Themed holidays have been around for a long time, suited to hobbyists whose pastimes have included painting, cooking or indeed gardening.
While garden-themed holidays simply used to involve trips to well-known gardens to admire the scenery and perhaps enjoy a guided tour, today’s offerings are more sophisticated, and if you pick the right holiday, you may have smaller groups, visits to private gardens and even a bit of hands-on experience.
Tailor-made garden cruises featuring talks by TV gardening experts, visits to exotic gardens where guests can sample the locally grown tropical fruits and trips which incorporate some of the major horticultural shows are all available.
Kew-trained horticulturist Sue Macdonald, who founded Boxwood Tours (www.boxwoodtours.net) in 1990, which specialises in quality garden holidays, says that green-fingered travellers are becoming more discerning.
“They want more private visits and want to meet the garden owners or head gardeners. That’s a big draw on a tour. They want to hear about the garden, how they cope with recent weather difficulties and plans for the future. They need someone there who can tell them the key information.”
Some organisations offer workshops for people who want to learn some practical gardening, but they are difficult to incorporate on a garden-themed holiday, Macdonald explains.
“Setting up tours which are more practical is not easy to do because it involves extra insurance if people are using knives or pruning shears or digging.
“Gardens also have to have enough space to bring people in for hands-on gardening experiences, so they might need enough space to take a group of 10 people, for instance, to take cuttings.”
So, what should holidaymakers check when choosing a garden-themed break?
:: Check the inclusions because you may discover that food is not included and excursions can bump up your costs.
:: Take note of single supplements. Many gardeners go on horticulture-themed holidays on their own.
:: Look for unique experiences where you won’t be on a well-worn trail.
:: Try to find out the calibre of your tour escort.