Tulip Festival at Hampton Court Palace

Inaugural Tulip Festival

Over 100,000 tulips have been planted for the inaugural tulip festival at Hampton Court. The festival was for 3 weeks and ended earlier this week. Hopefully there will be another tulip festival next year, of course I’m biased – tulips are my absolute favourite.

These flowers are so colourful and vibrant. I loved visiting Keukenhof Gardens just outside Amsterdam a couple of years ago – you can read more about that here. Planting time for tulips is usually October and November, and flowering time is usually March to May.

Kitchen Garden

We did not follow the map provided. We started at the end: in the Kitchen Garden – mainly because this was near the food. The kitchen gardens were first laid out by William III to provide food for the palace kitchens.

As you walk towards the gardens, tulips line the walls. Then in the gardens the bulb beds are laid out like in Keukenhof, making it easy to distinguish the different colours and types of tulips.

The Wilderness

Next we made a short excursion to The Wilderness. Not numbered on the map provided, presumably because there weren’t actually any tulips here. Instead there are trees – lots of blossom trees. There was a small young family trying to take a picture of their daughter under a blossom tree but the kid wasn’t having any of it. It could’ve been a picture perfect moment, but they ended up capturing a bawling toddler instead.

Base Court

We walked back towards the main part of the palace and started at the beginning. The Base Court held single and double early tulips. Such vibrant colours, and they look a little like peonies.

Clock Court

The Clock Court had lily-flowered tulips with pointy tips. I remember first seeing these types in Keukenhof. It was here, looking around, that we realised this was the emptiest we have ever seen Hampton Court Palace. We’ve visited three times and each time, except this one, was absolutely heaving with people. It was almost surreal this time round, being so empty and so colourful.

Fountain Court

This took my breath away. Triumph tulips circle the fountain in the middle of the Fountain Court. Absolutely stunning colours. One of my favourite types of tulips, and one of the largest too.

Great Fountain Garden

The big show case garden, filled with yellow and purple Darwin hybrid tulips. Some flower beds were empty, I’m not sure if those bloomed earlier and therefore subsequently sold on. Apparently Queen Mary II created geometric flower beds here in the 1690s. On this day there were horse drawn carriages taking people around the tulips, families having picnics on the grass, and ice cream. You can see the River Thames here too, quite a peaceful walk around these gardens.

Privy Garden

Next we walked to the Privy Garden. When we visited before, the flowers blooming looked exotic and colourful. This time there were Rembrandt tulips dotted around. I recall learning about these in Keukenhof: two-coloured tulips, where originally a defect or illness in the flower caused the two colours. Now disease-free tulips exist with two colours.

Knot Garden

We followed along to the Knot Garden, which had single late tulips – one of the tallest tulips around. Apparently knot gardens were a feature of the Tudor period, and this one was apparently beneath Elizabeth I’s window.

Pond Gardens

Over 20,000 tulips were planted for this display in the Pond Gardens and is the head gardener’s favourite. Consisting of single early, triumph, and single late tulips in shades of red and purple. Such beautiful symmetry in this garden, with vibrant reds. It was really peaceful walking around this garden.

Lower Orangery Garden

Nearby, this display contains over 80 different rare and historic tulips from the Hortud Bulborum, a Dutch foundation that conserves flowering bulbs. The colours here were quite subdued and delicate.

What a lovely visit. It was a beautiful day walking around one of my favourite palaces and seeing my favourite flowers. I really hope Hampton Court Palace hold a tulip festival every year.

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