Where to see the best Spring Flowers
More potent than the groundhog's arrival, the first day that's warm and sunny enough to eat your lunch outside marks a turn of season, and of mood. Spring has sprung, or is at least is in the process of springing, and it's time to think about getting out into the garden, or someone else's, and enjoying the blooming beauty. These are some of the best places to enjoy the floral bounty of spring.
Nothing says spring like the combined scent, colour and life of the seven million blooming tulips of Keukenhof Gardens. Carefully tended all year, Keukenhof only throws open its doors when it reaches perfection between March and May.
Garden-challenged folks who long to stroll amongst their own beautifully budding grounds can live out their fantasies between the formal hedge lines of Hidcote Manor - which in spring can barely contain the rainbow of colours - or amongst Great Dixter's colourful cottage and wildflower gardens. Hestercombe is the garden dream of planters with an eye for colour coordinated design – successions of colour in organised beds are bathed with an overall hint of delphinium blue in the spring.
For spring in primary colours as nature intended: daffodils cover the Lake District, most especially along the Daffodil Way, in a plush pile rug of yellow; bluebells add scent and romance to a meander though the Normandy countryside, stopping off in the blue floored woods and in pretty hamlets like Clecy; and Umbria's wild poppies spread from hilltop towns like Assisi and Pian Grande like bright red paint dripping down the hills – best seen cycling, also downhill.
Japan takes its floral appreciation pretty seriously, and spring there equals cherry blossom season. Tokyo's Ueno Park, is the place to plan your cherry blossom viewing party, amongst more than a thousand cherry trees, and in Kyoto, Maruyama Park becomes a classical ideal of white and palest pink, where all paths lead you discretely towards the best views.
Surprise inclusion Mallorca's hilltops are covered in orange orchards and in spring the orange blossom petals fall like snow, creating a truly spectacular photo opportunity. Visitors can travel on the Orange Blossom Train between Palma and Soller for the best views.
Another unusual suggestion is Lake Bohinj, in Slovenia, which in spring appears to have had a giant bag of coloured sweets dropped onto it from on high. A glacial lake in the Julian Mountains, spring ripens it with enough orchids and irises to make a florist a millionaire. It's so beautiful they hold the Bohinj Wild Flower Festival to worship the blooms in every way – including eating them.
For a more conventional flower festival, the five May days of The Chelsea Flower Show is a hot house for the latest in floral technology and fashion.
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