Hampton Court Gardens, U.K.
(Sitting besides one of the stunning perennial border beds alongside the walls of Hampton Court Palace)
Hampton Court Palace is one of the most visited tourist sites in the United Kingdom. Located just outside the limits of Greater London at Kingston-Upon-Thames, it is easily reached by visitors as part of the Thames River cruises. While the Tudor Palace, home of notorious King Henry VIII, is a marvel of architecture, added on enormously by Sir Christopher Wren in the 18th century, its gardens are no less famous and worthy of a visit.
Designed in the formal style to match the elegance of the brick red palace walls, Hampton Court’s gardens are also characterized by a stately formality. There are stunning border beds filled with a multitude of English perennials and abuzz with noisy bees. Women dressed in period costume roam freely along the lawns, chatting to visitors in the idom of the epoch that they represent. Here Llew and Chriselle pose with a young woman suffragette representing the demands for the female vote in the early years of the 20th century (above left).
Hampton Court is also famous for its yew-tree allees that create conical shapes all along the wide emerald lawns (right). Carefully trimmed, they stand like giant topiaries, lending a very majestic look to the great expanse.
Notice the vivid fuschia color of the anemones in the border beds contrasting with the snowy white of the full blown dahlias. Beautifully planted in graduated heights, the perennial flower beds are a spectacular feature of the gardens (left).
Seen from the inside of the Palace during our tour, the gardens present themselves as a sprawling expanse of green punctuated by formally planted evergreen trees. On the right hand side of the picture is the conservatory or green house.
Also seen from one of the upstairs windows is the Elizabethan garden that is characterized by formal beds bordered with low trimmed yew borders. Inside each section, brightly colored annuals such as pinks and geraniums appear like an oriental carpet (above).
Hampton Court is noted for its Maze, an ingenius planting of tall growing hedges that form a labyrinth. Elizabethans loved to spend their time trying to figure out how to get out of the Maze. Llew, Chriselle and I had a lovely time attempting to beat the gardeners who devised this vexing arrangement (left).
The beauty of the gardens is that they slope down towards the banks of the River Thames offering fantastic vistas of the architecture that has made the palace so famous. I tried to imagine what it might have felt like for Tudor lords and ladies alighting from their barges, having sailed on a gorgeous summer’s day from London, and making their way along the private walled gardens to their apartments in the palace. I’m sure they must have appreciated every step of their stroll homewards.
I wish I could have lingered in the gardens and truly appreciated the many styles of English formal gardening. Alas, time was not on our side, and other equally famous English gardens waited to be explored.