As Chelsea Flower Show prepares to open we scour the globe for the blooming capitals of the world:
1. Encinitas, San Diego, USA
Encinitas in San Diego, right, has a strong beach culture and was the inspiration for the song Surfin’ USA – but it also lays claim to the title “Flower Capital of the World” because of its collection of gardens and nurseries.
It is the world’s leading grower of the poinsettia
The most famous flower centre is San Diego Botanic Garden which includes nearly 4,000 kinds of plants from all over the world and over 37 acres of exhibits including the largest collection of rare bamboo groves, desert gardens, rainforest, an undersea garden and the largest interactive children’s garden on the West Coast.
Encinitas is located along six miles of Pacific Ocean coastline.
April to early May are the best weeks for the fabled tulips of Amsterdam and most are in the Noordoostpolder, a region immediately recognisable from the striking coloured fields that stretch to the horizon.
They are best viewed by that other very Dutch pastime – cycling. Winding routes let you immerse yourself in the culture and the scents. Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse has 32 acres of tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs shown in all their splendour in pavilions.
If you take the train from Amsterdam to Den Helder, you will traverse the bulb-growing areas in the north of the province, and on the way back, you can make a stop to see the cheese market of Alkmaar.
3. Quito, Ecuador
Ecuador has one of the greatest plant populations on the planet but is famous for that most magical and elusive of blooms – the orchid.
There are 4,250 classified species each possessing a degree of the flower which grow in all ecosystems in such quantity that some are considered weeds.
The Quito Botanical Garden has the largest collection in South America and puts the bloom in context showing the flora of diverse climatic zones – wetland, cloud forest and moorland – as well as a special exhibition of carnivorous plants.
4. Umbria, Italy
Again, unless you’re quick, this is one for the 2016 diaries as the famous Umbrian poppies are best in May/early June – although the relaxed lifestyle and world-beating wine make it a top summer destination.
The Val d’Orcia, south of Sienna, is a Unesco World Heritage Site not only because of its landscape but its cultural significance as a scene in many familiar renaissance paintings. Cycling holidays are an increasingly popular way to enjoy the landscape to its fullest.
5. New Covent Garden
New Covent Garden, in Vauxhall, London, is a breath of fresh air in a crowded city but is also one for the dedicated horticulturist.
Its main hours of activity are early in the morning (from 4am) six days a week, which provides visitors with a chance to take in the sights, scents and dramas of one of the world’s great flower hubs.
The main trading floor has more than 30 wholesale businesses selling everything from roses to green-only foliage as well as flower arranging accessories – pots, pebbles, ribbon, snail shells and rafia.
Chelsea Flower Show runs from Tuesday, May 19 to Saturday, May 23.