Palace gardeners create WW1 tribute garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

14 June 2018

14 June 2018

Created in collaboration with Hampton Court Palace’s own gardeners and volunteers, Battlefields to Butterflies will commemorate the 24 Royal Parks and Palaces gardeners and park keepers who lost their lives during the First World War.

3 – 8 July 2018

To mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, Historic Royal Palaces - the independent charity that cares for Hampton Court Palace - has partnered with the Royal Parks Guild to create a unique and thought-provoking tribute for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. Entitled Battlefields to Butterflies, this special Feature Garden will portray two very differing scenes, each reflecting the stark realities of war; from the raw, ugly and desolate landscapes of the trenches, to a landscape restored by nature to peace, realised in a tranquil display of wildflowers and trees.

Designed by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan - who through his long-standing relationship with Historic Royal Palaces has been instrumental in recent major landscape improvements at Hampton Court Palace – and created by the palace’s own gardeners and volunteers, the layout and planting scheme will demonstrate how nature’s healing powers and the passage of the time recovers and transforms a damaged landscape. Visitors to the show will be able to move through the two spaces in order to truly appreciate the juxtaposition. Drawing upon the words and paintings of WW1 artist William Orpen, the garden aims to reflect the horrors he witnessed first-hand, with the vivid imagery of mud, desolation and the destruction of war. This is contrasted by his astonishment at the ability of nature to heal itself and create ‘an enchanted land’, which is taken as inspiration for elements of the design. The scheme will incorporate native trees from northern Europe to reflect the landscape of the First World War, including poplars, hornbeams, willow and birch. The Garden’s underplanting will comprise a mass of wildflowers similar to those Orpen would have seen on his return to the battlefield later in the war, with poppies, cornflowers, loosestrife, mallows and cranesbills in full bloom.

Todd Longstaffe-Gowan said, “I am pleased to collaborate with HRP and the Royal Parks Guild in creating this special commemorative garden. The design draws upon the core theme of the Battlefields to Butterflies Partnership, which marks the lives lost in WWI through a series of installations inspired by William Orpen’s paintings and prose. We hope that by leading visitors through our recreation of a WWI trench and into the fresh woodland meadow, they will be able to experience a journey from ruin to remembrance.”

The Feature Garden forms part of the wider Battlefields to Butterflies WWI commemorative project created by Mike Fitt OBE of the Royal Parks Guild. The aim of the initiative is to commemorate all those parks, gardens and grounds staff, from across the UK and its allies, who lost their lives in the First World War. Integral to this journey of remembrance are a group of horticultural apprentices, gathered from various organisations, including Historic Royal Palaces and the Royal Parks. As an intergenerational aspect of the project they are working alongside Chelsea Pensioners from the Royal Hospital Chelsea, to help inform the overall scheme and its lasting message.

To recognise the sacrifice made by the 24 Royal Parks and Palaces gardeners and park keepers who never returned - including three members of Hampton Court staff - a specially dedicated plaque will also be unveiled as part of the garden. Following the Flower Show, the plaque will be taken to London’s Brompton Cemetery to form part of a permanent memorial garden that will commemorate all parks, gardens and grounds staff, from across the UK and its allies, who died in WWI.

Graham Dillamore, Gardens Operations Manager at Hampton Court Palace, said: “During the Great War Hampton Court Palace’s 60 acres of formal gardens and 750 acres of parkland were left untouched while its grounds staff were fighting overseas. As we mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the conflict this year, it’s particularly poignant that our current team of gardeners – who work on the very same soil - helped to create this special tribute to the 24 Royal Parks and Palaces grounds staff who never returned.”

For further information and images, please contact Sophie Lemagnen in the Historic Royal Palaces press office:  020 3166 6304 / [email protected]

For further information about the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show or to apply for media accreditation, please contact [email protected] / 020 7821 3696

Notes to editors

Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland. We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We raise all our own funds and depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, sponsors and volunteers. With the exception of Hillsborough Castle, these palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Registered charity number 1068852.

For more information, visit

Royal Parks Guild is an independent membership body whose aim is to support and promote London’s Royal Parks in a manner that befits their international status, unique heritage and cultural value whilst providing a service to its members.

For more information, visit