Candidate Profile

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Gardens & Gardening
History - Art & Culture
Caroline Holmes is a garden historian of ancient, modern and contemporary people, places and plants. Academic but not dry through images and words she delves into the myriad ways humans have shaped landscapes .She lectures to small groups for Martin Randall Travel, Ciceroni Travel and, in French, for Clio Voyages, visiting inspiring European sites as well as on Mediterranean, Baltic, Transatlantic and Pacific Ocean cruises.

Caroline lectures internationally on the architecture, plantings and uses of UK, French, Italian and Spanish gardens, as well as the export of English garden dreams to the former British Empire and beyond. Equally Italian influences across Europe and those of the French ‘Heroic Period’ into the Netherlands and Russia. She is a Director of UK Countryside Tours whose brief is 'Telling the Stories of England'.

Caroline is Course Director for the University of Cambridge’s ICE International Summer Programmes creating and presenting modules for Interdisciplinary programmes. Subjects have included: English Houses and Gardens – defining Englishness; The Roman Garden – architecture, illusion and plantsmanship; Castles, Palaces and Houses of British monarchs. She is a speaker for The Art Society, formerly NADFAS, and the RHS.

Caroline is author of 11 books, several of which were researched in France and Australia. Three explore the Impressionists from the perspective of their plants and gardens. She is recipient of two Herb Society of America awards: 2011 Gertrude B. Foster Award for Excellence in Herbal Literature and 2017 Elizabeth Crisp Rea Award. Finalist in the Garden Media Guild’s 2014 Reference Book of the Year Award for ‘The RHS Herbs for Gourmet Gardeners’.

Caroline is a consultant designer, projects include Humanist Renaissance inspired gardens to enclose Notre Dame de Calais, officially opened in September 2016 and now preparing for the 2020 anniversary of the Field of the Cloth of Gold. A video of her designs: Engraved on my Heart: a new garden for Calais can be viewed by following the link She also devised the planting for the Poisons Garden in The Alnwick Garden.

Click here to visit Caroline's website >>

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Presentations relate to the cruise route, ranging from garden design, indigenous and introduced plants and the botanists/horticulturists associated with them as well as a selection of prose, poetry and other written correspondence that evoke and amuse.

2018 lectures given
World study lectures for Road Scholar, Singapore to Cape Town on HAL Amsterdam
1. Singapore to Cape Town with Caroline Holmes – an introduction
2. Rubber – our flexible friend
3. Sri Lanka beyond serendipity
4. Hidden histories – the Lotus and the blue water lily
5. Unzipping the banana, cracking the coconut and imbibing the caffeine
6. Marianne North – a remarkable Victorian traveller and painter
7. Seychelles – land and sea
8. Joseph Hooker – plant hunter and Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
9. Reunion – a little French history spiced with vanilla and cloves
10. Carbon trading in Mozambique
11. People, plants and places – Darwin to Dylan
12. The Compleat Naturalist, Carl Linnaeus and his plant hunters
13. Plants of the Cape Floral Kingdom

Lectures for Gardens of the Rhone, Amadeus Provence, Noble Caledonia
1. Roman Gardens – architecture, illusion and plantsmanship
2. Fit for purpose - the Medieval Garden from Charlemagne to the Benedictines
3. Influences in French garden history – Italian verve and Japanese flexibility

INKTA (I Never Knew That About) ... Talks for Caribbean Islands, Bahamas to The Azores
1. Can you eat buccaneers, unzip a banana and other Caribbean food stories
2. Take your Turk's cap off to cactus
3. It's a rum solution to industrial waste
4. A cool history - Sea Island cotton
5. Is Coral suffering from tooth decay?
6. Fatal attraction - the darker side of plants
7. The Flora of the Azores
8. Monet at Giverny

1. Follies of Europe – architectural extravaganzas. Based on her book of the same name but tailored to the countries being visited with references to similar expressions in the UK

2. Horticultural exchanges across the high seas. Centuries before the world wide web grandees, botanists and plant collectors corresponded and financed the exchange of horticultural specimens around the globe

3. A Cultivated Landscape – Romans to Renoir. The rich culture of Mediterranean fruit, vegetables and herbs provides a colourful history of taste in every sense

4. A Riviera Odyssey – Renoir to Cocteau. Glorious gardens and racy stories run alongside the inspiration and outpourings of artists from Impressionists to Surrealists.

5. Cruise the world – Beatrice de Rothschild and the Villa Ephrussi. The story of an extraordinary collector and the creation of the pink palazzo overlooking her world of gardens

6. American Impressionists in the Garden. Giverny and indirectly Monet lie at the source of the many artists who journeyed to France and returned to create their own colonies down the East Coast

7. Valencia’s glorious painter of light – Joaquin da Sorolla. Admirer of John Singer Sargent and patronised by Americans, his resolutely bright and sensational paintings of Spain and his family are thought-provoking and fascinating.

8. Monet at Giverny. An artist and his garden that needs no introduction, however, years of personal research have revealed many lesser known tales and influences

9. French Impressions under Mediterranean skies – Renoir at Les Collettes. Health reasons dictated Renoir’s final years living north of Nice, he saved the ancient olive grove and terraces from development, painted them and found new light in his dying years.

10. Latour-Marliac – the source of water lilies before and beyond Monet A story that works from a source on the River Lot east of Bordeaux across the globe to French Indo-china, Russia, Australia and into Paris and Monet’s gardens at Giverny.

11. Fatal attraction – the darker side of plants. Caroline Holmes’s commission for The Poison Garden was to devise plantings that could kill and tell a story. Defining ‘intoxication’ in a new and dangerous way

12. Engraved on my heart – the gardens of Notre Dame-de-Calais. A personal account of the development of gardens to enhance Calais, unite the history of Mary Tudor with that of the English and French and reflect on the Field of the Cloth of Gold

13. The Medici and their Villas. A selection of villas that define the difference between negotium and otium under the patronage of several generations of Medici in Florence and Tuscany

14. Pergolas and green respite by the sea – Dubrovnik’s Renaissance Gardens. Surviving evidence is sparse but descriptions remain of this part of Dubrovnik’s history and its relationship with wealth from trade and Renaissance Europe.

15. 2,000 years of Mediterranean gardening advice – fact or fiction A selection of prose and poetry tailored to the destination, some of which can be reused at home whilst some might best be avoided.

16. English landscapes glimpsed on Catherine the Great’s Frog Service. "I love English gardens to the point of folly; serpentine lines, gentle slopes, marshes turned into lakes, islands of dry ground, and I deeply despise straight lines. … in a word, my plantomania is dominated by anglomania". Catherine wrote to Voltaire in 1772, this is the story of this, Wedgwood and the Frog Service

17. Peterhof – water used as high drama. An exploration of Peter the Great’s Versailles inspired landscape overlooking the Gulf of Finland and its triumphant restoration after WWII

18. Linnaeus and the Temple of Flora. Linnaeus never travelled out of Europe but from Uppsala he despatched plant hunters and operated a global botanic exchange that enabled him to establish the modern form of plant description

19. The Olive – myth and modern legend. A delightful story of gods, goddesses and the Mediterranean’s hall mark tree.

20. Here we go round the mulberry bush, white and black, silk to superfood .A voyage from Roman classical legend to the Chinese silk worm and back along the Silk Route

21. Oranges and lemons – food, scent and symbolism. A light-heartened investigation of these essential citrus fruits

22. Inner beauty and power play – the gardens of the Alhambra. The ‘gardens’ take many forms not just the plants but the decorative script that celebrates them and the carved columns that enclose the patios

23. Paradise in a patio – translating Moorish gardens. A practical guide to drawing inspiration for smaller enclosed gardens whilst enjoying the original symbolism

24. Atlas – the most fabulous mountain of all Africke An illustrated journey of Morocco that starts with Greek legend and finishes with Joseph Hooker of Kew and the artist Jacques Majorelle.

I am happy to tailor my subjects to what you want - an academic lecture or an entertaining talk - with or without illustration. There is also plenty of scope for making a half or full day exploring many subjects in greater detail. My books, consultancies, researches and travel all feed into the narrative.


A more propitious clime – glass in the garden
A Walk through Garden History
Engraved on her heart – gardens for Notre Dame de Calais
How does your garden grow Mr. Shakespeare
Monet at Giverny
Permission to poison – The Alnwick Garden
Sheer folly – garden history and its landmarks
Sifting the humus from the humour – poetically, practically or precisely
Step into the Christmas Card
The Thinker’s Guide to Gardens
Water Lilies and the genius of Bory Latour-Marliac
Why Violets shrink and answers to other thorny questions in the plant world


Audley End - A walk through garden history
A garden of designers – Blickling Hall
Allegory and fantasy - Nicolao Santini and the Villa Torrigiani
A Palladian mansion, ‘Englished’ and naturalised - Thomas Coke and Holkham Hall
A taste for the antique in a modern setting – the Gibberd Garden
Beth Chatto and her gardens at Elmstead Market - the art of planting
Cruise the World - Beatrice de Rothschild Ephrussi and her villa
Eclectic and passionate – the gardens of East Ruston Old Vicarage
English Country House style – Kelmarsh Hall
Evergreen elegance in an English park - Ickworth
Hampton Court Palace – fit for kings
Inner beauty and power play - the gardens of the Alhambra and the Generalife
Keats House, Hampstead and the Regency Domestic Garden
Lyveden Bield and the Triangular Lodge - A Dangerous Game - Thomas Tresham and his covert religious symbolism
Norfolk county squire and Prime Minister Robert Walpole and Houghton Hall
Queen Alexandra and her gardens at Sandringham and Hvidore
Somerleyton Hall - High Victorian style and status
University Botanic Garden, Cambridge - to pleasingly educate - from city centre to world resource
Victorian values – the Plantation Garden, Norwich
Wimpole Hall A walk through garden history


Herbs and Gardens
Herbs for the Gourmet Gardener


Impressionist Gardens – painted and planted canvases – single lectures, general or focussed, half or full study day, or course
Impressionists in their gardens – living light and colour
American Impressionists in their Gardens
Monet's early years at Giverny - Cash-strapped tenant to proud possessor 1886-1906
Setting the Scene - Argenteuil – horticultural hotbed
Not just water lilies - Monet’s pond as an original and possibly unique motif
Monet’s water lilies from source to Giverny to Les Nymphéas
Australia’s Impressionists: Fontainebleau, the Heidelberg School and the zenith landscape
English Impressions – Home and Garden with Gertrude Jekyll
French Impressions under Mediterranean skies - Renoir at Les Collettes
Joaquin Sorolla, his family and their Madrid garden
Flowers of Impressionist Youth: World War One and their Remembrance
Garden History – single lecture, half or full study day, or course
English Houses and Gardens – defining Englishness
English Houses and Gardens as personal expressions
English Houses and Gardens designed by William Kent – esoteric, eclectic and egotistic
London and Wise – aiming to suit with Versailles
The French Garden at its zenith – the Sun King and Andre Le Notre, radiant and radiating
The Medieval Garden – vernacular art and craft
The Edwardian Garden – golden and delicious
The Georgian Garden 1712-1783 – intellectual gymnastics to formulaic intelligence
The Georgian Garden 1783-1837 – a varied surface
The Interwar Garden - Roaring Twenties into Modernist Thirties
The Renaissance Garden in Britain – nature produces better fruit if cultivated
The Roman Garden: architecture, illusions and deities
The Stuart Garden - most pleasant variegated verdure
The Victorian Garden - the quest for the best
Noble Caledonian Gardens of the Rhone 19th to 26th April
HAL Amsterdam – Singapore to Cape Town – World Academy - 15th March to 3rd April 2018
Queen Mary II Enrichment Speaker – title to be decided – 26 August to 2nd September 2018
Queen Mary II Road Scholar lecturer ‘A Gardeners Dream New York to London’ 24 August to 6th September 2018

Queen Mary II Road Scholar lecturer ‘A Gardeners Dream New York to London’ 6-18 September 2017

Swan Hellenic A Baltic Masterpiece
Swan Hellenic Riviera and Islands of the Mediterranean
Swan Hellenic An Hellenic Odyssey

Swan Hellenic Shores of the Atlantic
The following recent Cruise History has been recorded for this candidate.
Queen Mary 2 M832 Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing 7 New York Sunday, August 26, 2018
Viking Star ST171214 Iconic Western Mediterranean 7 Barcelona Thursday, December 14, 2017