It’s time to plan a trip. You may not be able to take it until 2020, but thinking about touring faraway gardens can keep your spirits up when the ground here is covered in snow.

Most garden vacation trips are offered by out-of-state entities. The few I found run by groups based in Maine are one-day events.

Donna Anderson, director of the McLaughlin Garden in South Paris, said the garden organizes a one-day motor coach tour each year, usually in June.

“We will make a decision in February on where to go next summer,” Anderson said. “We usually do at least two gardens, sometimes three.”

Last summer the tour covered the beautiful Mount Auburn Cemetery and some other Boston-area attractions.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens has organized garden tours in the past, said communications director Kris Folsom, but they were not very successful, so the nonprofit has no plans to resume them.

Local garden clubs sometimes take groups to the Boston Flower Show, but with recent improvements to the Maine Flower Show in Portland the Boston trips have become less frequent.

So my research quickly took me to trips organized outside of Maine with at least some connections to Maine.

Going solo? There are plenty of gardens to visit, like Kew, above, in London.

Charlie Nardozzi hosts the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio, does a call-in show on another Vermont radio station and also has a show on Connecticut public radio. He has spoken frequently to Maine garden clubs.

He has two garden tours scheduled for 2019 – one to Cuba and the other to the Italian Lake District – and both are sold out, even though the itinerary for the Italy trip has not yet been set.

“That was a surprise,” Nardozzi said in a telephone interview. “We put the general trip on the website, and people were willing to put up a deposit without any other information.”

If you want a jump on the 2020 tours when they are announced, check

Nardozzi’s trips offer more than gardening. “Of course there are a lot of cultural things, historical, agriculture, dance – whatever’s happening,” he said. “We almost always go to farmers markets.”

Each tour has a local guide, in addition to Nardozzi, and each is limited to 25 people. With the local connections, the tours often include private gardens and a chance to meet with the local gardeners. To avoid constant packing and unpacking, Nardozzi usually plans for four nights in one hotel, with visits to different sites each day, followed by four more nights – and sights – in a second hotel.

Lois Berg Stack, recently retired from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, said she has gone on several Jeff Sainsbury garden tours, often with other travelers from Maine, and highly recommends them. This November, she traveled to Singapore, Thailand and Cambodia with Sainsbury, and in the past she’s signed on to the company’s garden trips to Europe.

Sainsbury studied politics and history. His wife, Ginny Fletcher, who also plays a role in the garden tour company, has several degrees in landscape architecture. The couple has led several garden tours of Maine, too (not that you need those, readers!). “It’s a wonderful summer destination with an array of fantastic private gardens, great scenery and good hotels,” Sainsbury said. “There are some good public gardens, too – Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden, Asticou Azalea Garden, Thuya, Coastal Maine Botanical Garden and others.”

The tours are usually limited to six to 15 people, and while only one 2019 tour is on the website now – “A Brazilian Odyssey: The Gardens of Roberto Burle Marx” Feb. 17 to 21 – Sainsbury said he is organizing others.

Major tourism companies have a few garden-related tours, too. My wife Nancy and I have considered Viking River Cruises’ Tulips and Windmills cruise in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, each year the tulips in Holland bloom just as we want to be starting our own garden.

The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco is a favorite.

You don’t have to sign up for an organized tour. We always visit gardens on our own when we’re traveling. We’ve seen world-class ones like Kew in London; Powerscourt in Ireland; Monet’s Garden at Giverny; Versailles in France; Alhambra in Spain, Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia; and the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Many botanical gardens are not as well known as these, but they will be in local tour guides – and worth a few hours. We always check Trip Advisor for public gardens when we travel.

Personal favorites – in addition to the famous ones above, especially Powerscourt – are the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida, and the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, the first garden I ever visited where they charged admission, well before I was writing a gardening column. Nancy says her favorites are Powerscourt and Monet’s Garden, but we both vividly remember the San Francisco Tea Garden.


TOM ATWELL is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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