An intimate, tranquil and secluded oasis
Walk in the footsteps of royalty in the beautiful gardens of Kensington Palace.
The Sunken Garden was first designed and constructed in 1908 when this part of the gardens was previously occupied by potting sheds and greenhouses. This new layout was modelled on the Pond Garden at Hampton Court Palace and celebrated a formal Edwardian style of gardening incorporating natural materials, herbaceous planting on terraces and water features.
Over time the planting and other soft landscape features has gradually evolved and changed. The garden is terraced with areas of lawn, paving and ornamental flower beds, surrounding a central ornamental pond.
In 2017 the garden was completely re-planted in white flowers for visitors to reflect and celebrate the life of Princess Diana. It took inspiration from Princess Diana’s dresses along with the famous Mario Testino photographs of the Princess. The garden continues to follow this peaceful and pastel coloured style to this day which visitors admire and enjoy.
An arched arbour of red-twigged lime (Tilia Platyphyllus) surrounds the Sunken Garden with arched viewpoints equally spaced along the sides.
In the summer, this shady tunnel provides the perfect place to view the bright colours in the Sunken Garden to the north or the re-landscaped gardens to the south.
The trees are pruned hard on a regular basis to promote new growth and to help train the stems over the iron frame which was installed in 2008
Some people will remember the colloquial name 'Nanny Walk' as this beautiful spot was a favoured meeting point for the many nannies in Kensington.
The wildflower meadow to the south -east of the palace includes poppies, campion, daisies, and many other native wild flowers, which bloom in the summer months. The effect is a lovely natural approach to the palace from the south.
The flowers are also immensely beneficial to pollinators and other insects who sometimes struggle to find food and shelter in the big city.
Kensington Gardens began life as a King's playground; for over 100 years, the gardens were part of Hyde Park and hosted Henry VIII's huge deer chase.
When William III and Mary II established the palace in 1689, they began to create a separate park. Mary commissioned a palace garden of formal flower beds and box hedges. This style was Dutch and designed to make William, who came from Holland, feel at home.
The diarist, John Evelyn, described the gardens as 'very delicious'. On 2 September 1705 he wrote 'I was able to go take the aire, as far as Kensington, where I saw that house... & the plantation about it, to my great admiration and Refreshment...'
When Queen Anne came to the throne in 1702, she created an English-style garden. The Orangery was added in 1704, an elaborate greenhouse built in the style of an elegant palace to protect Anne's citrus trees from the harsh frosts of winter.
Anne also recognised the Orangery’s beautiful garden setting and graceful architecture made it a perfect venue for fashionable court entertaining away from the chaos of 'town'.
From 1728, Queen Caroline began to transform the 242 acres of Kensington Gardens into the park we know today. She created the Serpentine boating lake and the Long Water, as well as the Broad Walk and round pond. These are now in Kensington Gardens and looked after by The Royal Parks.
For most of the 18th century the gardens were closed to the public except on Saturdays and only to the 'respectably dressed'. The intriguing garden was admired by Samuel Pepys, amongst others, as 'a mighty fine cool place... with a great layer of water in the middle'.