Reaching all of these gardens by public transportation is possible in most cases, but rather awkward. The only way to see all of these gardens in a week is with a rented car. However, you'll need to rent a car for only the last 4 days of the tour. The other gardens in and around London can be reached by public transportation. This tour should be considered only from May to August, when English gardens are at their best.
Day 1: Arrival in London
Pay a morning visit to Kensington Gardens. Adjacent to Hyde Park, these gardens are very different. At one time, the gardens were reserved for royal owners such as George III. In 1841 young Queen Victoria opened them to "respectably dressed people -- but no soldiers, sailors, or servants."
The 111-hectare (274-acre) park is filled with hawthorns, weeping willows, maples, ash, swamp white oaks, and red oaks.
The ideal place for lunch is the Orangery, in the Kensington Palace Gardens. This is also an idyllic place for afternoon tea.
Spend the rest of the afternoon on a romp through Regent's Park. With its gardens, lake, and zoo, this is like the estate of an English country gentleman covering 191 hectares (472 acres). The park was once a hunting ground for Henry VIII.
Day 2: Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
On Day 2, the world-famous Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, set on 121 hectares (300 acres), include pavilions, lakes, greenhouses, and flower-bordered walks. Reached by Tube or boat, these former royal pleasure gardens can easily occupy the good part of your day. Originally planted in 1759 by the mother of King George III, Kew once employed Capability Brown, England's most famous landscaper, to shape and enlarge the gardens. Captain Cook sent men off around the world to collect rare specimens. The Palm House, for example, contains every known variety of palm, including the African cycad.
Day 3: Windsor Castle & Hampton Court Palace
Get an early start by taking a 30-minute train ride from London's Waterloo or Paddington Station, which will put you in Windsor, site of Windsor Castle. Visit St. George's Chapel, the highlight of the tour, before wandering the Jubilee Gardens around the castle. In a romantic setting with white rambling roses, among other species, you can wander for at least 30 minutes, taking in the beauty.
Only if you have a car, consider driving to Windsor Great Park, lying 8km (5 miles) from Windsor along A30. This 14-hectare (35-acre) garden is one of the most spectacular in Europe. Allow at least an hour, maybe more, to visit this park.
Return to London and take the train from Waterloo Station to Hampton Court Palace, 21km (31 miles) west of London. The ideal time to visit is the first week of July at the time of the Hampton Court Flower Show held on the palace grounds. Call tel. 020/8781-9500 for more information. Wend your way through the famous maze -- and get lost -- before heading back to London.
Day 4: Hever Castle & Gardens & Sissinghurst Castle Garden
On Day 4, leave London in a rented car, heading for Hever Castle and Gardens, where Henry VIII wooed Anne Boleyn. The most celebrated and beautiful is the much-photographed Italian Garden, filled with statuary and sculpture dating from Roman days to the Renaissance. Other garden highlights include a rose garden and a Tudor herb garden. Allow at least 1 1/2 hours for a visit to the gardens.
After lunch, spend the afternoon visiting Sissinghurst Castle Garden. This is the far point of the day's tour, taking you 85km (53 miles) southeast of London.
They are among the most romantic gardens in England and can be overrun with visitors. Highlights include the White Garden with its white or silver foliage, the Spring Garden that bursts into bloom with enough daffodils to please Wordsworth, and the alluring Wild Garden in the orchard. Return to London for the night.
Day 5: West to Stourhead
In the county of Wiltshire in the West Country, the gardens of Stourhead are the most celebrated example of English landscape gardening in the country. Although a "garden for all seasons," Stourhead is best visited in May and June, when its masses of rhododendrons are at their fullest bloom. Built around a 1721 Palladian villa and set on 40 hectares (100 acres), Stourhead is a wonder to behold. It comes complete with rare trees, miles of flowering shrubs, a beautiful lake, classical temples, and grottoes.
Consider an overnight in Bath.
Day 6: Eden Project & the Lost Gardens of Heligan
From your overnight stopover in Bath, you can drive to the southwest into Cornwall for a look at two of England's most bizarre and mysterious gardens: the Eden Project and Heligan. Visit the Eden Project first, lying at Bodelva, St. Austell, a 48km (30-mile) journey west of the city of Plymouth in Devon. This geodesic dome exhibits the world's major plant systems in microcosm, a former china clay pit boasting more than 70,000 plants.
After lunch in the area, continue the short distance south for a visit to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. This site spreads across 32 hectares (80 acres) near the fishing village of Mevagissey. Once part of a 404-hectare (1,000-acre) Victorian estate, the gardens slumbered for 70 years as they were gradually buried by wild, unchecked overgrowth in Cornwall's subtropical climate.
After a day of fascination, head to St. Mawes or to one of the fishing villages, such as Looe or Polperro, for the night. These villages lie west of Plymouth.
Day 7: Painswick Rococo Garden & Hidcote Manor Garden
Get an early start in the morning and drive northeast to the towns of the Cotswolds.
The enchanting village of Painswick is arguably the most beautiful in England. A rare English garden in that it's a throwback to the 1720 style of flamboyant gardens that flourished then, Painswick Rococo Garden lies .8km (a half-mile) north of Painswick. Today it has been restored to its original glory. After visiting the gardens, lunch in Painswick before continuing northeast to one of the Cotswold's most beautiful towns, Chipping Campden.
Lying 6.5km (4 miles) northeast of Chipping Campden, Hidcote Manor Garden was created in 1907 by Major Lawrence Johnstone, an American horticulturist. Gardeners throughout the world have found inspiration in this remarkable masterpiece of landscaping, with various "parlor rooms" different in texture, scent, shape, and color.
Overnight in Chipping Campden before returning to London.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.