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Go around the world in 80 minutes at the RHS

With millions choosing to ‘staycation’ this summer as restrictions remain in place for many travel destinations, the Royal Horticultural Society is encouraging people to discover the world of horticulture at its Gardens this summer.

With up to 57% of adults surveyed by VisitEngland intending to holiday in the UK this summer, there’s no need to miss out on a trip to an exotic location when it’s possible to visit a Mediterranean grove, an African prairie and even a tropical ‘jungle’ without leaving the country.

“People might think of the RHS gardens as quintessentially English, but in fact we have taken inspiration from across the globe for decades,” says Guy Barter, RHS Chief Horticulturist. “Our collections include plants from the furthest-flung corners of the world, and their native habitats inspire some of the most beautiful areas of the gardens.”

At the most northerly RHS Garden, Harlow Carr in Harrogate, there’s no need to don hiking gear to be transported to mountainous climes in the impressive Alpine House, where the exquisite floral jewels of regions as distant as the Andes and Himalayas nestle.

By contrast, a new ‘Sub Tropicana’ Garden opening this weekend at Harlow Carr showcases blooms more typically found in the tropics of Asia and South America than North Yorkshire, such as ginger, pineapples and palm trees.

At RHS Garden Wisley, the Exotic Garden, with its lush foliage and glamorous blooms, is a world away from suburban Surrey. Hardy bananas from subtropical Japan, South American canna and giant arum lilies from Africa give a rainforest feeling – especially on a rainy summer’s day.

Just a short walk away, a prairie meadow planting near Wisley’s Glasshouse is awash with colourful blooms from South Africa’s Drakensberg Mountains. Elsewhere, the Pinetum is home to an example of the oldest living thing on the planet, the coastal redwood, as well as Wisley’s tallest tree, a giant redwood soaring 35 metres into the sky – a long, long way from their native California.

Travelling from Australia to Mexico takes just a few steps at RHS Garden Hyde Hall, near Chelmsford. The Australia and New Zealand Garden features a range of plants native to the Southern Hemisphere, while metres away, the Dry Garden is home to plants that thrive in arid regions, including the agave-like Dasylirion wheeleri from the deserts of Mexico.

Nearby, the Global Growth Vegetable Garden features fruit and veg from all four corners of the Earth: from African tigernuts to blue bean plants from China via edible Mexican dahlias, visitors can take a whistlestop gastronomic world tour without leaving Essex.

The delights of popular European destinations are close at hand at RHS Garden Rosemoor in North Devon. The Mediterranean Garden evokes the spirit of a village square in Provence or Tuscany with upright Italian cypress trees, fragrant lavender and terracotta planters.

For those missing long-haul destinations, Rosemoor’s Exotic Garden features the floral delights of far-flung East and Southeast Asia, such as colourful ginger lilies and the leafy Tetrapanax papyrifer or rice-paper plant. Meanwhile, the vibrant flower-power of the Hot Garden is provided by North American native prairie plants.

“We know that many people will be really missing travelling abroad this summer, so we hope that paying a visit to some of these destination-inspired gardens will help put them in the holiday spirit,” adds Chief Horticulturist Guy Barter. “It may not be quite the same as a beach break, but you won’t end up with sand in your swimwear either!”

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This story was published on: 31/07/2020

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