Glorious Gardens at Blenheim Palace
Enjoy a day out at Blenheim Palace and discover over 2,000 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped Parkland and Formal Gardens. Whatever the season there is always something to explore.
This Spring enjoy the Pleasure Gardens at Blenheim Palace. The Pleasure Gardens have been especially designed for younger members of the family. Discover the Marlborough Maze, the world’s second largest symbolic yew hedge maze and the Butterfly House which has over 200 butterflies inside. The Lavender Garden is specifically set out to enhance the native butterflies and you can spot plenty of nectar enriched plants are grown in this area.
Spring is also the best time to view The Italian Garden. Redesigned in the early 20th century by the 9th Duke of Marlborough on the advice of his architect Duchêne. Formal symmetrical scrollwork parterres in box and yew replaced the earlier scheme of carpet bedding, and a new bronze fountain by American sculptor Waldo Story was installed. Look out for the precise nature of The Italian Garden’s box-hedges – each one trimmed using spirit-levels, string and many hours of dedication! Spring brings the arrival of colour with the vast urns being planted with Seville tulips, which are tall, elegant and a vibrant red colour. Dutch Master daffodils flower in abundance in the beds in this area too.
Summer is the time to visit the Water Terraces, which were constructed between 1925 and 1930. The terraces are reminiscent of the Parterre d’Eau at Versailles. On the lowest terrace stands the scale model made by Bernini for his famous fountain in the Piazza Navona in Rome. See beds of fragrant ‘Pascali’ roses, which flower from late May into early Autumn and 12 vast terracotta urns which are decorated each Summer with ‘Canna’s, a deep orange free-flowering lily which stand a metre or so in height. Visitors can enjoy the Water Terraces whilst dining in the Water Terraces Café, which features a seasonal menu with produce sourced locally, including ingredients grown on the Blenheim Palace Estate.
Don’t miss the Rose Garden in June, which is contained within a circular walk, arched over by slender hoops supporting climbing roses of a delicate pink. The central statue is surrounded by symmetrical beds of roses that form a delightful display of floral beauty. From the Rose Garden, take a short walk past the hidden Temple of Flora and on to the Grand Cascade – designed by ‘Capability’ Brown in the 1760s.
Autumn is the perfect time to visit the Secret Garden at Blenheim Palace which is located to the east of the South Lawn. It was restored by the 11th Duke as part of the Battle of Blenheim tercentenary celebrations in 2004. While introducing many new features the restoration also retained much of the original layout, originally designed by his father. Autumn is the perfect time to see the glorious russet colours from the assorted trees, shrubs and grasses which grace this area. In particular the Japanese Maples look spectacular set against the back drop of the giant cedars, English oaks, horse chestnuts and cornus. In contrast to the formal gardens and sweeping parkland, the Secret Garden is a secluded area where winding paths lead over bridges of tranquil water. This informal style – and the fact that the plants here are named – provides a welcoming atmosphere for keen gardeners and families alike.
During the Winter season explore the 2,000 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown landscape, which was carefully designed so as to appear natural but is in fact ‘contrived to pleasing effect’. Discover landmarks such at the Column of Victory, the Cascades and the Grand Bridge designed by Vanbrugh. There are a number of excellent walks taking you around the Parkland which are perfect for spotting the array of wildlife, scenes from films shot at Blenheim Palace and seeing the beautiful frosty landscape.
Garden History – Quick Facts
- In the 1700’s Henry Wise was in charge of creating Blenheim Palace’s landscape. Wise was instructed to plant fully grown trees as the 1st Duke of Marlborough was concerned that he wouldn’t live to see the garden mature.
- Henry Wise created the Great Parterre, located where the South lawn now stands. The Great Parterre was made up of trimmed boxes, yews and hollies, there were lime alleys and on the ground was sand and fine gravel. To make the Parterre the workmen had to dig out 9907 solid yards of earth, then 7157 yards of clay. Wise also used 1120 solid yards of dung to ensure the Great Parterre would grow.
- In 1705 Henry Wise ordered flowers in the range of 1800 Persian Iris, 51000 Hyacinths, 5600 double white narcissus, 18,500 Dutch yellow Crocus, 4600 Tulips and 1,200 double Jonquills.
- The 4th Duke of Marlborough kept a tiger in his menagerie. A butcher’s bill for 1763 includes meat for the tiger. 24 pounds of beef was delivered every two to three days at three shillings a time. Sometimes the butcher also delivered a head to keep the tiger entertained.
- William Chambers was responsible amongst for what is now called Bladon Bridge and the Temple of Diana, where Sir Winston Churchill proposed to Clementine Hozier.
- During the reign of the 9th Duke of Marlborough, the Great Court was restored to its original layout of gravel and cobbles with raised terraces and Capability Brown’s lawn was lost.
- When the 9th Duke had his new Italian Garden built to the East of the Palace the paths were all made of crushed brick.
- 2016 marks a 300 year celebration of Capability Brown – Blenheim Palace will be restoring some of the Parkland to its original state when Brown created it. This is part of a 15 year management plan.
- ‘Capability’ Brown was the first celebrity gardener and made gardening fashionable for the first time.
- Brown became a Royal Gardener and was in charge of Hampton Court. It took Brown 11 years to complete the landscaping at Blenheim Palace.