5 Stunning Public Gardens to Visit with Your Family in LondonColin Campbell-Preston
Our capital city is full of beautiful gardens, from grand parks to small green spaces. The warmer weather awakens the trees and flowers and glorious layers of colour begin to spread across the grounds. It’s an enchanting time to be out and about, with plenty of photo opportunities at every turn. We look at some of the London’s most breathtaking gardens and highlight all the best features that you shouldn’t miss.
Hampton Court Palace Gardens
Hampton Court Palace is a staggering 750-acre estate set within a loop of the River Thames, with the formal gardens occupying 60 acres.
When visiting Hampton Court, a stroll around the world-famous 300-year old Maze is essential with its half a mile of winding paths taking you to the centre – or not. Hang on to the kids: with its many twists, turns and dead ends, it could take up to 45 minutes to complete and there are stories of people getting lost for much longer.
Stop by the Privvy Garden and marvel at this impressive re-creation that uses a combination of the original 17th-century design and historic planting lists. Planted symmetrically in stunning patterns, this awe-inspiring garden has a collection of magnificent marble sculptures set amongst the many original varieties of plants.
If you’re visiting with the kids, head to the Magic Garden – a wonderfully imaginative area for all ages, with towers, battlements, a grotto and a 25-metre dragon (open from the 1st of April).
Eltham Palace is partly Art Deco, part medieval – and both the house and grounds are well deserving of your time. The gardens are set over 19 acres and include London’s oldest working bridge, a sunken rose garden and a herbaceous border that was designed by award-winning designer Isabelle Van Groeningen. The Rock Garden is another must-see with its trail of cascades and pools leading down to the moat.
In spring, the bulbs at Eltham are in full bloom, spreading bright and cheerful colour around the garden. Cyclamen, primroses, yellow aconites, sky-blue wood anemones, snowdrops and hellebores can all be found in the flower beds for your delight. You’ll also notice the enticing scents of the fragrant sweet box and Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ adding a beautiful perfume to the air as you stroll through the stunning landscape.
Chelsea Physic Garden
Dubbed London’s ‘Secret Garden’, Chelsea Physic Garden is a haven of peace and tranquillity. At just three and a half acres, it’s perfect for a shorter outing or simply an enjoyable stroll. The garden was founded in 1673 by the worshipful Society of Apothecaries in 1673 and includes one of the oldest rock gardens in Europe, together with a fascinating herb garden packed with both culinary and medicinal plants. There are around 5,000 specimens here, many of them rare, together with glasshouses and the largest outdoor olive tree in Britain. You can choose between the guided or self-guided walk which demonstrates how the plants have been used for medicine by tribal societies.
Kensington Palace Gardens
Kensington Palace Gardens span 242 acres and were originally part of Hyde Park. Visit the Sunken Garden which was planted in 1908, featuring an ornamental pond with fountains surrounded by impressive flower beds and paving. The fountains are made from 18th-century water cisterns that were retrieved from Kensington Palace. In spring, you’ll see bright tulips, colourful wallflowers and pansies bring vivid colour to these gorgeous grounds.
Be sure to take a stroll through the cradle walk, an arbour of red-twigged lime – this surrounds the Sunken Garden, with strategically placed viewpoints along the way.
Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew
Kew Gardens is set over 326 acres and is home to more than 40,000 types of plant. Located in southwest London, the garden is home to 40 historically important buildings and has been classified as a United Nations Heritage site since 2003.
This time of year sees Waterlily House reopened at Kew after closure for its annual clean. This impressive hot and humid glass structure houses stunning waterlilies – including the staggering Victoria amazonica, the leaves of which grow up to 2.5 metres across – and beautiful lotus flowers.
Another must-see at this time of year is the view from the 8-metre-high, 200-metre-long Treetop Walkway. During the rest of the year, the leaves of the trees obscure the view across the garden – but in spring, you can see the colour beginning to spread through the grounds. Take a walk through the treetops and enjoy a close up view of birds and insects as you go.
Finally, don’t miss the gigantic titan arum in flower, located in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. The gardens are littered with unique and wonderful flowers and plants that will fascinate all ages, including the towering monkey puzzle, the luminescent jade vine, banana and chocolate trees and many more.
If you want to recreate some of these spectacular garden scenes after your visit, pop into one of our garden centres in Muswell Hill, Wandsworth or Berkhamstead and we’ll be happy to help you choose the perfect plants.