But travelling somewhere specifically to visit a certain garden? It’s becoming increasingly common, especially in these pandemic times, say garden experts.
"People want to enjoy a positive alternative world, a desire that’s strengthened in these times of coronavirus," believes Franz Gruber, managing director of the Tulln garden in Austria.
The numbers speak for themselves: Last year, 1.2 million visitors came to Mainau, the flower island in Lake Constance in Germany, while 715,000 visited painter Claude Monet’s garden in Normandy and some 400,000 people visited the gardens of Italy’s Trauttmansdorff Castle.
And it’s not just the over-50 generation who are interested in garden tourism; younger people have also caught the bug, says Carsten Seick, a tour operator specializing in cultural and garden excursions.
England was and remains the top dog when it comes to gardens you can lose yourself in, so it’s no surprise that these green spaces alone have inspired people to book a trip. Even nobles across Europe were drawn to England in the 18th century to find some inspiration.
For modern tourists who don’t feel like driving on the left, there are bus tours that will cart them around to an array of gardens, with some providing a high-quality professional tour guide for the ride.
The most sophisticated tours will even include tea time "with her ladyship" in the garden of a noble estate on the programme.
"Especially in the private gardens, which otherwise aren’t accessible to the public, we have great conversations with the hosts," says Istabelle Van Groeningen, a garden historian from the Royal Garden Academy in Berlin who leads group tours of England’s green oases.
Gardens that demand to be toured include not only the world-famous ones in southern England, such as Sissinghurst or Great Dixter, but also ones in the north. In May 2021, the so-far largest garden project in Europe is set to open near Manchester – the Royal Horticultural Society’s Bridgewater Garden spans some 62ha.
Germany is also a destination for garden lovers, with many of its historical green spaces being restored after laying fallow for many years following the devastation of World War II.
Eastern Germany has especially bloomed after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Woerlitzer Park in the state of Saxony-Anhalt is a prime example, and doubtless one of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes in the English garden style. Based on its size and variety, visitors can easily spend the entire day strolling around this Arcadian space.
The Fuerst Pueckler Park in the state of Brandenburg, the Herrenhausen Gardens near Hanover and the private landscape park of the Schloss Dennenlohe in southern Germany are also popular stops.
If you’re planning to spring for a garden tour organized by a tour operator, be sure to pay attention to which themes they focus on. Some tours, for example, are purely focused only on the botanical.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that a guide’s personality and experience go a long way in determining how accessible a garden is.
Austrian garden journalist Karl Ploberger, for example, is well-known through his TV shows and publications, and spends about half of the year doing garden tours.
"I've known many gardens for some two decades and can thus also talk about their development," he says.
Regardless of how, with whom or where you take a garden trip, you should first and foremost be fit enough to walk around for one to two hours, as well as stand still for long periods of time. In return, you’ll almost certainly be rewarded with overwhelming splendour. – dpa
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