Tortola’s J.R. O’Neal Botanic garden includes an array of indigenous and exotic tropical plants. On Sint Eustatius, garden buffs will have the opportunity to join an excursion to the Miriam C. Schmidt Botanical Garden, a haven for the island’s rich biodiversity. And on Nevis, they will discover the five-acre botanic garden.
On other programs with Academic Arrangements Abroad, travelers also stroll through spectacular outdoor spaces. These include Holland’s magnificent Keukenhof Gardens, where over a million flowering bulbs provide a vast carpet of color. In Korea, visitors to Changdeokgung Palace will explore the grounds including Biwon, the palace’s secret garden. A journey through North India includes visits to Humayun’s Tomb, a prototype of Indian garden tombs, and the famed Lodi Gardens in Delhi.
We asked staff members to share recommendations for gardens around the globe. Here are their suggestions.
Ute Keyes, Manager, Operations and Development, says one of her favorite gardens is in Schwetzingen Palace in Germany, which she visited frequently when she was a student in Heidelberg. Surrounding the palace are both a symmetrically designed French baroque garden and an English landscape garden.
“It’s not too big and not too small—just the right size for strolling on a Sunday afternoon,” says Ute, who adds that the best time to see Schwetzingen is in May, June and July, when everything is in bloom.
Director of Operations Erin Sorensen favors the Scilly gardens in Tresco in the United Kingdom. “They are beautiful and surprising, as they feature tropical plants in England and are somewhat remote (people take boats or helicopters to reach them),” she says. “The unique weather patterns in that area create the right climate for those plants.”
Tour director Eleni Papachristou feels any springtime garden program with Patrick Bowe is memorable. Eleni explains, “He gets so excited about each and every blossom, and his passion is contagious.”
What are some of your favorite gardens?
By Anastasia Mills Healy
If you have to wonder how anyone might be able to write 388 pages about tulips or why anyone would want to read said tome, then perhaps a trip with a garden focus is not for you.
The distinguished British garden authority Anna Pavord in fact did write a fascinating history of tulips, a bestseller no less, complete with tales of trekking in desolate areas searching for rare species; Turkish sultans who required guests to dress in colors that matched their tulips; and a single bulb selling for the same price as the most expensive house in Amsterdam in the 1630s.
The author of numerous other books on gardening and the gardening correspondent for The Independent, Pavord will be the study leader on an upcoming cruise that focuses on the lush tropical gardens of the Caribbean. Obviously passionate about her subject, Pavord is a riveting lecturer. Even the most unapologetic black thumb will be drawn into her observations about rare orchids and bromeliads, Ixora, Heliconia, and Balisier. You will never look at a Bird of Paradise the same way again.