Next week sees the Hampton Court Flower Show. Without any doubt the show’s biggest asset has always been its fabulous setting next to the gardens of Hampton Court. Here are a selection of tit bits you might not know about Britain’s best royal garden.
1. Hampton Court became royal when Henry VIII became jealous of the palace Cardinal Wolsey had built for himself and took it away.
2. Henry VIII’s favourite wife Jane Seymour died at Hampton Court and his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, who was beheaded, is supposed to haunt the palace.
3. The gardens have got surviving evidence from six centuries.
4. The gardens were first opened to the public, free, by Queen Victoria in 1838. Today more people – 1.3 million – visit Hampton Court than any other garden in Britain. Entry is still free except for certain special features.
5. ‘Capability’ Brown was once in charge of the gardens.
6. Hampton Court has the oldest and largest grape vine in the world. The ‘Great Vine’ was planted in 1768, it has always had its own greenhouse, its record crop was 2,245 bunches of grapes in 1807 and today it averages 500-700 bunches a year.
7. The famous maze was originally planted in Queen Anne’s reign, the hedges stretch for half a mile and it takes on average twenty minutes to reach the middle.
8. The Privy Garden (see illustration) between the palace and River Thames was completely dug up ten years ago and restored exactly to the design and planting of when it was originally made for William and Mary.
9. 250,000 flowering bulbs are planted in the gardens every year.
10. The Hampton Court Show is the largest flower show in Europe.
Photograph: Crown Copyright, Historic Royal Palaces 1999.