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The garden at Ham House

White tulips and purple muscari are peeking through the green grass underneath the spreading bare branches of an old, gnarly tree with the grand red brick Ham House in the background
Tulips and muscari in front of Ham House and Garden, Surrey | © National Trust Images/Chris Davies

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.

Discover the joys of spring at Ham

Spring in the gardens which surround Ham House is joyful, exuberant and colourful. It’s known for a magnificent display of over 500,000 spring bulbs on the large historic lawns, called the Plats. Flowering with carpets of purple crocus from late February to tulips and muscari until early April, this planting feeds the early pollinators and our imaginations.

In the Outer Courtyard, dozens of new blossom trees have been planted, with the first sprigs of colour appearing and the promise of clouds of pastel petals in future years.

Experience spring blossom

In the Kitchen Garden, the apricot blossom is the first of the fruit trees to bloom before the spring harvest of asparagus and rhubarb begins. With thousands of daffodils and tulips leading the way, the atmosphere is bright and welcoming.

See spring blossom on over 100 fruit trees around the gardens, while a meadow full of tulips and lavender starting to flush in growth are all welcome and reassuring signs that nature is setting the pace of change with much more to come.

A close up of pale pink fluffy apricot blossom against a brick wall in the kitchen garden at Ham House
Apricot blossom at Ham House | © National Trust images/Chris Davies

Colour in the wilderness

Elsewhere, the woodland garden, known in the 17th century as the Wilderness, showcases period spring colour, from hellebores and winter aconites heralding the season changing to carpets of daffodils and fritillaries. Here, you will find quiet spaces, shelter and hear birdsong.

Greater spotted woodpeckers

Greater spotted woodpeckers are using the 17th-century walled garden to breed and nest. Slightly larger than a blackbird the greater spotted woodpecker tends to nest in holes they excavate in trees. The nest at Ham is found in an ageing Lane’s Prince Albert apple tree in the historic Kitchen Garden.

If you listen carefully a drumming noise can be heard during spring as the male sets out establishing his territory. The noise can also be heard when they create a new hole in the tree with their strong beak.

Look out for their distinctive black and white feathers with a flash of red plumage at the base of the belly. The male can be identified by a red patch at the back of the neck. When they’re feeding their young you’ll be able to see them darting to the nest with caterpillars and insects on a regular basis.

A symmetrical view of the door into the Orangery, with lilac wisteria adorning the wall on either side.
Wisteria covering the Orangery café at Ham House | © National Trust images Chris Davies | © National Trust images Chris Davies

Join a garden tour

Join one of our free tours, led by our knowledgeable volunteers, to find out about the gardens and take in the seasonal highlights. Garden tours at Ham run March-November.

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.

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.

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.

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

We have created two Silent Spaces at Ham, designed as places to take time out and reflect. These spaces alternate, depending on the season. In the winter months, take a moment of calm in the Cherry Garden, which was once a private formal garden for the Duchess of Lauderdale. During the warmer months, one of the hedge-lined compartments within the Wilderness becomes our Silent Space, where summerhouses provide shelter and a seat with a view.

Our hope is that these Silent Spaces offer a moment to relax in the quiet beauty of Ham's gardens.

For more information about Silent Space and the other National Trust gardens taking part, please visit the Silent Space website.

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

Discover more at Ham House and Garden

Find out when Ham House and Garden is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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