Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5

We began our last day of this glorious tour visiting two epic stops that will necessitate me dividing this days tour into two posts. The first half was at the Chelsea Physic Garden and later that day, the Chelsea Flower Show, which you can imagine is a monster post on its own. Chelsea Physic Garden

Chelsea Physic Garden was founded in 1673, as the Apothecaries’ Garden, with the purpose of training apprentices in the identification and use of medicinal plants. The location was chosen due to its proximity to the River Thames. This allowed the Apothecaries to moor their barge, collect plants in the surrounding areas and take advantage of the river’s warm air currents, which contribute to the Garden’s unique microclimate. River access also allowed plants arriving from around the World to be introduced to the British Isles via the Garden. Its international reputation was established early on as a result of the global seed exchange scheme, known as Index Seminum, which it initiated in the 1700’s and continues to this day.
Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5
You can imagine our groups collective “Ooohs and aaaaaahs” when we came upon this sign outside the garden. We were all giddy with excitement on our last and most glorious day of the tour.
Chelsea Physic Garden
Our intrepid tour guide Carolyn Mullet, who is an amazing designer in her own right made sure we all felt truly spoiled on this trip and today was no exception!
Though we were all bundled up in May, it was classic London gray weather. Nothing was going to stop us from enjoying this amazing day. We had a fabulous lunch in the Physic Garden before heading out either for formal tours or independent exploration of this historic location.
I’m SUCH a foodie, I just had to show you our dessert! decadent chocolate cake with creme fraiche! A most excellent send off to the extravaganza that lay ahead of us. 🙂
This artistic garden is all about health and medicinals. I took particular note of the artistry in how they displayed and used all manner of plants here. I love the twig bundles arranged on this path that will feature a bounty of ‘Lord Nelson’ sweet peas.
Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5
There were an enormous number of details to take in during this short time we had to explore in this extraordinary city garden.
Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5
Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5
One of my favorite spots in this garden demonstrated the context of where we were standing so beautifully; right smack in a busy and dense neighborhood in London only blocks from the River Thames with both row houses and high rises all around us. And yet here we are in a garden that is hundreds of years old and still going strong.

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5
Take note of this garden art and the medical symbology here, you will see it again in an amazing garden at the show!

Whatever the snake and stick mean, the rod should not be confused with another snake & stick combo: the caduceus, featuring two snakes, a stick and wings, that’s often used as a symbol of medicine in the U.S. The staff is said to have been that of Hermes, the messenger of the Greek gods.

Historically, serpents and snakes represent fertility or a creative life force. As snakes shed their skin through sloughing, they are symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing. The ouroboros is a symbol of eternity and continual renewal of life.


I was beyond shocked to see this incredible Echium not just existing, but blooming in May in cool, damp London! When they said micro-climate they weren’t kidding!

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5

Ther must have been some significance to this bust I’m sure, but the placement was unique, down low in the geranium!

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5

Intimate, shady paths wound through parts of this garden that featured shade plants and a fernery right behind me.

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5

“Rooms” in the garden were intended to feature groups of plants for varied uses in medicine, health, and wellness.

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5

Handsomely handcrafted waddle fences of different heights, styles, and materials confined various groupings of interests and plantings within the garden for study.

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5
In a garden that has a very specific focus and intent, design with floral focus in mind was mostly understated. But, then you look at and appreciate them, even more, when you see them stand up and say “Take my picture!”

Our time was VERY limited, so we had to scoot through this garden in time enough to go stand in line for our check-in time at the Chelsea Flower Show. SQUEEEEEEE!

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5

We walked just a few short blocks from the Chelsea Physic Garden to our staging spot for the Chelsea Flower Show, but what a view on our walk along the river. The photo makes it look SO peaceful when in fact it was nutty bananas with traffic and humans.

Something THIS show does that is unusual is that when you get your tickets to the show, you are assigned an entry time. So, you get in the queue and wait your turn for entry. Our time was later in the day as the light was fading and this photographer was panicking. 🙂

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5
But, as you can now see, we made it in! Now you just have to stay tuned for the final chapter that covers this incredible one of a kind show!!!

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 3


Spring at the Pettifers garden in Oxfordshire owned and designed by Gina Price is a privilege to behold. Upon arriving, you have no idea the delightful spectacle that awaits you through the beautiful gate.



The front of Gina Price’s home gives only a minimal taste of what you’re about to see. Our tour group came in through the larger gates on the entry drive. 


This fantastic color was only mildly foretelling of the visual treat we were in for during this lovely visit.


Wouldn’t you LOVE for this to be your garage? I could have photographed just THIS for half the day, there were SO many fantastic details to take in and it was so neat and tidy!


Then you turn and take in the incredible old country home before you. Since 1984 Gina Price has been gardening here after her inspiration from learning about the “New Perennial Movement” that emphasized featuring grasses within the mixed border. Her interest in focusing on perennials rather than the tradition of roses and shrubs became the theme of the garden.


Keeping certain larger formally clipped, traditional shrubs for the effect of defining spaces served this garden very well!


I could not take my eyes off of the two urns placed on top of the pedestals filled with succulents in cracks and crevices. The blending of two seemingly distant trends in the garden of traditional, old world and the new ways of using practical sedum for color, texture and low maintenance beauty were magical!


The deep borders displayed voluptuous colors in both flowers and foliage and were incredibly well designed. Combining both old world planting style with 21st century ideas came together expertly.


Drifts of spring perennials and bulbs worked together in harmony. I would have loved to be able to see this garden in fall too!


Renowned for the formal parterre garden of clipped boxwood and yew, it also had a quite graceful, casual flair as well.


Far from the house, this portion of the garden featured more demure color. This clematis must really be a sight in summer!



Seating both intended for socializing, view gazing or solitary contemplation marked spots all over the property.


I love the artistic nature and placement of these smooth wooden chairs and the unusual shapes that reminded me of oxen yoke.


A broader shot that shows the lower part of the garden away from the house and the beautiful rolling hills and glowing rape seed growing in the distance make for an iconic view.


So many plants to photograph, so little time! 





Happy gardeners! 


Terrific backdrop for garden loving couples! 

Gina Price on the far right generously toured all of us through her exquisite landscape answering all of our questions before serving all of us proper tea and crisps.



Pettifers also enjoys having a very talented garden assistant on site who had a wonderfully encyclopedic memory for plants and the history behind the garden too. It was a pleasure chatting with her!




It was our good fortune to be visiting this garden in spring to catch it at the beginning of the growing season all fresh and lovely. What a garden!

Want your very own taste of the English countryside in spring? Click HERE for more information on the spring tours that are about to happen for 2017 and how to secure your own spot. GO-CLICK-NOW! 🙂 

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt.2


The entry drive across the “moat” in front of the castle.

Broughton Castle is a moated and fortified manor house near Banbury in North Oxfordshire. Set in parkland and built of the rich local Hornton ironstone, it was selected by Simon Jenkins as one of only twenty to be awarded five stars in his book England’s Thousand Best Houses.

The core of the house was built in 1306 and the gatehouse in the early fifteenth century, but most of what you see today dates from the 1550’s. It was a centre of opposition to Charles I and was besieged and damaged after the Battle of Edgehill in 1642.

Broughton Castle is home to the 21st Lord and Lady Saye & Sele, whose family name is Fiennes. The ownership of the Castle has remained in the same family since 1447.
(Courtesy of

af5bf619f6640f561035a3b9f027f91fIf the name Fiennes rings a bell, you are correct. Yes, THOSE Fiennes. Ralph Fiennes, born Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes is an English actor. A noted Shakespeare interpreter, he first achieved success onstage at the Royal National Theatre. You may know him from his movies The English Patient, Schindler’s List and Harry Potter just to name a few. Ralph’s brother Joseph Fiennes Alberic Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes is an English film and stage actor known for his portrayals of William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love, for which he was nominated for numerous awards.

The history of this home is fascinating and touring this cavernous space was wonderful taste of another era. When we visited with CarexTours in spring, the gardens were just waking up for the season, so learning about the home itself was a wonderful way to spend our day and tied everything together for us, antiquity and horticulture.

Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016

The private family church is the first thing to greet you before you get to the gate house. This church dates all the way back to the estates beginnings somewhere between it’s original beginnings in the 1300-1400’s. For the age of the building, it is in incredible condition both inside and out and provided rich information with a cemetery full of the family headstones as well as incredible architecture.

Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016

Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016

Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016

Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016

Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016

Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016Crossing the moat at the gate house was meant to be intimidating, but our fun group was not going to give in! Carolyn Mullet, one of our tour experts stopped all of her ducklings for a group photo in this huge passage way.Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016

Can you imagine a day when these giant intricate doors would have been closed more than open?
Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016

Back in the glory days of this castle, you best never forget who is in charge here as you pass through the entry at the gate house.
Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016
As you pass through the gate house into the gravel court entry, there is a barn/car park/cafe building where we were served a fabulous lunch and had way TOO much fun playing with and photographing this incredibly well maintained wisteria.
Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016
Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016The view toward the castle from our lunch spot inside was magical.
The beauty herself- Broughton Castle!
After lunch we had to wait a bit for our interior tour so we walked off some of lunch and took in more of the exterior details.
A gorgeous front door to be sure, yet so small relative to the size of this place!
I bet you don’t see these in YOUR neighborhood!
Once inside, we were free to roam the incredible great room.
It was COLD inside the castle!!
The ceiling details throughout the entire castle were incredible!!
The fluted wood paneling on the walls in the dining room were exquisite!
Every window well in the house had lovely displays of all kinds. The view to the garden as we headed upstairs was a treat!
The upstairs hallway was a warm and bright treat after coming up a cold, dark stairwell.
In the Master bedroom, there was a peek-a-boo window that looked down into the mini-private chapel below.
In one of the ladies chambers, an epic relief over the fireplace. Who needs more art……..?
And then you look up at that ceiling!
The wallpaper in the bedroom extended into what would have been the “dressing room”. It was all hand painted and the close up detail was incredible!
We climbed all the way to the VERY top of the castle to a once secret room that was used for planning strategy for war and all manner of intrigue.
Which also means being THAT far up above it all, we also got the chance to climb out onto a hidden rooftop to take in the amazing views!
From a garden tourist perspective, the undisputed crown jewel on this property is of course this epic walled knot garden as seen from above.
Back downstairs and into a room FULL of history. This was a fantastic space that was used as a detailed encyclopedia holding the family history.
Maybe it’s because I’m so short, but I just couldn’t keep my camera off of the incredible ceilings in every space!
Imagine how regal you feel coming through THIS entryway into the less formal yet no less intricate and elegant living room.
Those DETAILS are unbelievable!
A welcoming and cozy room for such a grand castle!
Woodworking artisans had some serious job security working in this home for a long time!
Out into the garden! Though still emerging for spring, you could see how incredible this garden will be in summer.
Peek-a-boo view into the walled garden.
Garden close-ups and researching plants with our phones all over the expansive landscape were a common theme.
Happy CarexTour attendees!
GIANT moss basket filled with honeysuckle getting ready to bloom!
Beautiful Centaurea beginning to bloom for spring!
And rugosa roses just peeking out too!
This feminine little flower was emerging up through the barberry, I’m not quite sure what it was though. It looked resembled Lily of the Valley, but didn’t have the classic foliage to go with it. If you recognize it, leave a comment and I’ll add the plant ID to this one.
The blue tones of Monkshood are shooting up toward the sky as the temperatures warm up.
The lichen on the low border walls is SO decorative!
And back out into the English countryside to visit another garden on our tour for part three. Stay tuned, we heading to the elegant Pettifers!!

Check out CarexTours here for more information on upcoming trips to gardens like this!

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt.1


Broughton Grange, Carex Tours 2016

Carolyn Mullet is a top-level landscape designer based in Maryland and I was the BLESSED photographer she invited along to document her tour through England earlier this year via her tour company Carex Garden Tours. This blog is one in a series that will take YOU along with us on a visual tour of what we saw in the gardens and a glimpse into the fun that was had by the group along the way. So join me and our fun group for visits to some of the world’s top British gardens as well as the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show!

Our first stop on the tour was Broughton Grange Gardens  where we were all SO excited to get going we could hardly wait for that big old gate to open!




Once we were through the gate it was like falling down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. We were all ready for adventure and did we ever get it! Though it was a cool and mildly damp morning as you would expect the english countryside to be, not one of us intrepid garden enthusiasts would be deterred.


Immediately in the garden, there was a lovely tea and biscuit ready and waiting for us while we learned about this wonderfully complicated garden and all of its many facets that we were about to explore!
Here is an excerpt from Broughton Grange that describes a bit about the gardens:

Prior to purchase by the present owner in 1992, Broughton Grange was owned for 200 years by the Morrell family. The gardens are beautifully set in 350 acres of parkland, farmland and open meadow, with planting that owes its origins to the Victorian era. In the early 20th century and under the ownership of Lady Ottoline and Philip Morrell, figures such as Bertrand Russell and Lytton Strachey were entertained on the estate. Although not ultimately fond of Broughton, Lady Ottoline wrote to Russell “I think the country looks very charming, very secluded; the trees and air and stillness are so delightful”. Broughton Grange now represents one of the most significant private contemporary gardens in Britain.
The gardens’ development accelerated in 2001, when leading landscape designer Tom Stuart-Smith was commissioned to transform a six acre south facing field into a walled garden. This impressive new garden, walled on two sides only, features three individually themed terraces and has been designed in strong relation to the surrounding rural landscape. Since the late 1990s, other parts of the gardens have been beautifully developed and from 2003 onwards, a significant arboretum has been planted. Further development of the arboretum will remain an ongoing project over the coming years. The tree collection at Broughton includes a wide range of interesting species and cultivars, covering an area of approximately 80 acres.
Over the past decade, the gardens have received a large amount of media attention and have opened for visitors since 2004 under the National Gardens Scheme (NGS). Overall, this diverse and interesting horticultural collection demonstrates all the potential for being a landscape of much significance in the future.


The gardens greet you immediately with a small but wonderful little jewel of a nursery that begs you to examine all of those wonderful plants you may not get to see back home!


Emerging hosta meet you as you pass through the first gate into the upper part of the formal walled garden. This peek gives you an idea of what’s ahead.


Foliage on these espaliered trees tells you that we are here just as spring is really springing and its beginning to warm up in this handsome landscape.


I find it very important to make a point of always looking back and see what lay behind you in the garden as you meander. It’s often quite as revealing as what lay further along the garden walk!


Glowing hillsides of rape seed are a flowing blanket of sunshine in the distance on this gray day. In the foreground, the structured and angular water feature is made for exploring the garden. Walkways and steps are in just the perfect spots to invite you to puddle jump across for another view of the garden.



The large water feature houses hungry koi. Across from the spectacular pond, there is a stand of espaliered trees. This time in a full circle, enveloping you as you stand at the wall that leads out to another section of the garden. 20160517-cs_img_0202

The rill viewed from down low with a garden that is full of deceptively casual perennials may seem scattered about in haphazard fashion, but are skillfully snuggled up on both sides.


The rill spills down into the lower portion of the garden. If you follow the flow back up, this shot takes you to the greenhouse still full with plants waiting for their turn in the sunshine.


Looking across the waterway from a bugs eye view gives you a great idea of what it felt like to pass through the walled garden via this crown of trees. 

One of the features that this garden is well-known for is this delicate, undulating boxwood hedge. The very last of the tulips bloom triumphantly within the random pattern of sheared boxwood. As we look down the path and through the tall hedge that borders the young arboretum filled with hundreds of incredible trees, I’m confident that it’s going to be quite the incredible sight for generations to come when those trees are large enough to have a presence.


Impeccably pruned shrubs anchor the garden in a way that only a proper English garden can demonstrate. In the distance, you can see the larger shrubs lovingly pruned to perfection, another one of this gardens treasures.


Spring veggies were literally being planted the day we visited. And we all loved those classy metal plant supports, hard to capture for me though! 🙂


Can you envision how long these peony/poppy supports have been in use? These are going to be monster sized blooms on the oriental poppy’s, no wonder they need support!


The sun came out long enough for our tour mate from Italy to put on sunglasses while she sketched and took notes of this meticulously kept garden. Oh happy day! 🙂 


THIS is where you know that serious plantsman, horticulturists and the like have been lovingly designing and refining a garden for years. When perennials, shrubs, trees, edibles and annuals all appear to mingle together effortlessly, yet it takes years and years of skill and effort to make it look SO easy. This is the sure sign.


When I am giving my clients Personal Garden Coaching advice, one thing we talk about frequently is that adding a bench or seating in an area that no one will ever sit on is wasted effort and money. This bench IS getting used! The elegant piece is placed to view the garden from many angles and this shot gives you a very small peek to the garden and young arboretum in the distance.


This beech tunnel must be a cool and calming place to hide on hot summer days!


Garden art was integral to this garden in MANY forms!!!


The owners of Broughton Grange built this fanciful tree house for their grandchildren.


Well placed statuary gave the gardens a sense of “place” as well as providing focal points for the eye to rest in such an expansive space.


Emerging spring perennials graced the traditional double borders nearest the house.


This particular statue was fabulous coming and going! 🙂


The formal garden just below the house featured beautiful blue obelisks that draw your eye up and out of the garden to the field beyond effortlessly.


Wrapping up our tour brought us around to the back side of the house and up toward the side of the garden leading us on up to our bus for the next stop. Stay tuned….we visit Broughton Castle next!

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