Enjoying the outdoors has become even more important this year as people emerge from extended periods of home and social confinement. For couples keen to celebrate their wedding anniversaries – but still wary about travelling too far from home – bucolic picnics, excursions and weekend getaways have helped fill the void as they put exotic overseas holiday plans on temporary hold.
Britain’s celebrated flower shows, and the country’s RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) and stately home gardens, also provide a wonderful opportunity to savour the blissful beauty and tranquility of nature in a healthy and safe setting – culminating in a relaxing local pub lunch or afternoon tea.
Here we travel around the UK – guided by VisitBritain – to discover some of the country’s most enchanting floral exhibitions and horticultural attractions, for both celebrating couples and family members keen to join them…
National Flower Show – 21-23 May
The Floral Pavilion is traditionally the centrepiece of the National Flower Show, set in the grounds of Hylands House and Estate in Essex. Exhibitors present their stunning plants and flowers in a competition to be crowned “Best in Show”, while visitors can also enjoy gardening talks and take part in floral workshops (although participation will be limited this year).
Scottish Garden Show – 29-31 May
Scotland’s historic kings were once crowned in the grounds of Perthshire’s Scone Palace, and this year the inaugural Scottish Garden Show will be taking centre-stage during the May Bank holiday. The event is due to include gardening workshops, nursery stalls and garden tours.
Blenheim Palace Flower Show – 25-27 June
Visitors are offered three days of flower displays, food and drink, and inspiration for their home and outdoor gardens at the Blenheim Palace Flower Show. The program includes gardening talks with celebrity guests, explorations of the Pollinators Paradise Show Gardens, and a viewing of the “Best in Show” entries in the Grand Floral Pavilion.
RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival – 11 July
The RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival offers visitors floral displays, workshops and horticultural shopping in one of Britain’s most historic venues, as well as the iconic Festival of Roses, Floral Marquee and “Show, Lifestyle and Global Impact Gardens” collection.
RHS Flower Show Tatton Park – 21-25 July
Highlights of this year’s RHS Flower Show Tatton Park will include gardening inspiration, family activities and useful workshops, plus horticultural inspiration in the Floral Marquee and Plant Village. At Dig-In Live, edibles will be the main focus of the talks theatre, while ideas for small-scale green spaces can be found in the Back to Back gardens and Community Borders.
Chorley Flower Show – 31 July-1 August
The aim of the annual Chorley Flower Show is once again to transform Astley Park into a blaze of colour in the heart of Lancashire. The main attractions include garden designs and exciting species, a photography competition, tips from gardening experts, and an amateur marquee packed full of plants and shrubs.
Shrewsbury Flower Show – 13-14 August
The Shrewsbury Flower Show attracts exhibitors from all over Britain, and offers visitors entertainment, celebrity chefs and flower collections. Gardening fans can admire displays by the UK’s top nurseries in the Quarry Marquee, while the Lecture Marquee will host talks from leading industry experts. Past events have also included a special section for bee-keeping and honey exhibitors.
RHS Wisley Flower Show – 7-12 September
Colourful plants, an expert zone with talks and demonstrations, and opportunities to seek valuable gardening advice… these are just some of the main attractions scheduled for the RHS Wisley Flower Show. The National Dahlia Society Annual Show is also regularly held as part of the Wisley program.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show – 21-26 September
An institution in the horticultural world, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show showcases traditional gardens, cutting-edge design and science-based exhibits. Visitors can meet the world’s leading growers and explore a world of exquisitely designed gardens that highlight the best in autumnal horticulture.
The Royal Horticultural Society’s exclusive collection of gardens is set to be expanded for the first time in 17 years. Due to open on 11 May, RHS Garden Bridgewater in Manchester will join renowned horticultural collections at four other RHS Gardens: Wisley, Hyde Hall, Harlow Carr and Rosemoor.
Visitors can enjoy meticulously curated rose gardens, historic glasshouses and woodland walks through verdant arboretums…
RHS Garden Bridgewater
Described as Europe’s largest gardening project, RHS Garden Bridgewater in Salford (Manchester) is being established in the historic Worsley New Hall estate. It will include a heritage orchard with 37 varieties of apple trees, as well as a Kitchen Garden inspired by the waterways used in Manchester’s Industrial Revolution. The Paradise Garden will be packed with a mix of Mediterranean and Asiatic plants, with a square lily pond at its centre.
RHS Garden Wisley
RHS Garden Wisley in Woking (Surrey) was acquired in 1903 and is the organisation’s flagship garden – home to one of the largest plant collections in the world. Due to open this year is the new and sustainably-built RHS Hilltop-Home of Gardening Science, the UK’s first dedicated horticultural science centre of excellence.
RHS Garden Hyde Hall
A picturesque sanctuary in Chelmsford (Essex), RHS Garden Hyde Hall includes courtyard gardens, colour-themed herbaceous borders and an octagonal glasshouse. Its Rose Garden is arranged into three colour themes across six beds, and wildlife fans can view over 90 types of bird in the Reservoir and Bird Hide.
RHS Garden Harlow Carr
The RHS Garden Harlow Carr horticultural haven in Harrogate (Yorkshire) includes a Sub-Tropicana Garden collection and a scented garden, as well as a rich mix of native and ornamental woodland covering more than half the site. It is also home to Bettys Café Tea Rooms – a sister café to one of Britain’s best-known tea houses.
RHS Garden Rosemoor
Inland from the North Devon coast, in Torrington, RHS Garden Rosemoor offers a diverse horticultural palette including pastel cherry blossom. Its calming Cool Garden has been redesigned with a reflective water feature, and garden lovers can also enjoy the Stumpery – a natural sculpture park.
Britain’s stately homes offer grand tours of fragrant horticultural displays and verdant gardens where visitors can retrace the steps of their aristocratic residents and royal guests.
In South England, they include Cliveden (Buckinghamshire), built by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham for the Countess of Shrewsbury and once home to Prince Frederick of Wales; Sudeley Castle (Cotswolds), frequented by King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Richard III; and Blenheim Palace (Oxfordshire), the birthplace of Winston Churchill and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In East and North Midlands, Burghley House (Lincolnshire) was commissioned in 1555 by William Cecil and is considered one of the most impressive surviving Elizabethan mansions in Britain; and Chatsworth House, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, nestles on the edge of the Derbyshire Peak District.
In Scotland there is Mount Stuart House, which blends Georgian and neo-gothic Victorian architecture on the Isle of Bute; and in Wales, the 17th century Tredegar House (Newport), home of the Morgan family for more than 500 years.
With restrictions on travel both to and throughout the UK still in place, Visit Britain tourism authorities advise visitors to make sure they check individual websites for latest information before planning a trip, as details could be subject to change.
Main photo: Rock Garden at RHS Wisley (supplied by RHS/VisitBritain)
- Chatsworth House (VisitBritain/Jon Attenborough)
- RHS Chelsea Flower Show (VisitBritain/Helen Fickling)
- RHS Garden Bridgewater (RHS/Kestrel Cam)
- RHS Garden Hyde Hall (RHS)
- Sudeley Castle & Gardens (VisitBritain)