Day trips from London for flower lovers
Everything at Mottisfont is quite literally coming up roses. This National Trust property is home to a world-famous walled rose garden that comes to life from June in a heady riot of fragrance and colour. There are thousands of varieties on display, from pre-1900 old-fashioned blooms to delicate Chinese tea roses. Unlike modern species, these roses only bloom once a year, so head there in summer to catch them in the act. Borders of just-as-sweet peonies, geraniums, lilies, phlox and climbing clematis complete the floral fantasia.
Getting here: 2hr drive from London. Or 1hr 51min train from Waterloo to Mottisfont & Dunbridge station via Southampton.
From £15.80 with gift aid. Find out more at nationaltrust.org.uk.
If you’re into baking, you’ll have heard of Mary Berry. And if you’re into plants, you’ll probably recognise the name Beth Chatto OBE. Over the years, Chatto, who passed away in May 2018, transformed this Essex garden from boggy wasteland to horticultural haven. What the garden lacks in size – it’s just seven acres – it makes up for in beauty. In its midst, you’ll find the gravel garden: home to lush floral displays despite the fact that it a) used to be a car park and b) is never watered. It’s the perfect place to find inspiration for a houseplant that you’ll inevitably neglect. And because flowers and cake go together so well, end your visit in the airy tearoom with a slice of something homemade.
Getting here: 1hr 45min drive from London, or the train from London Liverpool Street to Colchester Town (1hr 15 mins). From Colchester Town you can get the number 76 First Bus.
From £4.50-£8.45 depending on season. Find out more at bethchatto.co.uk.
Calling all Kew Gardens lovers; the Wakehurst estate was developed by London’s very own big-name botanic gardens, so it’ll come as no surprise that it’s made our list. Across its expansive 500 acres (compared with Kew’s 300), you’ll find ornamental gardens, a nature reserve, woodlands, a mansion and the Millennium Seed Bank, the world’s biggest wild seed conservation project. Admire flora from both hemispheres: floating waterlilies and bright rhododendrons in the mansion garden, a tangle of fragrant roses in the walled garden and orchids surrounded by grasses and palms in the monocotyledon border. Err, Kew who?
Getting here: 1hr 30min drive from London, or 45min train from London Bridge to Haywards Heath, then 272 bus.
From £12.95. Find out more at kew.org/wakehurst.
Ever pictured yourself wandering through a meadow, scooping wildflowers into your arms? Haven’t we all. Now’s the chance to make that bucolic daydream a reality. This fruit farm specialises in seasonal, organic flowers and opens its gates to pick-your-own visitors every Friday afternoon between 12-4pm, from July to October. If you’ve ever been to a farm to pick your own strawberries, then you’ll know the deal. No need to book, simply grab a PYO container and take your pick of the bunch. They’ll even wrap up your field-fresh flowers so they’ll last the journey home. Dreams do come true.
Getting here: 1hr 30min drive from London, or 1hr 35min train to Marden then 27 bus.
Admission free, £15 for a PYO container. Find out more at bloominggreenflowers.co.uk.
As a botanic destination, the RHS’s flagship garden Wisley has it all. Impressive glasshouse? Check: Wisley’s cathedral-like structure houses temperate to tropical plants. A rose garden? Easy: the romantic Bowes-Lyon Rose Garden is filled with more than 4,000 blooms. You can also tick off a rock garden, exotic garden, walled garden, conifer lawn, bonsai walk, alpine meadow, orchard, Mediterranean terrace, fruit and herb garden, an arboretum and a charming cottage garden blossoming with lilac, roses and lavender. With orchids in April, fuchsias in July and chrysanthemums in November, you’re guaranteed flower power all year round too.
Getting here: 1hr drive from London. Or 27min train from Waterloo to West Byfleet then taxi.
From £15.95 including gift aid. Find out more at rhs.org.uk.
If you find yourself chasing down London’s wisteria-clad townhouses every spring, head east to discover this 360-acre rural idyll. Enter the Hilltop Garden through a pretty pergola cloaked in wisteria and clematis before wandering along the terrace. It’s the perfect escape from busy city life. You can while away a few hours (or the whole day) sitting in the sun, admiring flowers in every colour of the rainbow. Don’t miss the Woodland Garden: its floral credentials include rare species of camellia, rhododendron and magnolia. Lush.
Getting here: 1hr 22min drive from London, or 50min train from Liverpool Street to South Woodham Ferrers via Wickford, then taxi.
From £12.65 including gift aid. Find out more at rhs.org.uk.
Swapping the swarms on a Central line platform for a sea of vibrant bluebells might sound far fetched, but that’s the reality every spring at Arlington. Once you’ve left the confines of the M25, you can enjoy a sweet stroll through an ancient oak wood, with a blue floral carpet under foot. Bluebells bloom depending on soil temperature, so the dates of the walks are in the hands of Mother Nature each year. On some trails, the flowers are joined by a display of white wood anemones creating an almost magical floral vista. And relax…
Getting here: 2hr 30min drive from London, or 1hr 18min train from London Victoria to Berwick then 42 bus.
From £6. The trail is closed for the year but will reopen in 2019. Find out more at bluebellwalk.co.uk.
English Heritage’s Down House was once home to Charles Darwin – he of all that evolution and natural selection stuff. There’s a lot to see on a day out here. Darwin developed many of his groundbreaking ideas in his own back garden, aka his ‘outdoor laboratory’. Some of Darwin’s most famous theories stemmed from discoveries around the reproduction of plants, and you can even visit his beloved blue glasshouse, now home to orchids and carnivorous plants. Science lovers, this one’s for you.
Getting there: 1hr 20min drive from London, or 16min train from London Bridge to Orpington then R8 bus.
From £13.20 with gift aid. Find out more at english-heritage.org.uk.
Fancy buffing up on your floral knowhow in an English country garden setting? Green and Gorgeous flower farm offer growing and floristry courses for everyone, from flower hobbyists to professionals. And because all good days out include good grub, a day masterclass includes tasty food, fresh from the garden. The fields of ‘free-range’ flowers come to life in March, and each season sees in a different bloom, from bright tulips in spring to rich dahlias in autumn. Summer is a great time to visit for fragrant roses, stocks and frilly sweetpeas, as well as a meadow-favourites like cornflowers, poppies and daisies. They’ll never see the inside of a refrigerated lorry, and you won’t find a fresher fistful anywhere else.
Getting here: 1hr 50min drive from London, or 1hr 9min train from London Padding to Goring & Streatley then the 134 bus.
Course prices vary. Find out more at greenandgorgeousflowers.co.uk.