By Deryn Thorpe – This story appeared in Habitat in The West Australian on August 30

Few things broaden the enthusiasm of gardeners more than a trip overseas to experience the grandeur of some of the world’s great gardens.

While you can visit many local gardens through Open Gardens Australia, most gardeners aim to travel overseas, at least once in their lives, to look at the landscapes that have shaped how we garden in our own backyard.

These gardens are a celebration of man’s need to work with nature and the resulting landscapes include some extravagant designs, created by affluent and influential families that are maintained by a small army of gardeners.

European gardens have flourished for more than 2000 years and have provided the world’s greatest single influence upon gardening.

The botanic masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance taught the world the basis of garden design, including the unity of style between the garden and house. These designs show lessons of symmetry, lines and focal points that are crucial to all garden designs, no matter how big or small the space.

French gardens built on the garden lessons of Italy and in the 17th Century introduced a classical garden style that reflected the wealth of what was then the richest country in Europe.

While fewer gardens in England are as extravagant as those in Italy and France, gardening is part of the English spirit and there are fantastic big and small gardens, many of them worked by their owners.

The pinnacle of English garden exuberance is the Chelsea Flower and Garden Show, where huge crowds enjoy displays of some of the world’s best flowers and plants as well as striking landscape designs especially created for the show.

You can organise your own tour to take in Europe’s best gardens or go on an organised event escorted by a garden experts like the tour I’m taking to England, Italy and France next year.

Deryn Thorpe is an award winning Perth writer. She occupies herself as a journalist, a garden consultant, PR person and marketer. She now lends her considerable talent to producing regular pieces for the Habitat section on the West Australian newspaper.