The Tulip Festival at Hampton Court Palace is an ideal place for a rendezvous after the easing of lockdown restrictions. An abundance of brightly coloured spring flowers set against the backdrop of Henry VIII’s magnificent Tudor palace provided the perfect landscape for a stroll and chat. Plus, we had the bonus of blue skies and glorious sunshine, making the day even more complete.
Although they have been growing tulips at Hampton Court Palace since the reign of Queen Mary II in the 1690s, this spring saw the first-ever Tulip Festival. Preparations started last August with the mass planting of 100 000 bulbs in the pots, planters, and beds around the royal gardens. Yesterday, we went along to see what it was like.
The hard work of the gardening team has paid off and the tulips have been in bloom since mid-April. By the time of our visit to the Hampton Court Tulip Festival, the palace gardens were a mass of colour and looked spectacular.
The gardens at Hampton Court Palace
The gardens at Hampton Court Palace are always impressive, but the tulips create an extraordinary display. We were free to take a self-guided tour, choosing our own meandering route through the courtyards and formal gardens. It was ideal for a relaxed stroll and catch up.
The Baroque-style gardens at Hampton Court are very symmetrical and look great with the solid blocks of colour from the tulip blooms. Many beds have one bold colour, such as vibrant yellows or brilliant reds, for a dramatic effect.
The sheer number of bulbs in each area makes all the difference. I clearly have a lot to learn in my own garden, where the colour relies on isolated blooms dotted about randomly.
The Lower Orangery Garden
In addition to the huge numbers of flowers, there is a wide variety of tulips. In fact, the Tulip Festival is host to over 80 different varieties of rare and specialist tulips. Furthermore, some are historic varieties, reflecting the long history of tulip-growing at the palace.
In the Lower Orangery garden, you’ll find a special display with tulip varieties dating back over 400 years. Careful planning means some were even selected to emphasise the red bricks of the Tudor courtyard!
Of course, whilst you are in the gardens, you can appreciate the year-round highlights of the royal gardens. You can’t miss the shapely, historic yew trees which form a majestic avenue up to the palace in the Fountain Garden. Plus, you’ll find water features, marble sculptures, covered walkways and royal carriages.
Although Hampton Court Palace is renowned for its annual Flower Show in late summer, this first Tulip Festival seems successful and hopefully won’t be the last.
The fate of the tulips after the festival is not yet known. It’s most likely that the gardening team will dig them up and dry the bulbs in readiness for next year. Tulips are not as good in their second season, but I am sure they will enhance a garden somewhere. Let’s hope so, as it really was a fantastic day out.
Where to eat on a visit to Hampton Court Palace
You can eat a picnic in some areas of the royal gardens or get some takeaway snacks at the café. Alternatively, there’s a good choice of cafés and restaurants the other side of the bridge beside Hampton Court Palace. You will need to book in advance, as their riverside location makes them extremely popular.
We went to Eight on the River, at East Molesey Rowing Club. This is a 10-minute scenic walk along the towpath next to the River Thames. They had a good selection of lunch dishes and all-day breakfast and some lovely views.
Practical information for the tulip festival:-
Tickets for the Tulip Festival
The Tulip Festival is running from 12th April to 3rd May 2021. You should buy your tickets in advance online. Tickets for adults are £15, but admission for members is free.
You cannot get into the Palace itself, but do walk through the courtyards on arrival and can see the palace exterior. The Tulip Festival is open from 10am until 5pm.
Getting to Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace is in East Molesey, Surrey in south-east England. The postcode is KT8 9AU. It is easy to get to via the M3/A308 or A3/A309. There is limited on-site parking on site or at nearby Hampton Court Green car park. It is currently £1.60 per hour.
The nearest train station is Hampton Court, which is only a 5-minute walk from Hampton Court. Regular trains run from London Waterloo and take about 35 minutes.
Have you been to the Tulip Festival at Hampton Court Palace? We’d love to hear your comments below.
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