Eltham Palace was originally a Medieval palace and royal estate with both gardens and deer park, belonging to Edward II; and Henry VIII spent much time there.
Easter 2013 was cold and spring was late, due to the cold and snowy weather Britain had been experiencing. Nevertheless, there was plenty to see and do at Eltham palace gardens that weekend.
The fifteenth century Great Hall is a grade 1 listed building, and suffered damage from incendiary bombs during the Second World War, the scorch marks are still to be seen.
It came into a second famous life in the 1930s when Stephen and Virginia Courtauld added a stunning Art deco wing to the Great Hall.
As well as the occasionally opulent interior architecture – Virginia had a bathroom dripping with gold fittings – and the classic Deco entrance hall for which Eltham is famously known, the Courtaulds also had the garden re-designed.
Mawson and Partners produced the initial garden design, which was exhibited at the 1936 Chelsea Flower Show.
This was later adapted to include some horticultural favourites, especially the planting in the sunken rose garden: Virginia loved roses and both the Courtaulds were keen gardeners.
Eltham Palace gardens are one of the English Heritage Contemporary Heritage Gardens, where part of the garden has been designed to reflect both the historic importance of the garden and also bring in present day planting design.
Today’s planting shows how a garden can be as interesting in the winter and early spring as it can be in high summer. For example, the cornus, or dogwood, grown for its winter stems makes a colourful display, and is a planting idea that can easily be adapted for a border in a smaller garden.
The partly pruned box hedging around bright pink bellis bedding plants was a good example of ‘before and after’.
And of course I admired all the various Hellebores in different parts of the gardens.
The wisteria showed its skeletal stems entwining the oak rails of the small bridge which leads to the croquet lawn.
As for Eltham Palace gardens in full flower in June, why that is another blog…