Winning tip: Visions in pink and blue, the Azores
The Azores, an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, is one of the remotest parts of Europe. Often considered the European Hawaii, with a strong volcanic presence, from black sand to geysers, the Azores are also known for their incredible hydrangeas, which frame houses and line roads and pathways all over the islands, and start flowering in spring. One of the central, smaller islands, Faial, boasts the largest collection of hydrangeas in varying shades of blue, so much so that it has the nickname Blue Island.
Confetti canopy, Norfolk
Norwich is a hidden gem in itself, but if you do venture east be sure to visit Eaton Park, covering 80 acres and designed by Captain Sandys-Winsch. Opened in May 1928 by the Prince of Wales, it is a perfectly wonderful place to enjoy the beauty of nature, especially in spring under a canopy of pink and white confetti from the most beautiful cherry trees in our county. There is so much else on offer too – domed bandstand, boating lake, lily pond, pitch and putt, miniature railway and formal gardens.
Spring renaissance, Florence
The garden of Villa Bardini, in Florence, is not on most tourists’ must-see lists; and yet the blooming of its wisteria signals the beginning of spring for most Florentines. The long pergola on which the flowers rest leans into one of the most beautiful views of the city, framing it with Florence’s own colour, purple. I always find the scene to perfectly encapsulate the gracious beauty of the city, whose very name means “blooming”. You could write an entire history of the city through its flowers and gardens: the wisteria in Villa Bardini; the roses in the nearby Giardino delle Rose; and the wild, purple fleur-de-lys springing from the sides of the cobbled streets.
Bianca Belli, London
Lovely laburnam, Conwy
At whatever time of year you visit Bodnant Garden in north Wales’s Conwy Valley, there’s something colourful to see. But my favourites are flowering now: the large magnolia trees are truly magnificent, as are the hellebores. There are fields of daffodils alongside more formal landscaped terraced gardens and woodland glades. The gardens are famous for their rhododendron bushes and, in late spring, laburnum.
Graham Dean, Heysham, Lancs
Fiesta in flower, Valencia
Footsteps tread the winding path, adorned either side by an abundance of wildflowers. A wind whips through the alpine meadows, but the warmth holds in the Valencian hills. Rabaniza blanca (wall rocket) spreads like wildfire, under the blossoms of the late almond tree. A faint nutty aroma infiltrates the air, masking eager senses from a sombre seed. Two eagles circle above, glimmers of gold tainting their feathered coats in an aerial rendition through the southern skies. The bountiful Relleu valley thrives in this temperate climate, bearing hope and beauty with spring awakening – I say “muchas gracias for this rare fiesta”.
Jenna Rainey, Bath
Thriplow Gold, Cambridgeshire
Take a trip to Thriplow (silent “h”), eight miles south of Cambridge, and you will be greeted by hundreds of daffodils at every turn, arrays of yellow to brighten even the greyest spring day. Following a successful fundraiser for church roof repairs in 1969, the village holds an annual Daffodil Weekend, incorporating a country fair and raising money for local charities. This year it takes place on 19-20 March (£10 adult, £5 child, online tickets only). There is even a variety of daffodil named after the village – the Thriplow Gold.
Sharon Pinner, Haslingfield, Cambridgeshire
Monet’s garden, France
A strolling local, seeing me admiring the flowers in the Jardin des Tuileries last spring, advised me to take a short day trip to Giverny – the home and gardens of Claude Monet, which inspired his impressionist paintings. The scene was like Monet’s own canvas – climbing rose bushes, pink cherry trees, weeping willows and flowerbeds of dahlias, irises and wisteria. I almost expected to see elegant ladies promenading along with delicate parasols, although the floral display was a sensual feast in itself. The best view is from the Japanese bridge. Take the train from Gare Saint-Lazare, a 40-minute trip. Entry from €12.50/7.50.
Tombs and bells, Tower Hamlets
One of London’s “Magnificent Seven”, Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park may not be an obvious choice for spring flowers, but if you download a map and follow the well-marked Heritage Trail you’ll find an abundance of blooms. There are clumps of blue and white bluebells, cowslips, primroses, cow parsley, wild garlic and many more species. Towards the end of our visit, we came across a path lined with bright red tulips, which stood out among the blue and yellow shades. Entry is free and there’s also an audio trail introducing you to the plants and their connection to people.
Helen Jackson, London
Liquid gold, Bulgaria
I would head to Rose Valley, near Kazanlak in Bulgaria. This valley is known for its rose-growing industry and production of liquid gold, ie rose oil. Roses begin blooming in mid-May and continue until mid-June. They hold a month-long rose festival in June, annually, where you can participate in rose-picking, a festive parade and other cultural activities. All the outside events apart from rose picking are free to enter, too! It’s just the perfect getaway for flower lovers.
Wild daffodils, Gloucestershire
The wild daffodils of Dymock and Kempley in Gloucestershire are a heartwarming sight. There are lots of options for walks – you can drive or cycle, as it covers quite a large area. My favourite is Saint Mary’s Church, Kempley, which has beautiful medieval decorations as well as a churchyard full of wild daffodils.