An intimate, tranquil and secluded oasis
Walk in the footsteps of royalty in the beautiful gardens of Kensington Palace.
As part of a major season of events to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria at Kensington Palace, planting in the palace gardens in 2019 will celebrate horticultural discoveries made during the Victorian era, as well as the colour that dominated Victorian decor.
New planting marking the anniversary in the palace's East Front complements the magnificent statue designed by designed by Princess Louise, Queen Victoria's fourth daughter.
The Victoria theme continues with the addition of eight plant species and varieties that were all discovered during the Victorian era.
Finally, this summer the Sunken Garden will dazzle with a rich Victorian colour palette, inspired by the vibrant colours found in Victorian carpets and interior decor.
The new scheme will coincide with two major exhibitions and a season of events exploring Victoria's life and reign.
The beautiful Sunken Garden was planted in 1908, transforming part of the gardens previously occupied by potting sheds into a tranquil ornamental garden of classical proportions. It was modelled on a similar garden at Hampton Court Palace and celebrated a style of gardening seen in the 18th century.
The garden is terraced with paving and ornamental flower beds, surrounding an ornamental pond with fountains formed from reused 18th century water cisterns retrieved from the palace.
Today, the garden continues the tradition of rotational flower displays in the spring and summer. Vibrant colours and exotic planting are on display from April to October when the garden is looking its best.
In the spring, tulips, wallflowers and pansies bloom while in the summer months geraniums, cannas, begonias and many more provide the vivid colour.
An arched arbour of red-twigged lime, the walk 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 have been coppiced, or stooled, meaning that they have been cut back to the ground. This preserves the original tree stock and allows new stems to be trained over the new framework of the bower.
Some people will remember the colloquial name 'Nanny Walk' as this beautiful spot was a favoured meeting point for the many nannies in Kensington.
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'.
Crinodendron hookerianum was first introduced into this country in 1848 by the plant Hunter and collector William Lobb of Exeter.
Lobb travelled by sea to the rain forests of Chile where he brought back the Chilean lantern tree (Crinodendron hookerianum) and began propagating from it shortly after 1848.
Luma apiculata is a native to the central Andes between Chile and Argentina, hence its common name The Chilean myrtle.
It was introduced into Europe by William Lobb in 1844 and at first was only grown in the warmer areas such as Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The Arrayanes National Park in Argentinian is the place to see these wonderful trees, which are said to be over 650 years old.
Tropaeolum Speciosum is a scrambling creeper that grows in the wild throughout Chile. It was discovered and brought back to England for Queen Victoria by William Lobb in 1845.
Also known as the Japanese cedar, which can grow up to 180ft, Cyrptomeria Japonica is native to Japan and China. It was in China that Robert Fortune first collected seed and plants, which he bought back to England c1843.
Cornus kousa is a small deciduous tree commonly known as the Chinese dogwood or Japanese dogwood.
Ernest Wilson, the famous Victorian plant hunter, was the first to introduce this plant into Great Britain after it first went to Boston in the United States at the end of the 19th century.
Trachycarpus fortunei is also known as Chinese Windmill Palm. It is a tough and hardy evergreen Palm that is native to China, India and Japan.
The German physician Philipp Franz von Siebold brought the plant from Japan to Europe in 1830 but it was not until 1849 that Robert Fortune smuggled plants from China to the Kew Horticultural Gardens and gave them to Prince Albert.
The French plant collector Victor Considerant, was the first to bring this agave to Europe from Mexico in 1872 but sadly this one and only prize specimen was over watered and died the following winter.
In 1874, Considerant tried again, this time importing 12 plants, the biggest of which was planted in the Jardin des Plants in Paris. As the plant was not yet formally named, it was suggested that it be named in honour of Queen Victoria.
Trachelospermum jasminoides is also known as the Star Jasmine and was first introduced by the Scottish botanist Robert Fortune who discovered the plant growing wild in southern China.
This climbing plant is also known as the Confederate Jasmine as it was also found cultivated in the southern United States.
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