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The garden at Ham House

The garden in October at Ham House and Garden, Surrey, with triangular beds filled with ball-shaped topiary shrubs, with cone-shaped topiary trees at each corner
The garden in October at Ham House and Garden, Surrey | © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

Ham House is home to an atmospheric 17th-century walled garden, on the banks of the River Thames in Richmond. The garden recreates what historically ‘might have been’, following work in the 1970s to reinstate 17th-century character previously lost. Please make yourself at home as you take in the sights, scents and sounds.

Autumn in the garden at Ham House

In autumn, colour is vibrant at Ham with red and yellow flowering cannas in the formal borders. The bright reds, pinks and purples of dahlias and asters fill the cut flower borders and there's a spikey lime crunch of sweet chestnuts under foot.

Take a walk around the wilderness as the leaves change colour above your head, listen to bird calls and watch preparations for winter: both squirrels and gardeners! Try a seat in the summer house too.

Harvest time

The kitchen garden is bursting with colour and produce – from bright orange pumpkins to rainbow chard, and you can try soups in the café cooked with this seasonal produce. Look out for produce and cut flowers on offer for donation from the cart near the shop.

As you wander, taste an edible flower petal or count the number of different vegetables grown. Enjoy the young orchard of 30 trees and sit on holm oak logs.

See the garden in a different light

The formal garden’s structure and form is beginning to take centre stage with domes, pyramids, cones and sharp hedge edges dusted with dew, frost and spiders’ webs. Find hedge windows for framed views and see sky through twisted hornbeam branches.

Hay being piled onto a cart attached to two Shire horses in the sunshine, Ham House and Garden, London
Hay making with the help of Shire horses | © National Trust Images/Chris Davies

Discovering the garden throughout the year

South Terrace Border

The garden, like the house, was designed to impress. We know that many rare examples of plants from exotic lands were on display and we even know some of the species which were grown. The South Terrace border is inspired by this knowledge and planted in the 17th-century style, with a wide seasonal interest.

Don't miss: The changing spring and summer floral displays in the terracotta urns – the use of containers to add seasonal interest was the height of fashion in the 17th century.

Cherry Garden

To the north lies the Cherry Garden. Beyond tall yew hedges you’ll discover a maze of clipped box-hedged compartments, all filled with lavender. There’s structure and interest all year round, but this part of the garden really comes to life in summer when you can enjoy the gentle perfume of these fragrant plants as you walk around this once-private formal garden.

Don’t miss: The statue of Bacchus, the god of wine which is an original piece from the Lauderdales' garden.

Join a garden tour

Join us for a free tour, led by knowledgeable volunteers and find out something new about Ham. Please check what’s on at Ham House to see which tours are on offer as well as dates, times and how to book.

We've got the latest garden history tour times and dates listed here.

Please be aware that all tours depend on volunteer availability on the day. You can book your place on one of the tours upon arrival at Ham. Please make sure you arrive with plenty of time prior to the start of your chosen tour.

The Plats

From early spring, half a million bulbs burst into colour as part of an exciting garden display continuing through to autumn.

Inspired by the garden’s history, the mansion’s vast manicured lawns are filled with crocuses, tulips, muscari and wild flowers to create a show of colour and scent throughout the warmer months.

Don’t miss: Look out for bees and other pollinators among the plants.

The Kitchen Garden

Records show the Kitchen Garden has been at Ham since the 1600s and it’s currently one of the most productive walled kitchen gardens in London. Tended using organic principles, it provides the café with home-grown produce all year round.

Exterior view of red brick early orangery at ham house, with plant beds in front
The Orangery at Ham House in winter | © National Trust Images/Hugh Mothersole

Find the wooden doorway on the west wing of the vast original red-brick wall, which leads you out on to a south-facing terrace with views across this historic garden. You'll see 10 deep rectangular plots flanked by soft shingle paths. Each is gently cultivated to grow produce that would have been here in Ham House’s heyday, and together they beautifully recreate the atmosphere of the period.

The Kitchen Garden is also home to the Orangery Café where you can enjoy a drink and something to eat while looking over the garden.

Don’t miss: Fresh produce is also on display in the house’s historic kitchen and often available to buy in the shop, with proceeds going towards the upkeep of Ham’s historic garden. In the summer months, we sell vegetables and fruit on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and there are often cut flowers for sale too.

The Wilderness

The Wilderness was a fashionable feature in 17th-century grand gardens like Ham. It showed the owners' power to contain nature within its hedges and compartments. It was intended as a wilderness in the biblical sense of the word – for quiet contemplation and reflection and not a ‘wild garden’.

Mown lawns meander through the space to create a criss-cross of paths between tight architectural hornbeam hedges that screen the woodland plantings and historic borders. In places, the dappled shade creates the ideal conditions for drifts of early spring hellebore and pulmonaria – a plant grown for its medicinal uses by the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale.

As you walk, look out for small wooden summerhouses in the 17th-century style, the perfect place to put your feet up or shelter from showers while you enjoy the season’s changing views.

Don’t miss: Two statues of Venus Marina and Mercury could be seen on either side of the Wilderness entrance in the 17th century. Life-size casts can still be seen here today.

A pale green circular wooden summerhouse stands by a hedge, with pink foxgloves and roses nearby
Look out for the summerhouses | © National Trust Images/Chris Davies

Silent spaces

The garden team have created summerhouse silent spaces, providing shelter, a resting place, a seat with a view and some chosen words to consider in peaceful silence. Each month one of the team will choose some words that might accompany your silence. From American poetry to plant descriptions, the words will change month to month.

Our hope is that these silent spaces offer each of you quiet beauty. And that like us gardeners, you enjoy their shelter when it rains!

For more information about Silent Space and the 17 National Trust gardens taking part, please do have a look at the Silent Space website.

A group of people walk between hedges in the garden, with the house behind, at Ham House and Garden, London

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