1. Oman’s rose harvest
Think of Oman and you think of frankincense, but another fragrant delight, the rose, permeates Omani culture. The rose harvest, taking place in the mountain landscape of Jabal Akhdar between March and May, is a sensory delight when the rugged scenery is transformed by a mass of heady pink petals. The place to stay is the 86-room Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel, which at 6,500ft metres above sea level, has perfect views. Best of all, it offers a two-night Rose Experience this spring, combining a guided tour through the rose terraces, a rose-petal bath and a spa treatment using local rose-petal oil.
Scott Dunn’s six-night holiday to Oman, including flights, two nights at Alila Jabal Akhdar, and their Rose Experience, costs from £2,000 per person (020 8682 5060; scottdunn.com)
2. India for rhododendrons
In the shadow of the world’s third-highest mountain, Kanchenjunga (28,170ft), Sikkim’s foothills come alive in late spring when lilac jacarandas, orchids and 36 native species of rhododendron burst into bloom. Shakti Sikkim Village Experience – where you walk between rustic houses (spruced up for Western tastes) –- provides local guides who throughout the season (beginning of October to the end of April) navigate tracks and enlighten visitors as they walk through flower-lined mountain trails.
Original Travel offers a five-night holiday with Shakti Sikkim Village Walks on a full-board basis, including two nights in Delhi and flights, from £4,335 per person (020 7978 7333; originaltravel.co.uk).
3. Holland and Belgium – tulips galore
South Holland’s Keukenhof is one of the world’s largest flower gardens, boasting seven million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths and filling 32 hectares. Across the border, in Belgium, lies the National Botanic Garden of Belgium (Meise), one of the largest in the world, with 60 glasshouses, 18,000 different plants and, come spring, Japanese cherry blossom trees in bloom.
River Cruise Line has a seven-day, no-fly cruise, Springtime in the Gardens of Holland and Belgium, which takes in Keukenhof, Meise, the Floralia flower show at the castle of Grand Bigard, Brussels (runs until May 7) and the model gardens of Holland’s Appeltern Gardens.
From £779 per person, departs April 24 and April 30 (0844 544 6437; rivercruiseline.co.uk).
4. Follow the cherry blossom through Japan
Every year, travellers flock to Japan to witness one of nature’s great spectacles, the cherry blossom season. Kumamoto, in the south, is one of the first spots in the country where the blossom appears, while further north, in Tokyo, cherry blossom trees attract visitors to the exquisite Ueno Park with its 8,800 or so trees, such as Formosan cherry, Somei-Yoshino cherry and Japanese cherry. The star of the cherry blossom season, though, is Yoshino Mountain where the slopes are covered with around 30,000 blossoming cherry trees, mainly of the Yamazakura variety, while below, small lanes are crowded with temples and viewing points. In Kyoto at night, the blossoms are lit by lanterns, offering an entirely different experience.
Ampersand Travel’s 15-day itinerary, taking the bullet train to many of the cherry blossom hotspots, including Tokyo, Kyoto, Yoshino Mountain and Kumamoto, costs from £6,450 per person, including flights (020 7819 9770; ampersandtravel.com).
5. The flower-filled valleys of Andalusia
A quarter of Europe’s flowering plants grow in Spain and Andalusia’s Grazalema Natural Park – full of craggy limestone peaks and colonies of vultures – is a nature-lover’s paradise, at its very best in the spring. Tiny blue pimpernels, wild magenta peonies and marigolds fill the meadows and gorges alongside oddities such as the hoop petticoat daffodil, which has no collar, and the Peruvian scilla, a taut pyramid of violet flowers. No less than 30 orchids, including the woodcock, sombre bee and naked man, have been registered here. The carob, whose beans the Moors used to weigh gold, also grows here. The lovely town of Ronda, with its dramatic river gorge location, is just two miles from the park boundaries.
Inntravel has a seven-night self-guided walking holiday to Grazalema from £480 per person, excluding flights (01653 617000; inntravel.co.uk)
6. To Rome for ancient gardens
Gardens in and around Rome are as spectacular as they are varied. While Villa Lante is noted as a perfect Renaissance garden, Sacro Bosco at Bomarzo is celebrated for its collection of eccentric stone sculptures, while Ninfa’s crumbling walls shelter a microclimate that nurtures beautiful flora such as hybrid musk roses (‘Penelope’, ‘Buff Beauty’, and ‘Ballerina’), banana trees, Himalayan pine trees, hazelnut trees and bamboo. May is a wonderful month to marvel at these gardens as the early summer sun paints the wildflowers, meadows and tall cypresses, a soft golden hue. You’ll also miss the worst of the crowds as it isn’t quite high-season.
Expressions Holidays has a six-night, small group tour of Rome’s gardens and villas from £2,050 per person, including flights. Departs May 10, May 17, June 7 (01392 441245; expressionsholidays.co.uk).
7. The Isles of Scilly – a global garden experience
Subtropical Tresco, in the Isles of Scilly off Cornwall, is home to the diverse Abbey Garden, where thousands of exotic plants thrive. Here, towering palms, lipstick-red flame trees and shocking-pink drifts of Pelargonium all compete for the attention of visitors.
For the coming season, Tresco has revamped its popular gardening break which will give enthusiasts a five-night ‘World in a Garden’ experience.
The break includes lectures and walking tours of Abbey Garden with the garden curator, Mike Nelhams, a and the chance to learn new horticultural skills and a bag of seeds and cuttings to take home.
From £980 per person, including accommodation at the New Inn, on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis – with access to the spa and leisure facilities – and return flights from Land’s End. Departs June 19. (01726 422849; tresco.co.uk)
8. Wengen – Alpine Flowers of the Swiss Alps
In late June, all but the highest peaks around the traditional Swiss alpine resort of Wengen display carpets of flowers such as the golden Globeflower and blue-hued Trumpet Gentians. Naturetrek has an eight-day tour, based in Wengen, led by expert botanist David Tattersfield, exploring the alpine flora – and birds and butterflies – of the Bernese Oberland. As well as a visit to the Schynige Platte botanical gardens, other highlights include looking for the sought-after Lady’s Slipper Orchid, Alpine Pasque Flower and Alpine Butterwort and a visit to the foot of the Eiger Glacier in search of the Alpine Buttercup.
From £1,795, including flights, transfers and accommodation and nearly all meals. Departs June 18 (01962 733051; naturetrek.co.uk).
9. Wildflower season in Arizona
North America’s mainly flat Sonoran Desert, one of the hottest in the Americas, is not nearly as barren as it sounds. During the summer wildflower season (late July to early September), plants such as the spectacularly (and accurately) named Sandpaper Plant, the spiky Fluff Grass and the barrel-shaped Fishhook Barrel Cactus come alive, as does that staple of so many Westerns, the saguaro cactus, which bursts into bloom in spring and summer. The Sonoran Desert is also home to more than 400 edible plants making it a surprisingly attractive place for foragers.
America As You Like it offers a tailor-made seven-night self-drive package to Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tucson for visitors to explore the Sonoran Desert and its wildflowers, including a hot-air balloon flight over the desert to see the blooms from above. From £1,489 per person, including flights and car hire (020 8742 8299; americaasyoulikeit.com).
10. Britain’s Derbyshire floristry tour
If you’re an amateur florist with a love of our domestic summer flowers, then a new two-night break in Derbyshire, accompanied by renowned floral designer Jonathan Moseley, could be for you. The trip includes a visit to Chatsworth House, with a bespoke tour of the gardens including the private greenhouses and cutting gardens, as well as an opportunity to explore the house. A Champagne reception and a gala dinner with a floral demonstration by Jonathan will follow, and the next day there’s a tour of 17th-century Renishaw Hall and its beautiful classical Italianate gardens
Departs July 3-5; from £459 per person including accommodation, two formal dinners with Jonathan Moseley, excursions and demonstrations (0800 298 0588; floristrytours.com).
11. South Africa’s spring blooms
Spring in South Africa is from August to mid-October and photographing local flora at this time of year is a joy, especially if you’re in the company of an award-winning macro-photographer. The Travelling Naturalist has a 13-night adventure doing just this with Chris Mattison, a specialist in natural history photography, capturing the magnificent salmon-pink Livingstone Daisy, the white Weather Prophet (Dimorphotheca pluvialis) and the startlingly showy orange Gazania krebsiana, one of Namaqualand’s most striking plants.
The trip will take in the Cederberg Wilderness area, Kirstenbosch, South Africa’s oldest botanical gardens, Nieuwoudtville (vying with Amsterdam for ‘Bulb Capital of the World’) and the Cape Floral route at the height of daisy season.
From £4,395 per person, including flights. Departs August 20 (01305 267994; thetravellingnaturalist.com).
12. To India’s Valley of Flowers
Come summer, Uttarakhand, a Himalayan state in northern India bordering Nepal and Tibet, blossoms with meadows of endemic alpine flowers as well as more than 100 different species of flowering plants such as geraniums, saxifrages and bellflowers. Many are familiar to us as garden plants we have at home, but it’s much more thrilling to see them in their natural splendour. This summer, Indus Experiences is running a 15-day small group tour called ‘The Valley of Flowers’ led by expert botanist Heather Kelly and geologist John MacGillivray. Highlights will include driving along the river Ganges to one of its tributaries through spectacular rock formations and trekking to the Valley of Flowers where you can see the plants mentioned above as well as aconites, alliums, and gentians.
From £2,675 per person, including flights, departs July 15 (020 8901 7320; indusexperiences.co.uk).
13. Joie de vivre in Northern Ireland
The gardens of Mount Stewart, on the shores of Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland, look spectacular at any time of year, but they’re particularly lovely in low slanting autumn sunlight. Horticultural expert Christopher Bailes rated it among the 10 best gardens in the world in an article for The Telegraph, praising its great sense of style and joie de vivre and its wonderful planting, which means that it is full of colour well into autumn. See it on a Call of the Emerald Isle cruise on the 50-passenger Hebridean Princess, which also visits the gardens and woodland of romantically ruined Downhill Demesne in County Londonderry.
Departs September 12 for seven nights; from £4,060 per person in a double cabin (01756 704704; hebridean.co.uk).
14. Quebec for colourful leaf-peeping
Quebec’s residents are justifiably proud of their homeland. This is where you’ll find some of the best autumn colours in the country as well as historical “cabanes à sucre” (sugar shacks) where you can sample real-deal maple syrup. October is the best time to catch the colours in their full splendour and Wexas Travel is offering a 10-day self-drive trip to Quebec focusing on the colours of autumn.
Highlights include Montreal, Quebec City the scenery of the Laurentian Mountains and the forested and lakeside setting of Hotel Sacacomie.
From £1,915 per person, including flights, for travel between September 15 and October 21 2017 (020 7590 0635; wexas.com).
15. To China for plant hunting
Yunnan, in southwest China, encompasses a vast range of climatic zones from high mountains to valleys bordering Laos and Burma. RHS Garden Holidays has a 15-day adventure to this “wild west” of China in the company of botanist and horticulturalist Duncan Coombs. The holiday includes sightings of endangered plants in Kunming’s Botanical Gardens, the Stone Forest, where limestone formations look like petrified trees, the lofty canopy of Limestone Mountain primary rainforest, the tropical valley of wild elephants, Lijiang’s Alpine Research Centre and Lang du Pass for the autumn flowering blue- hued gentians.
From £4,995 per person, including flights, departs October 8 2017 (020 3735 1855; rhs.org.uk).
16. The Amalfi Coast for bougainvillea
Swathes of vivid pink bougainvillea deck the sun-drenched walls and trellises along Italy’s Amalfi Coast well into the autumn, providing a lovely lingering taste of summer. One of the best places to see it, along with autumn-flowering plants such as cyclamen, is in Ravello’s spectacular Villa Cimbrone cliffside gardens and the lovely grounds of the Villa Rufolo.
Located on the coastal road, just outside Amalfi, the 67-room Hotel Santa Caterina has a new seven-night Culture and Gardens package on offer this autumn combining a half-day private tour of the Ravello gardens with a tour of Amalfi, and a walk (with a gardener) around the Santa Caterina’s own fruit orchards and bio-vegetable gardens.
From £1,410 per person, including breakfast but excluding flights (hotelsantacaterina.it).
17. Caribbean blooms in Grenada
Grenada has claimed a Gold medal at RHS Chelsea Flower Show on 12 occasions, so it is no wonder that the island is a flower-lover’s paradise. Rich with multi-coloured flora, from vivid bottle brushes to red and yellow “lobster claw” heliconias, it makes a great winter-sun getaway.
Individual Holidays has a seven-night package to Grenada this November staying at Blue Horizons Garden Resort. Included in the package are visits to lovely private gardens on the island, such as Hyde Park Garden with its white, trumpet-shaped portlandia grandiflora blooms and huge silver fanned bismarckia palm and Smithy’s Garden – an estate rich with bananas and sugarcane. Led by gardening guru Suzanne Gaywood OBE, the holiday also includes outings to De la Grenade’s Spice Gardens and factory, Grand Etang rainforest and the Belmont Estate organic cocoa plantation.
From £1,979 per person, including flights, accommodation and all tours (01753 892111; individualholidays.co.uk).
No less than 200 species of fern thrive in New Zealand’s unique microclimates, which may explain why the silver tree-fern, Cyathea dealbata, is the country’s national emblem. At this time of year the red flowers of the beautiful pohutukawa, or New Zealand Christmas trees, are in bloom as is the native kowhai tree with its splashes of mustard yellow flowers.
New Zealand specialist Silver Fern Holidays has a 16-day, tailor-made independent touring holiday called New Zealand Gardens, highlights of which will include searching for the manuka shrub in the bush, garden visits to Ayrlies Country Garden to see towering trees such as liquidambar, swamp cypress and pin oak – and a visit to Auckland Botanic Gardens, home to two of the rarest plants in the world, the native Pennantia baylisiana and Tecomanthe speciosa (only one plant of each has ever been found in the wild). The tour also takes in the ancient rainforest and waterfalls of South Island’s Fiordland National Park.
From £4,995 per person, including flights, car hire and accommodation (01636 813544; silverfernholidays.com).
19. Explore Costa Rica’s cloud forests
The little Central American country of Costa Rica is a wonderful place for plant enthusiasts, with 12 distinct “life zones” and an astounding range of flora as well as some truly flamboyant wildlife. Much of the country emerges from the rainy season in November, making it a good spot for winter sun.
Titan has a 14-day escorted Natural Wonders of Costa Rica tour taking in the primary forests of Braulio Carrillo National Park (with its 600 identified species of trees) a boat tour exploring the wetlands of the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge, excursions in the Monteverde Cloud Forest and a trip along the Panama Canal.
From £2,799 per person, including flights, (0808 115 0555; titantravel.co.uk).
20. Tasmania for summer in winter
Tasmania is one of the world’s last remaining unspoilt, yet accessible, frontiers with spectacular mountains, and hamlets named Paradise, Jericho and Nowhere Else – hinting at their natural wonders. The mild Tasmanian climate means that English-style gardens thrive here and, for a taste of summer in winter, visit between October and April when roses bloom, including the dog rose that clambers through forests and alpine areas.
Tasmanian Odyssey has a 13-day tailor-made self-drive holiday, taking in the National Rose Garden of Australia, the native gardens of Inverawe in Margate, backed by sea views and offering a great selection of native plants and birds – and Clarendon, on the banks of the South Esk River, billed as Tasmania’s grandest rural colonial estate, with its great avenue of elms and a heritage walled garden.