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Friday, 23 June 2017

Diana memorial garden replanted for summer

The White Garden in the grounds of London’s Kensington Palace, planted in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, who died 20 years ago, has been given a fresh look for summer. Designed and created as a tribute to her by palace gardeners, it celebrates her elegance and style with a sea of flowers, including some of her personal favourites.
Pots of classic English white roses now surround the reflective pool in the centre of the garden, while beds are filled with lilies, gladioli, cosmos, gaura and fragrant nemesia.
The garden is a temporary one, coinciding with an exhibition inside the Palace of some of her iconic dresses - Diana: Her Fashion Story. This runs until the end of 2017.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Visiting Lambeth Palace Garden

There’s a treat for both plant and history lovers this summer. On the first Friday of the month until September, Lambeth Palace – the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury – opens its garden to the public. It’s been continuously cultivated for longer than any other in the country, having been a private garden since the 12th c. Over the centuries, various incumbents have put their own stamp on it.
One of the first things you see is an enormous fig tree on the left of the entrance to the Great Hall. A White Marseilles variety, it was brought from Italy by Cardinal Pole when he arrived to become Queen Mary’s Archbishop in 1556. It still gives two crops of fruit a year, in July and October; some of this ends up as jam. The tree has also returned to Italy. In 2014, Archbishop Justin Welby visited Pope Francis in Rome and gave him a cutting from the tree as a symbol of the common heritage of the two religions.
The entrance to the garden is to the right of the main building (above). It covers 10 acres and includes a Jewel Border, Rose Arbour and a herb garden (below).
There are also bee hives.....
...a composting area...
...........and many mature trees.
Among them is this Tulip Tree, a species introduced to England by Royal gardener John Tradescant the younger, which was in bloom at the beginning of June.
Fittingly, Tradescant is buried next door in the churchyard of St Mary-at-Lambeth, now the Garden Museum and recently reopened after a major refurbishment.
Visitors to the Palace garden can go on a short guided walk and learn more of its history and future plans. These feature a new garden area designed by Dan Pearson to surround a planned purpose-built library and archive.
This will be at the far end of the garden by the current pond, which is to be enlarged and enhanced. The development should be completed by 2020 and will house the Palace’s collection of precious books and manuscripts. Some of these are currently on display in the Great Hall, which we were able to visit on the open garden afternoon.
Admission to the garden is £5, and refreshments are available in a marquee on the lawn.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Walking the Lea Valley 9: Spring has sprung

Spring really was in the air for this section of our Lea Valley exploration, from Broxbourne to Rye House. The sun shone all morning, and just outside Broxbourne we stopped to admire a multi-tasking swan, busy improving its nest while still incubating the eggs.
Out on the water, mother birds whose broods had already hatched were introducing their offspring to the world.
Further along, newly-returned Common Terns swooped and dived into the river with balletic grace.
This beautiful stretch of waterway, which includes the junction with the Stort Navigation, was busy with boats moving to new moorings or being spruced up ready for summer.
As we walked along, we saw blossom everywhere, attracting the butterflies. At one point we heard a thrush singing.
Lunch was at the Fish and Eels pub at Hoddersdon, which dates back to the 1800s and has had many landlords over the years, including, in 1906, the Rev Samuel Thackeray, who took to innkeeping after being defrocked.
After lunch we made our way past Dobbs Weir (above) and on to Rye House Gatehouse.
This is all that remains of a once-splendid moated mansion that was built in 1443 by Sir Andrew Ogard, and was one of England’s first brick buildings.
It’s adorned with crenelations, barley-sugar twist chimneys and a row of faces that look down from the base of the parapet.
At one time the home of the family of Catherine Parr, the last of Henry VIII’s six wives, in 1683 it was the centre of a plot to assassinate Charles II and his brother James. They were due to pass the house after attending a race meeting at Newmarket, but the plot was discovered. The ringleaders, who’d feared the royal brothers might return the country to Catholicism, were arrested and executed. Today, the outline of the house is recorded in brick in the grounds. The gatehouse is sometimes open (details below) but not on the day of our visit.
By mid-afernoon, the sun had vanished so, with a last glimpse of the many birds and the blossom, it was back across the river to Rye House station, and the train home.

Friday, 21 April 2017

In search of bluebells

You don’t have to go far to find bluebells in spring, even in a city like London. Come April and May they cover the ground in shady borders and beneath woodland trees with a carpet of cobalt.
We went bluebell hunting in Stanmore Country Park, at the northern end of the Jubilee line. Until 1950 this was grazed open fields surrounded by hedges, but is now mostly covered with woodland – ideal for these delicate plants. There are two types - the stems of the native English variety (above) curve over, while the Spanish are more upright. The native variety is protected, so should not be picked in the wild.
We followed the park's Eastern and Northern route trails with a slight detour to the highest point.  From there we were rewarded with a magnificent view south of London, with Crystal Palace on the horizon. (A helpful plaque identifies the landmarks.)
There is a downloadable guide to Stanmore Country Park and its nature trails at  
Other places around London to view bluebells include Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood, Osterley Park, Kew Gardens, Hyde Park, Wanstead Park and Oxleas Wood.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Tulip Festival at Hever Castle, Kent

The grounds of Hever Castle, the childhood home of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, are currently ablaze with tulips. The mild weather means the flowers are blooming rather earlier than expected this year, so some events and activities have been brought forward.

The Italian Garden has formal displays, with most of the varieties sporting useful labels. 
Black Parrot
Hot Pants
Ice Cream
Calgary Flame

Elsewhere there are massed displays, stunning in the spring sunshine.

Gardeners were busy adding manure to the beds - evidence of the hard work needed to keep the gardens at their best.

Some 7,000 bulbs in 60 different varieties were planted in the autumn, and will be dug up at the end of the season, many to be replanted in the borders.

Hever's 2017 Tulip Celebrations run until May 7.