Explore the English Countryside with Caplan Rose

The gardens at Broughton Grange, Oxfordshire by designer Tom Stuart-Smith. Andrew Lawson photo.

Four years ago, Emily Goldstein and Katharine Battle founded Caplan Rose, a company offering small, curated, private tours of gardens on the British countryside. This year, Caplan Rose will spearhead two spring tours, the first to Cotswold and the second to Somerset and Cornwall. The latter is already sold out, speaking to the concept’s popularity. Experience-driven travel has become increasingly sought after in recent years, and Goldstein and Battle have capitalized on the living, breathing art exhibit of the English garden.

Emily Goldstein owns the esteemed Drawing Room Gallery in East Hampton, and her most recent project is, in a sense, a natural extension of that gallery space. “After a trip to England to look at gardens with her husband San Stokowski a few years ago, [Emily] was asked by many of her clients if they could go, too, next time,” Katharine Battle said. Battle is British and comes from a background of both travel writing and publishing. She was a natural fit for a burgeoning business. “We both share the same aesthetic, love art and gardens, and enjoy spending hours researching places that people would be unlikely to find on their own,” she said.

Caplan Rose began with a group from the East End, New York, Boston, and California. Since the trips are advertised solely by word-of-mouth, clients tend to be “like-minded people” who enjoy seeing the things that Battle and Goldstein enjoy seeing. The sold-out Somerset and Cornwall tour is “a mix of art and gardens,” beginning with a trip to Hauser & Wirth, one of the world’s leading art galleries.

Guests then stay in a manor house boasting a walled kitchen garden before heading to a boutique hotel overlooking the ocean. The tour focuses on the art and splendor of western England, an experience accented by luxury and amenity. “[T]he region is famed for its gardens,” Battle said of the Cotswold tour, “both classic and contemporary. It’s a beautiful part of England with some spectacular gardens all within easy distance of our hotel.”

The process of planning tours is a painstaking one. “Between us, we have a wide knowledge of the country and many connections, both in the art world and with people who own lovely gardens,” Battle said. “We always go over to the UK on a research trip at least a year in advance and never take our groups to anywhere that we haven’t already been to ourselves.” Tours typically include two garden visits per day and provide plenty of leisure time for those interested in pursuing avenues of relaxation outside of the garden.  “Our goal is that people return from the trip feeling culturally stimulated but rested and relaxed,” Battle said.

What makes a garden noteworthy? Battle and Goldstein always include the work of contemporary designers, juxtaposed against classic English gardens to “give a sense of history and perspective.” Gardens, Battle said, contain healing properties and offer up extremely personal experiences to those who visit them.

The experience is not, however, merely about the visitor. “No matter how grand the garden we visit, the owner is always keenly involved in both the design and the day-to-day work of the garden,” Battle said. Many of the gardens that appear on the Caplan Rose tours, she said, support charities for mental health, people with special needs, or former criminal offenders, who “often have an amazing capacity to make plants flourish.”

For the owners of Caplan Rose, the garden is an extension of other forms of fine art. “From Lucien Freud to Gertrude Jekyll, artists and gardeners have always been inter-related,” Battle said. “The garden may be seasonal, but a good garden plan is designed to mature over the years. As an artist may constantly work on a painting, so a gardener is constantly adding a touch of color here or texture there.”

Caplan Rose’s next tour, Cotswolds Gardens: Contemporary English Designers & Visionaries of the Past, will take place from April 19 through April 24. Space is limited, Those interested can also put a name on the waitlist for the April 26 through May 2 tour, Art and Gardens from Somerset to Cornwall. For more information, visit caplanrose.com.