A Garden Of One’s Own


It’s the only large Central London park I’ve never been inside, and it’s just two miles from our home.  To be sure, there are other spots missing off the Fowler Patented Scrutinizing Map of London but this is the largest unknown territory.

Buckingham Palace Garden, 39 lush acres lying behind high spiked walls, magically screens out the street pollution and noise to provide an oasis of calm in the centre of the city. There was clearly no chance of ever getting invited to one of HRH’s garden parties, so Pete the husband applied for tickets, which were gone mere seconds after becoming available.

The Garden spans 16 hectares and provides a habitat for 30 species of breeding bird, including some rare natives and over 325 species of wildflower. They’re bringing back nature that existed here two hundred years ago.

The back of Buckingham Palace is a little less attractive than the front, but much more welcoming. At dusk the amber stone glows. There’s a broad terrace for entertaining – the Queen hosts parties for people from all walks of life, apparently not mine. The lawns are elegantly striped and the peaceful lake has islands, fed from the Serpentine overflow in Hyde Park or the Tyburn, depending on which of the guides you talk to.

One of them told me that only a single scene in ‘The Crown’ was ever filmed there, and that almost everything in the series is subtly wrong. The garden is venerable and outrageously picturesque. There’s even a perfect view of the Angel of Peace on her chariot on the Wellington Arch, raised as a smack in the eye for Napoleon.

There’s a mulberry tree planted at the time of James I and 45 different types of mulberry tree in the grounds, which are also home to the enormous Waterloo Vase, standing alone on a pedestal in a clearing. It was chosen by Napoleon and hewn from a single 15 foot block of marble. It nearly fell through the floor of the National Gallery and ended up here in the woods.

The garden was inspired by the works of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, designed to be ‘long-grass’ and free flowing instead of rigid and formal and dull, like French gardens. Each turn in the path reveals a new vista. You can easily imagine the young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret playing in the summerhouse and holding picnics on the lawn. The Queen is said to love the vista because she can see it from her rooms.

I thought we would stay for maybe two hours. There were six of us and you’re allowed to picnic and go pretty much where you want. We spent the entire day there, lolling about with hampers and martinis. A genuinely surprising and chilled day out.



25 comments on “A Garden Of One’s Own”

  1. Liz+Thompson says:

    Glad you enjoyed your day out!

  2. Jo W says:

    What a lovely day out you had there,Chris. I’m holding back my feelings of envy and glad you enjoyed yourselves.

  3. Keith says:

    Beautiful, and so serene. So glad to here you enjoyed it so much. I wonder what Mr Bryant would think of the new Marble Arch mound? I can see him now thrusting his walking stick at it.
    Stay strong Chris.

  4. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    Glad you had an enjoyable day.
    I’m sure Arthur must have found himself lurking in the shrubbery at a garden party at some point.
    I’ve just finished London Bridge. I don’t want to post any spoilers, but to anyone who hasn’t got around to reading it yet, don’t hesitate any longer. It’s even better than you expect it to be.

  5. Paul+C says:

    Talking of gardens, a sign was spotted on top of an enclosure of vegetables recently :


    Sorry, folks…………

  6. Roger says:

    “only a single scene in ‘The Crown’ was ever filmed there”
    How did they get in?

  7. Stu-I-Am says:

    Ah well, had you and Pete been able to attend one of the garden parties yours would have been only two of the 27,000 cups of tea served. One wonders if attendees will also be offered Buckingham Palace Dry Gin (now available online at only £40.00/70 cl bottle) made from botanicals from the Garden. Can’t expect HRH to live on her Sovereign Grant alone, now can you ? Some factoids to cheer your day…

  8. Stu-I-Am says:

    The thought of Arthur Bryant meeting HRH boggles the mind, so much so in fact, I strongly suggest you have the lads do some hush-hush work for the Palace in a short story. It’s the least you can do for me.

  9. Peter+T says:

    Sounds brilliant. Regrets. Those many of us who turned down the various New Year prize thingummies could have seen it all for free. Just because we didn’t want to be on the same list as a retired footballer and his Mrs.

  10. Terenzio says:

    Sounds like a lot fun. There was an article in the WaPo. This is the first time Queen Elizabeth has opened the garden to the general public. Tickets are £16.50 for an adult. Beautiful spot for a picnic and to linger a bit. The garden will be open through the rest of summer. You can purchase tickets through the Royal Collection Trust’s website. https://www.rct.uk/visit/the-state-rooms-buckingham-palace/buckingham-palace-garden

  11. Helen+Martin says:

    What a lovely day and to do it in a small group like that. Bryant at the palace would be marvelous. He may be rude but not to her he wouldn’t be. Just think of all the things he could find and I’ll bet he and the corgis wouldn’t get along.

  12. Rupert says:

    The Waterloo Vase, has to be the next Bryant & May book? Please?

  13. admin says:

    Terenzio, you’re back! We all missed you!

  14. Stu-I-Am says:

    “Now there I make a comma, and there, where a more decided turn is proper, I make a colon; at another part, where an interruption is desirable to break the view, a parenthesis; now a full stop, and then I begin another subject.’
    —- Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, the great English landscape architect, describing the gardens at Hampton Court

    Not so different from one who designs images with words and who sees ‘capability’ nearly everywhere in London legend and lore.

  15. Ed DesCamp says:

    What a beautiful post. While the description of the gardens and the photographs are wonderful, the best part of all was the fact that it turned into a Gilligan’s Island experience – instead of a two hour tour, you spent the whole day in a magnificent new place with people you love. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Jan says:

    There’s another absolutely vast garden near a large house in North London up around the Whittington Hospital or somewhere in that area – my memory is getting increasingly dodgy.

    I think this house became derelict or semi derelict this place was like the development opportunity of the century …. what’s actually happened to this site I don’t know it could be amoungst the largest housing developments in Greater London or more likely has been subdivided into a few multi multi millionaires plots. That’s if people with that amount of dosh are still happy to invest there.

    The Tyburn used to supply the water for both the Serpentine and if you you remember Chris runs pretty much close to Buck House, there used to be trips along the underground river channel which runs close to Victoria monument o/s the Palace back in the 19C.

    I think the lake in Green Park was also kept topped up from the Tyburn.
    I think now that alternative water sources are accessed for both the Serpentine and this lake and to supply that very odd Diana fountain/ditch….

    The Tyburn flows on through towards Victoria station which is actually built on the site of the Grosvenor canal + a second canal which obtained their waters from the Tyburn. Actually deep bore holes were created in Hyde Park for the Diana fountain and for the Serpentine water supply.
    Odd to think that the Serpentine itself which inspired lakes created in parks throughout the world was really repurposing of waters from the Tyburn originally conduited in massive oak pipes into the C of L in Medieval times.

  17. Stu-I-Am says:

    Well now, how about ‘a mound of one’s own.’ You might want to add the Marble Arch Mound to your legendary London archiv under ‘hill of beans.’ Apparently the ‘new and meaningful experience’ (to use the words of Westminster) has closed until further notice.

  18. Mimi Paller says:

    London Bridge is Falling Down was supposed to get to L.A. on August 3. It arrived today! I’m not a fan of Jeff, but I have to say thanks to Amazon UK.

  19. Brooke says:

    Has anyone in US tried Blackwell’s free shipping with order? A discount on book price is also on offer.

  20. Peter+T says:

    …Blackwell’s also use a better quality wrapping with their motto in Latin, which should impress your postie/delivery man and any onlookers. All much more impressive than the Amazon smirk!

    Getting back to gardens, ours has been a wonderful refuge during Covid. Even when the weather is too bad to go outdoors, it’s pleasant to to look through the window. And there’s a gentle satisfaction in growing things, especially roses and artichokes. I wonder if HM et al do any gardening?

  21. Brooke says:

    @Peter T: surely your last questions is asked in jest…

  22. Mary Ann Atwood says:

    Received my copy, in rural northern Minnesota, of London Bridge is Falling Down, from Blackwell’s in priistine condition free of shipping charges. An outstanding offer and a delightful book. My husband, of 47 years as of August 4th, salute you Mr. Fowler for your dedication to writing tomes which keep us on our toes. May you and yours find joy and strength in all that comes your way.

  23. Stu-I-Am says:

    One more fun fact. There is another Fowler associated with Buckingham Palace. The noted English interior designer, John Beresford Fowler CBE, who decorated The Queen’s Audience Room, where HRH gives private audiences, including when she can and must, with the Tousled Terror of Downing Street. Also known for his way with description, he formed a private language of color names such as ‘dead salmon’ and ‘mouse’s back’— to which his partner, Nancy Lancaster, added to the palette, the infamous ‘caca du dauphin’ and ‘vomitesse de la reine.’

  24. Helen+Martin says:

    I love “the tousled terror of Downing St.”

  25. Helen+Martin says:

    Lucky Mary Ann in rural Minnesota. I am at the stage of contacting Blackwood’s and asking for a trace, if that can happen.

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