Members of the Thorney Island Society have been blessed with many splendid visits this year but none was looked forward to more than our trip to the gardens of Buckingham Palace.  We were particularly fortunate to be shown around by Mark Lane, the Head Gardener, who freely shared his encyclopaedic knowledge of gardens assisted by his deputy, Clare.

As the tour began, we learned we were standing on what was once part of the four acres of mulberry garden that James I had planted in the early 1600s as part of his plan to create a new silk industry in Britain. Sadly, he chose the wrong sort of mulberry not eaten by silkworms and what could have been a major new industry bit the dust. 

But the gardens still have a strong connection with this wonderful tree as the National Mulberry Collection is housed here in the gardens with 40 different taxa. None of them are direct survivors of James I’s efforts except one has been grown from a cutting of the famous heritage mulberry at Charlton House which is believed to have been planted at the behest of James I. 

Mr Lane then walked us by the 156 metre long herbaceous border bristling with colourful plants and shrubs punctuated by an occasional banana plant and leading to 100 plane trees. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert planted two of these trees, though no-one knows which was which.

Among other highlights were an avenue of Indian chestnut trees which flower a month later than the Horse Chestnut and a lovingly tendered rose garden beyond a subtly camouflaged camomile lawn. There is a fine sundial nearby which was moved after a television programme in which David Attenborough pointed out to The Queen that its position then was too much in the shade.

The gardens used to have a hundred elms which were all lost when Dutch elm disease destroyed them - but a new disease-free variety is now being planted. 

Past the lovely lake with two islands much loved by dragonflies, damselflies and insects.  Pollen producing flowers are encouraged to thrive in the garden to provide a source of nectar for bees living in the garden’s hives. Almost 200 jars of honey have already been produced this year.   There is also a tennis court where Fred Perry played against the Duke of York, later George VI (who also played in the doubles at Wimbledon).

We had a very pleasant tea afterwards on the long terrace of the Palace itself which is open for visitors during the Summer Opening of the Palace.

Our deepest thanks to Her Majesty The Queen for granting permission, and to Mr Lane and his team for organising such a delightful afternoon.


Tour of Buckingham Palace Gardens - August 2019