London's superb Royal Parks are well known—these are the city’s lungs, loved by locals and visitors, including Hyde Park, Green Park and Regent’s Park. But in the summer months, look out for landscaped lawns, gardens and blooms with decades of history in palace grounds and museums.
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
One of the world’s greatest botanic gardens, Kew boasts more than 250 years of history, and 38,000 species spread over its magnificent 300-acre site. Year round, its immense Victorian-era glasshouses are a huge highlight, plus the treetop walkway. Enjoy summer blooms of dazzling sunflowers and delicate lilies. Also, this summer sees a new addition of barefoot walking trails and home remedy workshops, part of the programme of events to experience the stimulating and transformative power of plants.
The family home of generations of the Duke of Northumberland is famed for its Robert Adam interior, great paintings and furniture. But its gardens, with extensive collection of rare trees and plants are a real gem. 'Capability' Brown designed this park in the mid 18th century, a registered Grade-I landscape. Overlooking the grounds is Flora, a statue atop a 55-foot-high column, and a nearby lake with water birds.
This fairytale castle, loved by Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, been a medieval castle, Jacobean country house and a Georgian mansion. Its acres of grounds dazzle with colour in summer. Spring’s carpet of daffodils at the Wood Garden gives way to summer's azaleas and rhododendrons, with the Culpeper Garden displaying a very English look with its roses, lupins and poppies. Don’t miss the spiralling yew maze, made from 2,400 yew trees, and underworld grotto.
Eltham Palace & Gardens
The art deco elegance of this decadent palace, lying next to the remains of Henry VIII's boyhood home Eltham Palace, was created by the wealthy Courtauld family. Its gardens were first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 and during centuries of neglect, the artist JMW Turner painted it in the shadow of the palace’s picturesque ruin. These days, however, there is no such neglect. The moat encircles the (now dry) moat, and in 2000 award-winning garden designer Isabelle van Groeningen created a more contemporary border. The sunken rose garden is a gem, filled with scented hybrid musk roses.
Hampton Court Palace
Sixty acres of formal gardens run down to the River Thames showcasing fountains and tranquil royal parkland. Look out for the Great Vine, planted in 1768 by the celebrated gardener 'Capability Brown'. The vine still produces sweet black grapes – and if you're in the palace shop in September you can even buy some. Hampton Court's famous maze was commissioned in 1700 by William Orange III, in trapezoid shape, and is the UK's oldest surviving maze. Exotic plants are on display by the Lower Orangery, formed in the 17th century, with yucca and palm trees.