It may come as a surprise to some of us city dwellers, but Britain's flora can be beautiful all-year-round and can be enjoyed whether it's winter or summer. We've picked out some of the best botanical gardens and arboretums not too far from a Zipcar city.
If you have your own suggestions, feel free to share them below; the best ones may even be rewarded.
Look out for these icons for advice on the trip's suitability:
= dog-friendly = young family-friendly
(Just remember to put your dog in a carrier when you take him or her in a Zipcar, them's the rules.)
Plus we've indicated the destinations' nearest Zipcar city and the closest Zipcar to the train station for Londoners making a real break away from metropolis.
Distance from London: 10 miles
Tucked away at the end of a winding country road, a mere hop from Richmond, you’ll discover the haven of colour that is Petersham Nurseries. Come to stroll aimlessly through rows of plants and flowers, every shade of the rainbow, or dine in their award-winning glasshouse café, you’ll feel like you’ve escaped into some natural wonderland.
Church Lane, Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey, TW10 7AB
Distance from London: 21 miles
Painshill is a romantic 18th Century landscape garden stretching over a wondrous 158 acres. Besides an expansive lake and rolling, preened gardens, you’ll discover hidden follies, a vineyard and even a secretive crystal grotto!
Portsmouth Road, Cobham, Surrey, KT11 1JE
Distance from Oxford: 7 miles; Zipcars parked at Oxford Station
Enjoy taking artsy photographs of trees (we won't tell if it's just on Instagram)? Then you should definitely head to Harcourt Arboretum near Oxford. Spread over 130 acres, including 30 acres of wildflower meadows and over 13,000 native British trees, you're sure to get your fill of nature with a day trip here. For first time visitors to the Arboretum, or those visiting with kids, pick up an Arboretum Explorer's Backpack at the ticket office, packed full of activities and guides to make the most of the site. If you haven't had enough of the plant world after your visit, then you'll be glad to hear your ticket will also get you into the oldest Botanic Garden in the UK, back in Oxford.
Oxford Lodge, Peacock Gate, Oxford, OX44 9PX; adult day ticket: £4.50
Distance from Central London: 92 miles
Lose yourself in nature at Exbury Gardens, a spectacular 200 acre site bursting with rare shrubs, trees and plants within the New Forest. Whether you go in spring, summer or autumn you will be treated to a spectacular show of colour as you escape the bustle of the city and submit to the countless pathways that lead you around this beautiful award winning garden. For a truly memorable experience jump on the Exbury Steam Railway that follows a quarter mile circular route around the gardens taking you over bridges, under tunnels, through causeways to a series of individually themed gardens. On your way home why not stop off at the Beaulieu National Motor Museum, home to a stunning collection of automobiles (and let us know which vehicles you’d like to see in our fleet!).
Exbury, Southampton, Hampshire, SO45 1AZ; adult entry to gardens: £11, adult railway ticket: £4; Beaulieu, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, SO42 7ZN; adult entry: £20
Distance from central London: 8.7 miles
A constant favourite of the Zipcar team, there is always something new to see whenever you go to Kew, whether it’s different flowers in bloom or a special event like Kew the Music. But whatever time of year you’re always guaranteed to enjoy the peaceful pagoda or the balmy Palm House. Not been to Kew before? Get an introduction to the expansive gardens on the Kew Explorer land train, or take one of the many free guided walking tours.
Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AB; adult ticket: £15
Distance from Bristol: 3.3 miles; Zipcars available at Bristol Temple Meads Station
If you fancy a spot of learning alongside pretty plants, then Bristol University’s Botanical Garden is the place to go. Find out how plants evolved from the sea onto the land millions of years ago (yes, it wasn’t just freaky fish who crawled out of the sea!), enjoy the warm temperatures of the Mediterranean glasshouses, and learn how plants have been used for medicinal purposes throughout the centuries.
Stoke Park Road, Stoke Bishop, BS9 1JG; adult ticket: £3.50
Distance from Bristol: 23.5 miles; Zipcars available at Bristol Temple Meads Station
You can enjoy trees from temperate climates around the world, in three distinct areas of Westonbirt Arboretum. Take a Victorian-style promenade along the boulevards of the Old Arboretum, get lost in the sprawling Silk Wood, and enjoy a picnic on the Downs grasslands. To make the most of your trip take one of the many self-guided tours on offer. They even offer a downloadable audio guide for blind and partially-sighted guests.
Tetbury, Gloucestershire, GL8 8QS; adult ticket from £5 (depending on the season)