David Rowley, head market gardener at Heckfield Place, gives the inside scoop on the estate's tulips, which are in full bloom this week.
Advertisement
Tulips in bloom at Heckfield Place in the UK
Credit: Courtesy of Heckfield Place

Heckfield Place in Hampshire, England isn't your typical country estate. While you'll find the classic wellies in the downstairs foyer, daily tea and cake, and cozy reading corners around every turn, there's usually something else blooming behind the scenes.

In April, that "something'' is more than 57,000 tulips, planted throughout the estate's certified biodynamic and organic market garden and in a walled garden directly next to the main house.

Led by head market gardener David Rowley, the team at Heckfield Place buried the tulip bulbs 4 inches under the soil at the beginning of November, when, Rowley said, "the soil is cool to the touch."

Tulips in bloom at Heckfield Place in the UK
Credit: Courtesy of Heckfield Place

Over the winter, while hotel guests were enjoying cocktails and red wine by the fireplace, the tulips prepared for their spring show.

"The tulip plant and its emerging bud are quite frost tolerant. They even seem to enjoy this growing through the winter routine, which is counterintuitive to us humans as we cannot see the root growth that is happening during the winter," Rowley told Travel + Leisure.

When spring comes, the tulips get ready to emerge from their underground state. "As the sun warms the soil, the tulip bulbs receive the signal to push up through the soil surface. Leaves first, to gain the photosynthetic power to support the development of the rest of the plant, and then [they] raise their beautiful buds up above their leaves…. ready to flower," he explained.

Tulips in bloom at Heckfield Place in the UK
Credit: Courtesy of Heckfield Place

Guests can spot popular tulip varieties — Purple Heart, Flower Power, Apricot Impression, and White Lizard — in the market garden, as well as some more unusual varieties — like the Ballerina and Foxy Foxtrop tulips — that Rowley and his team are watching to see how they grow and resonate with both guests and the local florists. In the walled garden, pale pink Menton tulips, Prinses Irene tulips with orange blossoms and purple markings, as well as white and yellow Purissima tulips show off their colorful petals.

In total, Rowley and the team planted 33 different types of tulips. "The cream of the crop" will be harvested and places in vases, planters, and bouquets across the hotel and its grounds. Others will be sold as bunches by local florists and outlets in the area.

Those visitors with a keen eye may spot a rogue tulip or two around the property. According to Rowley, "There are [a] couple that get 'missed'... We suspect a little playful mischief, as oftentimes there may appear a single tulip, right in the middle of a bed of our winter salad greens, or spring radishes."

To see the tulips blooming in person this year, you'll have to hurry. Tulip season lasts between three and four weeks at Heckfield Place, depending on the specific tulip variety and the weather.

If you can't find the time for a trip to Hampshire this month, have no fear. Rowley and the team grow more than 150 varieties of flowers, including sunflowers, dahlias, ranunculus, anenome, narcissi, and gladioli throughout the season. From mid-February until November, there are plenty of fresh flowers to decorate the hotel's 45 rooms, six suites, and multiple dining spaces. In the winter, dried arrangements from the summer crop take their place.

For more information on Heckfield Place and its garden, visit heckfieldplace.com.

Lydia Mansel is a travel writer and founder of Just Packed, a stylish traveler's resource for packing lists and product recommendations. Most of her frequent flier miles come from trips to the United Kingdom, but she'll fly anywhere in search of a hotel with soft sheets, fluffy robes, and top-tier room service.