500,000 spring bulbs blooming

An artist's impression of the bulb planting in Ham's formal gardens

The new planting at Ham, in the garden’s largest formal area (7200sqm) ‘the grass plats’ is the largest project in the garden since the 1970s. Its creation has been inspired by comfortably bringing diversity and nature to a formal garden with the intent of linking house and garden together more closely again. We want to create the awe and wonder in our contemporary visitor that their seventeenth century predecessors would have felt on seeing large areas of short-kept grass.

In the 17th century, Ham House was a private manor and visitors would have arrived on the banks of the Thames to face the many steps leading up to the grand front entrance, then be ushered through the middle of the house. Here, you would look down on this huge walled garden with nearly two acres of manicured turf, set against formal yew hedges – the effect would be one of awe and wonder and the maintenance required to upkeep the formal lawns made them a statement of opulence and wealth.

For today’s visitors, similar planting no longer holds the same charm; modern garden lovers are looking for more from their gardens and a display that elicits a ‘wow’. We also want to know that what we are doing is good for nature, and good for the people who use the space, especially in London where natural spaces are at a premium. This design is intended to pay homage to the spirit of the 17th garden lovers, who wanted their visitors to go away inspired – and at the same time combines those needs for garden lovers now, and we hope people can take ideas away for their own outdoor spaces at home too. 

In autumn 2018, 500,000 spring-flowering bulbs were planted in four of the areas known as the 'plats' on the south side of the house. Chosen for a long-flowering season and their role in attracting bees and insects these bulbs are often not used in a formal setting but are excellent for wildlife.

Preparing the pattern of meadow flowers
Preparing the pattern of meadow flowers
Preparing the pattern of meadow flowers

In the other four plats, scroll shapes, inspired by the design on much of the 17th century furniture collection at Ham House, have been cut within 900sqm to create a new summer meadow area. Using the pre-existing wildflowers in the turf and adding to their mix with more native species, new diversity, vibrancy and form will take shape in May-July. By applying meadow management techniques used at Petersham and Ham House Meadows in a formal setting, we are seeking to increase wildflowers, butterflies and birds.

The Plats at Ham House ready for planting
The Plats at Ham House ready for planting
The Plats at Ham House ready for planting

Highlights

Spring

A vast spring display of bulbs flowering from the end of February to the middle of April will herald the start of spring and begin to flower from February (weather permitting).

A spring flowering sequence of early purple crocus, species tulips and muscari together will create intense, natural drifts of colour.

Summer

A new meadow of native wildflowers has been established, flowering between June-August. 

Typical summer wildflowers
Typical summer wildflowers
Typical summer wildflowers

Throughout the display

There will be a temporary exhibition showcasing the garden and linking up with the spring bulb display in the dairy whilst inside the house we will be transforming the Library Closet to ensure that you get the best possible, birds-eye view of the new planting from the first floor.