Kensington Palace may be one of the lesser-known British Royal Family residences, but it’s home to several royal couples, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. And the gardens are justly famous.
Originally part of Hyde Park (King Henry VIII chased his deer here!), the gardens at Kensington Palace were substantially developed by Queen Anne who became queen in 1702. She set about creating a stunning English-style garden that became the envy of everyone and a magnet for society characters of the time. She even built an orangery to protect her citrus trees from frost – this is now in the public area of Kensington Gardens and used as a restaurant and cafe.
But the palace gardens are also open to the public, and well worth a visit.
The Sunken Garden
Prince Harry and Meghan held their first press call in the Sunken Garden, but it’s more famous for being transformed into The White Garden (pictured here) in 2017 to mark the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. The Princess loved white blooms, so the usual displays of tropical plants and vibrant colors were swapped for these instead.
Head gardener Sean Harkin explained in a blog post how he took inspiration from Mario Testino’s iconic photos of Diana in white dresses. He also mirrored the concept of ballet dresses as Diana was Patron of the English National Ballet.
Designed to be in full bloom in summer, the cool planting includes white roses, daisies, nemesia, Queen Anne’s Lace (ammi majus), cosmos and lilies.
Lilies are renowned for their beautiful scent – why not check out these other aromatherapy plants to add some delicious fragrance to your backyard?
At the heart of The Sunken Garden lies an ornamental pond, complete with fountains that catch the light and provide a relaxing atmosphere. The fountains were created from 18th-century water cisterns found in the palace, and form a lovely backdrop to the beautiful plants and shrubs.
You might not have vintage water cisterns, but you can create your own backyard pond complete with a waterfall – our detailed instructions will guide you every step of the way.
The Cradle Walk
This stunning feature is a network of living tunnels formed from the supple branches of red-twigged limes. The trees are coppiced, an ancient practice of pruning trees (in this case, at ground level) so there’s always a ready supply of new, flexible saplings to shape across the tunnel framework.
The Cradle Walk is set above The Sunken Garden, providing excellent views across the rest of the grounds as well. And it’s sometimes known as the “Nanny Walk,” as the nannies of the local well-to-do families used to meet each other there years ago.
A long, living tunnel demands lots of space, but you can build an arch that echoes the design element quickly and easily.
Paved terracing is an important element of Kensington Palace Gardens. After all, you wouldn’t want members of the British Royal Family getting their boots muddy, now would you? So the terraces allow good views across the gardens without the danger of dirty footwear, and the hard landscaping provides a great structural backbone to the gardens.
Laying your own stone or brick pathway isn’t as tricky as you might think – check out how to do it in our detailed guide.
But of course, ultimately it’s the plants and flowers that make a superb garden, and the gardeners at Kensington Palace pay great attention to detail when planning and laying out their flower displays. In spring, there’s a focus on seasonal blooms such as tulips, wallflowers and pansies, while summer is the time for hotter colors found in geraniums, cannas and begonias.
If you find it difficult to come up with effective planting combinations, our 12 inspiring flower bed designs will set you right.
We can’t all have the glory of a royal garden, but with a little care and attention, it’s easy to transform our own humble plots into something special.