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Cruising to the world's top gardens

Set sail to see the season's blooms in all their glory

With an Exhibition on Screen film of the Royal Academy’s hugely popular exhibition, Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse, on general release at arthouse cinemas across the UK (exhibitiononscreen.com), gardens – many at their seasonal best – are ripe for a visit.

If you’ve explored all your local National Trust properties, a cruise is a great way to reach gardens further afield – and some have expert lecturers on board to enrich the experience.

Claude Monet diverted the course of a tributary of the Seine to create his garden at Giverny where he painted his famous Water Lilies series. Several companies take their passengers there from nearby Vernon on one-week Seine river cruises starting and ending in Paris. These include Tauck (0800 810 8020; tauck.co.uk), Viking (0800 319 6669; vikingrivercruises.co.uk) and Avalon Waterways (0800 668 1801; avaloncruises.co.uk).

You can also visit Monet’s garden on day trips from large ocean ships docked in Le Havre and smaller ones in Rouen and Honfleur in Nomandy, with lines such as P&O (0843 373 0110; pocruises.com), Cruise & Maritime (0844 998 3788; cruiseandmaritime.com) and Fred Olsen (0800 035 5242; fredolsencruises.com).

Flowers in Madeira

There are still some cabins left for a special Royal Horticultural Society cruise sailing round trip from Portsmouth for two weeks on 14 May aboard small ship Minerva (01858 414001; swanhellenic.com). Not only is a visit to Monet’s garden included in the fare (from £999pp), so are tickets and transfers to the Chelsea Flower Show from the ship moored in Greenwich. Among other excursions, at no extra cost, are a visit to the Terra Botanica Park in Anjou from Nantes and a tour of Sausmarez Manor’s garden on Guernsey, named by the RHS as one of “1,001 gardens to visit before you die.” RHS host Lady Christine Skelmersdale, a horticulturalist and garden writer will be on board giving lectures.

Gardeners’ World presenter Carol Klein and garden designer and writer Roddy Llewellyn will be giving talks and escorting visits to a variety of gardens in the Canary Islands on a gardens and walking themed cruise aboard Saga Sapphire (0800 505030; saga.co.uk/cruises) sailing for 14 nights round trip from Southampton on 24 October. Calls include volcanic Lanzarote to see the Palmetum Botanical Gardens specialising in palms; and Madeira, dubbed “the Floating Garden of the Atlantic” for its lush beauty, whose botanical garden has 2,500 species of plants. Fares start at £1,999pp and include travel to and from Southampton, gratuities and wine with meals.

Thanks to the Gulf Stream, gardens on the west coast of Scotland flourish. On a Scotland in Colour cruise aboard very small luxury ship, Hebridean Princess, you can visit nine gardens set amid stunning scenery, including Ormsary House garden, not usually open to the public; remote Lip na Cloiche garden and nursery on the Isle of Mull and Armadale Castle Gardens, famed for carpets of orchids and wildflowers spreading under towering trees. The one-week, all-inclusive cruise sails from Oban on 7 June. The cost is from £3,855pp with Mundy Cruising (020 7399 7670; mundycruising.co.uk).

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