The Summer Garden at Ham House
Tucked behind a row of trees, where the Thames weaves its way past reed beds and ancient meadows, the garden at Ham House has an air of tranquillity that steeps and simmers in summer’s growing warmth.
This green oasis is only 30 minutes from central London, but blends perfectly with the local landscape – known in summer for its wildflowers, birds, bees and grazing rare breed cattle.
Formal gardens alive with colour and scent
Behind Ham House’s 17th century garden walls, you’ll find a formal garden with a modern sensibility. The cherry garden comes alive at this time of year with the striking sight and scent of over 1,000 English lavender plants. These are surrounded by shapely clipped box hedges and topiary, an original statue of Greek god Bacchus and two statuesque hornbeam arches.
Created originally by the Dutchess of Lauderdale, the garden at Ham was always intended to wow and excite. Today it is still full of plants grown by our 17th century predecessors. In summer the south terrace borders brim with colourful red canna, alongside tall elegant echinops, peony and sea thrift – all around are terracotta urns where seasonal treasures such as scented pelargoniums await.
Fresh planting inspired by Ham’s history
This year the garden team has added a new planting giving one of the formal spaces a fresh lift. Head gardener Rosie Fyles has transformed the mansion’s vast manicured lawns – each the size of centre court at Wimbledon – and filled them with crocus, tulips, muscari and wildflowers to create a show of colour and scent throughout the warmer months.
To the 17th century eye, kept lawns were a truly awe-inspiring sight, possible only through the dedication of an entire team of gardeners. Rosie wants the new planting to inspire that same ‘wow’ from today’s garden lovers. From May to July, look for the developing wildflower meadows and linseed, full of colour.
Ham House has had a focus on natural gardening for over a decade and Rosie’s team also manages nearby Ham House and Petersham Meadows. The new planting uses pre-existing wildflowers in the turf, and other native species to encourage new bio diversity, as well as insects, butterflies and birds. This makes it the perfect place for a summer picnic, or to sit and watch the world go by.
Taste the fruits of the Kitchen Garden
At the heart of Ham’s summer garden is the historic Kitchen Garden. This area dates back to the 1670s when it would have provided all the fruit and vegetables needed to feed the whole household. It was also a showpiece for the Duchess of Lauderdale’s guests to admire - among them Charles II.
The design was ornamental as well as practical with vegetables and flowers sharing space. Today, nine large beds are filled with rows of vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers. Everywhere you turn there is temptingly delicious produce, from peaches and apricots growing on the walls to plump, ripe berries and currants. There’s even a tasting garden where you can sample the fresh fruit and herbs and maybe discover a new favourite variety!
If you need to wind down at the end of a busy day exploring the summer gardens at Ham, we recommend the quiet wilderness area furthest from the house. There are plenty of spots and seats to take in views of the winding paths and flower borders - or bring your favourite book to enjoy some ‘me’ time with a slice of Ham-made cake.