Border Lines Garden Tours
Early January can only mean one thing to avid garden visitors – the arrival on their doorstep of the latest Border Lines brochure. www.border-lines.co.uk now in its twenty-eighth year specialises in exclusive garden tours both in Britain and overseas. Owned and run by James Bolton since 2008, Border Lines offers a thrilling medley of thirteen day visits each to three pre-selected gardens all over the country not normally open to the public. Tip top lunches and generous teas are also part of the experience as well as a selection of plants for sale from a nearby specialist nursery.
Like a well-designed glossy magazine, Border Lines skilfully plans the pace of the tours ensuring that each garden visited is very different in style. James takes enormous trouble to discover new gardens each year scouring the countryside. His infectious enthusiasm for his subject is evident in his descriptions of the gardens in the brochure. ‘Our scope is wider than any other garden tour operator, and we travel further afield’. For instance this year there are two thrilling sounding days in North Wales as well as several days in counties within striking distance of London.
It is all so easy: one just has to send a cheque, organise transport and a hotel room if staying in a far flung shire and off you go. James’s endless charm, humour and tact, not to mention his esteemed plantsmanship make him a pleasure to be with. Travel between the gardens is by coach.
Border Lines never advertises in glossy garden publications, relying solely on word of mouth. Over the years it has built up a devoted clientele who eagerly sign up time and time again year after year. Places go rapidly so I would advise booking ASAP to avoid disappointment. A garden designer, lecturer and garden historian, James exerts exacting standards on ‘the very best private gardens to be visited. ‘He knows how to satisfy critical English garden visitors’ says Robin Lane Fox, the Financial Times’s renowned garden writer. Such is the horticultural reputation of Border Line devotees that many gardens will only open up exclusively for them.
Thirteen years ago James started Border Lines Abroad organising trips to Sicily, Normandy and Lugarno and Lake Como. Highly successful, these tours are often fully booked months in advance. Last year I was lucky enough to join his first trip to South Africa in November 2014, visiting some nineteen, nearly all private, gardens in eight days in the Western Cape. I echo James’s words: ‘I had not expected to find gardens of such diversity, quality and charm’. Here is a selection of highlights of the trip: