A group of keen gardeners braved the icy weather to gather under the bright skies of Hampton Court Palace one January morning, including myself. Blessed with blue skies and sunshine we were guided to the world-famous Rose Garden created in the 1930’s with hundreds of roses and situated in one of the walled compartments of the old kitchen gardens, where Anthony Boulding is the Horticulture Manager. Under the gaze of the statues Adonis and Flora, Palace gardeners Gary and Dan expertly demonstrated the art of pruning old roses, species roses and hybrid teas, giving hands-on advice and answering many questions, keen to pass on their passion and knowledge. Dressed in our many layers we pruned a good number of roses under their expert guidance which gave us all confidence to go forth and practice this skill in our various gardens.
I was pleased to be able to prune a group of Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’ as this is a favourite yellow rose of mine, so I was pleased to check how it is cared for here. Only organic methods are employed and the benefits of mycorrhizal fungi and seaweed fertiliser were explained. Some of the roses are very old and we were shown how techniques and planting styles have changed over the years. Being a Palace Garden permission has to be given on many horticultural decisions involving the plants. Climbers had been tied to wires on the Elizabethan brick walls and we studied these and the newer methods with wooden batons forming a more solid support on the very old bricks and mortar.
We enjoyed pruning a variety of roses and I’m glad to say they looked pretty good by the end of the day. In the last remains of the winter sunlight we were rewarded with a tour of the extensive gardens including the new immaculate Kitchen Garden, through the Wilderness with pretty carpets of cyclamen, by the Maze and through the Great Fountain Garden with its magnificent huge shaped yew trees and onto the Privy Garden on the south side of the Palace between the King’s apartments and the River Thames, created for Henry VIII and restored in 1995 recreating the William III Privy Garden of 1701, a parterre a l’anglais created in grass with borders of flowering shrubs, annuals and bulbs. The gardens are draped in history and we were entertained by many stories for instance the use of hornbeam hedging in the original maze and the Pond Gardens which used to be a fish farm and which are now sunken gardens.
There are plants for every season and the gardens are enjoyed all year round by the many visitors. I hope to return in springtime as I would particularly love to see the parterre filled with spring flowers and of course in the summertime to see the Rose Garden, so am planning my outing to the ever-fabulous RHS Flower Show at Hampton Court in July.
Ceinwen from www.bonnyborders.co.uk