New Year is the time when we think about booking our holidays - and for the green-fingered, that might include a garden visit or even a garden-themed break.
Some tour operators, including Saga, have introduced new special interest holidays into their 2017 product range.
“Over the past couple of years, we have really seen a surge in demand for our horticultural programme,” says Saga’s special interest holiday creator Tremaine Moore.
“For garden lovers, I think the attraction is the mix of visiting outstanding gardens combined with the opportunity to see the local wild flora, especially when it comes to the trips overseas.”
Among Saga’s new range is a tour in September to the Western Cape in South Africa, including wild flora visits and entrance to some of the country’s most famous gardens. It also has three new UK holidays in summer, taking in some prestigious gardens including RHS Wisley, Sheffield Botanical Gardens and Renishaw (www.saga.co.uk)
New destination itineraries for RHS Garden Holidays include Marrakech and Flowers of the Atlas, visiting some of the exciting new gardens in Morocco, including that of Tom Stuart-Smith; Oregon: In the Footsteps of David Douglas holiday, following the route of the famous Scots botanist; and Burle Marx Gardens of Rio & Brazil’s Natural Wonders which includes exclusive visits to some of the private gardens designed by the celebrated Brazilian landscape architect.
The society is also launching a holiday taking in the new RHS Chatsworth Flower Show, plus breaks featuring private gardens of East Anglia and private gardens of Guernsey (020 3735 1855, rhsgardenholidays.com).
But if you just want to do your own thing, here are some of the best gardens around the world to explore at your leisure:
l Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Cape Town (www.sanbi.org)
Now part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, these stunning gardens, only 13km from Cape Town, provide a marvellous showcase for South Africa’s indigenous flora, with more than 7,000 plant species, including the king protea (South Africa’s national flower), fynbos, agapanthus and a rich collections of bulbs, alpines and ferns.
Best time to visit: If you want to see proteas in full bloom, go in South Africa’s winter - June, July and August. To see the fynbos at its best and the most plants in flower, go from the end of winter, spring or early summer (Aug-Nov)
l Powerscourt Gardens, Enniskerry, County Wicklow, Ireland (powerscourt.com)
The gardens and grand Palladian villa at Powerscourt, south of Dublin, were designed in the 18th century and punctuate 47 acres of formal walled gardens and shaded ponds. The grounds, waterfalls, parks, garden pavilions, and fine tree-lined arbors were suggested by the Italian Renaissance and the great estates and gardens of France and Germany. Cascading terraces and formal landscapes are planned with carefully designed walks that are framed by the gentle beauty of the Wicklow Mountains.
Best time to visit: April to August
l Villa d’Este, Tivoli, Italy (www.villadestetivoli.info)
This hugely ornate and awe-inspiring Italian Renaissance garden is awash with theatrical fountains and magnificent statues and is listed as one of Italy’s major historical/artistic sites. It all began when a Renaissance cardinal decided to turn a dilapidated Benedictine monastery into a beautiful villa, embellished with gardens awash with fountains, including the Fontana del Bicchierone, where water spills from a large shell-shaped basin, and The Avenue of the Hundred Fountains, which features animal heads, lilies, a small boat and basins which all spurt water.
Best time to visit: In summer, when escaping the heat from Rome, visitors should enjoy the cool combination of garden shade and cold running water