Judy Vanrenen founded Botanica so fellow gardening enthusiasts could visit the most magnificent gardens in the world. She tells River Cruise Passenger what to expect on one of her tours.

Botanica founder Judy Vanrenen
Botanica founder Judy Vanrenen

What are the most popular garden cruises this year?

Japan cruises in Cherry Blossom season are always popular and anything in the Bordeaux region thanks to their stunning gardens and vineyards are a real crowd pleaser.

Do guests have to be very keen gardens, or will an appreciation of gardens and flowers do?

Our tours draw a mix of travellers, from dedicated horticulturist who bring along their family and friends, to people with an interest in gardening and even those who are just looking for something different. On top of the gardening inclusions we also visit all the must see locations on every tour so there is something for everyone.

What kind of things will guests learn?

Every trip highlights something different from gardening tips and tricks, to art or cultural significance. For example Japanese gardens have a strong connection to the region’s history and current culture, they take great pride in their gardening and are world famous for the Cherry Blossoms and Zen Gardens, so there are many aspects and lessons to be learnt depending on your destination.

Who are Botanica Guides?

Botanica guides are mainly from Australia, New Zealand and The UK. They are from various backgrounds such as horticultural specialists, Garden Historians, Authors, or creators of RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) show gardens.

Do you do Australian tours?

We sure do, we actually cover almost every state from wild flowers in Western Australia to private gardens and famous flower shows on the East coast. Check out our website for details on all our Australian and New Zealand.

You are offering a cherry blossom tour – apart from admiring this spectacular event, what kind of special expertise will Botanica bring the cruise?

Although the Cherry Blossoms are certainly the main event for many, Japan has an endless list of horticultural wonders to explore. Our Botanica host will be highlighting the history of Zen culture and the use of symbolism in different types of gardens from strolling garden, to rock gardens and so on. Guest will also visit the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, cruise the Yangtze River, travel by bullet train and explore numerous gardens.

Where are the most popular garden tours in Europe?

Any tours that include Chelsea flower show and French and Italian gardens tend to sell out quickly.

And where are the most exotic?

South America is certainly the most exotic location when it comes to gardens, we cover the vast continent from the wild flowers of Patagonia, to the tropical species of the Amazon and the variety is just amazing!

Is there one particular favourite that you personally recommend?

The nine day Chelsea Flower Show, Cotswold and Welsh Gardens, is my favourite. You see spring gardens in their most spectacular bloom and the world famous show is a bucket list experience for passionate gardeners.

Are you seeing younger people coming aboard these tours? is there interest from millennials?

We are seeing a younger generation take a strong interest in gardening, especially in learning to grow their own vegetable gardens and to improve their home gardens. They learn a lot on Botanica tours and even more from the other passionate gardeners they travel with, it’s really lovely to see the sharing of knowledge with the next generation.

Finally, what’s new in 2019?

The 13 day European Rivers of Music and Gardens Cruise is new for 2019 and features a visit to the London Festival Opera, the extraordinary Keukenhof Gardens and is hosted by Anthea Guthrie, a multi award winning British horticulturalist.