Outside Pursuits
Your ticket to the world's most exclusive private gardens.

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With spring in full swing there's no better place to be than in the garden, so we've rounded up our top picks for outdoor fêtes around the globe. Not only do these exclusive tours offer an opportunity to view spectacular residential gardens rarely open to the public, they are fundraisers for worthy causes e.g., historic preservation and stopping domestic violence.

The Royal Gardens of Highgrove

For the last 30 years, HRH Prince Charles has championed organic gardening and nowhere is it better on display that at his country home, Highgrove House. "I've learned a lot by going to see other people's gardens, this is the key," he recently told BBC's Radio 4's Eric Robson. The heir to the throne, who first developed his love of gardening as a child with a small plot behind Buckingham Palace, has most recently been planting trees with his grandson, Prince George. The gardens are open to the public on a limited basis from May to October but perhaps the loveliest way to see the grounds is by booking a Champagne Tea Tour. The two-hour tours are available between May and August, and are limited to 16 guests. Led by one of the estate's experienced guides, the tour includes a series of interlinked gardens, like the Cottage Garden, the Stumpery and the Kitchen Garden. The tour ends at the Orchard Restaurant where you'll enjoy an afternoon tea made from locally grown organic ingredients and Highgrove's very own champagne produced by Laurent-Perrier. Tickets are $105 per person and come with a guidebook and a commemorative box. All profits from garden tours go to The Prince of Wales's Charitable Foundation, which supports many causes including education and sustainability. The estate is located in the Cotswolds town of Tetbury and within easy reach of London. And if you can't make a tour this summer, you can always delve into Highgrove: An English Country Garden published by Rizzoli last year.

Kitchen Garden at Highgrove
Photo Courtesy of Rizzoli

Designer Bunny Williams' Annual Trade Secrets Event

Every year, Trade Secrets brings legions of gardening and antiques enthusiasts to Litchfield County, Connecticut. This year's program will be held over the weekend of May 14-15. Saturday's event, which will be hosted by picturesque LionRock Farm in the town of Sharon, offers visitors access to an array of specialty vendors selling specimen plants and garden antiques. There will also be signings for three new books: Outstanding American Gardens, A Celebration—25 Years of the Garden Conservancy, edited by Page Dickey; At Home in the Garden by Carolyne Roehm; and The Art of Gardening: Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from The Chanticleer Gardeners and R. William Thomas. On Sunday, it's a chance to see the private gardens of Bunny Williams and her husband, John Rosselli; tastemaker Carolyne Roehm; landscape designer Judy Murphy; and antiques dealer Michael Trapp. Early-bird tickets at $125 allow entry at 8 o'clock in the morning and include breakfast, but you can also book later admission for $20 to $40. Sunday garden tour tickets are $60, or $70 on the day. The event benefits Women's Support Services, an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence

Another view of Carolyne Roehm's well appointed garden

The Most Historic Garden in Beverly Hills

On Saturday, May 14, Robinson Gardens hosts its annual "...into the garden" benefit tour. For 28 years, the Friends of Robinson Gardens have organized the event to raise funds for the continued preservation of the historic mansion and botanical gardens created by Virginia and Harry Robinson, heir to the J.W. Robinson department stores. The house was designed in 1911 by architect Nathanial Dryden (Virginia's father) and anchors 6.5 acres of gardens (including a palm garden, a potager and a rose garden), all crowned by a 1924 pool pavilion inspired by Villa Pisani, the famed 18th-century estate in Italy's Veneto region. After morning garden tours, the party kicks off with a luncheon in honor of interior designer and garden enthusiast Suzanne Rheinstein. The afternoon includes a runway show by Paris-based fashion brand IRO and an awards ceremony honoring English television presenter, model and fashion journalist, Louise Roe. The event also allows a rare peek inside the house, which will be decorated by leading L.A. designers and florists. There will also be a special pop-up gift boutique set up on the tennis courts. Tickets range from $225 to $450 with a variety of options, including valet parking, shuttle service and visits to additional nearby gardens.

Robinson Gardens

Canal House Garden Tours in Amsterdam

On the weekend of June 17-19, the Van Loon Museum (one of the most fascinating and complete 17th-century house museums in the city) organizes Open Tuinen Dagen, or Open Garden Days, offering tours of some of the most impressive canal-house gardens in the city. Some are privately owned homes, small museums or business headquarters, like the offices of Amnesty International, but all offer a glimpse into how wealthy merchant families lived hundreds of years ago. Visitors will find all manner of garden styles, from very formal to very contemporary, as they stroll through some 25 properties — some of which have never been open to the public until now. A three-day passe-partout is just $20 with all proceeds going to the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfunds which supports a variety of cultural and environmental causes throughout the Netherlands.