Kensington Palace Gardens have been given a whole new look: a face lift, you could say. Last year a competition was held to revive Kensington Palace and the public spaces around it, with landscape architect Todd Longstaffe-Gowan winning the garden component. With work completed just in time for last year’s Diamond Jubilee (and allowing plenty of time for the plants to mature before the newest residents of Apartment 1A, William and Kate, arrive shortly), the park is sure to become a huge tourist attraction.
Longstaffe-Gowan’s plan for the whole outside area has seen Kensington Gardens simplified and made majestic again – vistas have been been opened up and the look is green and sculptural. Queen Victoria lived in Kensington Palace and her statue, sculpted by her daughter Princess Louise to celebrate fifty years of her mother’s reign, has been given pride of place at the top of the Broad Walk which leads to the new and welcoming entrance to the Palace.
The newly installed sunken garden is the most spectacular component of the new design, particularly right now with its outrageous display of colour. This is a contemporary garden with no real historical precedent for its plantings, so here the head gardener has been given the liberty to go wild – he certainly has!
As you can see, tulips and wallflowers in every shade of purple are bursting out. In a small setting it would be absolutely overpowering, but here it is a real wow. Unfortunately this part of the garden is private – you can’t go in but you can look through at it from the arches that have been left open in the hornbeam pergola which goes all around it. Sit on the stone wall and you’ll find that it’s all pretty close by – perfect for shots of the layout.
As part of the official tour for the Garden Museum, the architect led a group of rapt and happy garden enthusiasts around the project. He explained that his goal was to link the palace to the park and to open up its vistas. His design was influenced by his solid (and impressive) respect for garden history, particularly the work of Charles Bridgeman (1690-1738). Bridgeman was the designer of the Serpentine, the Round Pond and of Hyde Park, so the current Kensington Gardens project is a return to the historic principles of his scheme.
As well as the sunken garden there’s also what can only be described as a “wiggley” garden, which has a a maze-like path through a series of green shrubs which makes it a wonderful contrast to the vibrant colours of its neighbouring space.
Next time you are in the area why not set aside half an hour for a delightful and unexpected stroll?