Visitors to Buckingham Palace this summer will be able to picnic in its gardens and explore the open space by themselves for the first time, the Royal Collection Trust has announced.
The traditional summer opening of the palace’s state rooms and themed exhibition, which normally welcomes thousands, has been cancelled for a second year due to the effects of the pandemic.
Instead, self-guided garden tours will now be on offer from July to September, giving the paying public the chance to wander through the Queen’s private 39-acre site and discover the wildlife-rich oasis in the heart of London.
Its landscape dates back to the 1820s when George IV turned Buckingham House into a palace, and today it is home to a rich biodiverse habitat, with more than 1,000 trees and 320 different wildflowers and grasses.
The garden also houses the national collection of mulberry trees after Mark Lane, the palace’s head gardener, was given permission by the Queen to plant a definitive collection of the trees during 2000.
Visitors will be able to explore a route through the garden that takes in its 156-metre long herbaceous border, plane trees planted by and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and views of the island and its beehives across the 3.5-acre lake.
The unique opportunity to enjoy a picnic on one of the sweeping lawns will be part of the visit.
The State Rooms and Garden at Buckingham Palace will run six times a day on weekends from Saturday, July 10 to Sunday, September 19. Tickets are priced at £16.50 for adults.
Garden Highlights Guided Tours should be booked with the main ticket and are priced at £6.50 for adults. Tours will run 12 times a day.
Buckingham Palace’s 39-acre garden, which contains wildflower meadows, a rose garden and a three-and-a-half acre lake. This summer visitors will be able to picnic in its gardens and explore the open space by themselves for the first time
A house has stood on the site of Buckingham Palace since the late 17th-Century, when King James I was on the throne. However, the building which forms the core of what people to see today was built in 1703 and was then known as Buckingham House. Pictured: A summer 2020 photo of the palace
Some 24,000 guests usually traipse over the grass in the summer during the Queen’s three garden parties, leaving the lawn in need of repair. Pictured: Buckingham Palace’s rose garden
Pictured: The garden’s two most famous plane trees are known as Victoria and Albert. They are named after Queen Victoria and her beloved consort. The couple planted the trees more than 150 years ago
The lawn has to be mown weekly as soon as the grass starts growing in the spring to keep it at the right height, while the edges are painstakingly clipped to add precision. Pictured: A curving path in the garden which leads to the rose garden
The lake features a waterfall and a secluded island which acts as a haven for wildlife, including five beehives. Pictured: The palace as viewed from the other side of the 3.5acre lake
On weekends in April and May, guided tours of the garden will be available when the public can enjoy the open space during springtime, with its meadows carpeted with primroses and bluebells, and flowering magnolia and azalea shrubs and trees.
From May to September, small guided tours of the palace will begin, featuring many of the palace’s magnificent State Rooms, furnished with treasures of the Royal Collection, including paintings by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Sevres porcelain and some of the finest English and French furniture in the world.
From July, access to the garden will be included in the visit.
As restrictions ease, the RCT shops in London will reopen from Monday, while the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the new exhibition Victoria & Albert: Our Lives in Watercolour at the Queen’s Gallery, Edinburgh, will open from April 26.
Windsor Castle and the exhibition Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, will welcome visitors from May 17.
An RCT spokeswoman said: ‘The traditional opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace will not take place this year.
Pictured: A member of the gardening team tends to the palace lawn. It requires a lot of care to keep it perfect condition whilst accommodating the the thousands of visitors who walk across it each year
The bees which live in hives on the lake’s island produce around 160 jars of honey a year for use in the royal kitchens
The garden’s waterfall helps to circulate oxygen in the lake, allowing the water to remain clean and clear. The Queen is therefore able to enjoy the delights which the lake attracts
‘We anticipate that social distancing will still be in place this summer and that visitor numbers to London will be low for some time yet due to the uncertainty around domestic and international travel. The costs incurred opening the palace to the public in the usual way would be far greater than the visitor admissions and retail income that we could expect.
‘However, we are delighted to offer unique access to the Buckingham Palace garden this year as an alternative.’
Earlier this year, a new book gave royal fans a behind-the-scenes look at the Queen’s residence.
Buckingham Palace: A Royal Garden charts a year in the life of the city oasis and also reveals that the monarch receives a seasonal posy, made from the garden’s blooms, every Monday when she is in residence.
The tradition, which began in 1992, sees half a dozen fresh flowers, chosen by the Queen’s Royal Florist, placed in a vase on the Queen’s writing table each week.
In winter, as an alternative to flowers, the posies feature a mix of evergreen leaves and colourful berries.
In the summer, sweet peas are often used, taken from the 15 sweet pea wigwams in the 512ft herbaceous border.
The Palace’s head gardener, Mark Lane, shares his tips on how he cares for the garden throughout the year.
Some 24,000 guests usually traipse over the grass in the summer during the Queen’s three garden parties, leaving the lawn in need of repair.
But the coronavirus pandemic has led to the cancellation of all the gatherings in both 2020 and 2021.
The lawn has to be mown weekly as soon as the grass starts growing in the spring to keep it at the right height, while the edges are painstakingly clipped to add precision.
The tradition of giving the Queen a seasonal posy sees half a dozen fresh flowers, chosen by the Queen’s Royal Florist, placed in a vase on the her writing table each week. In winter, as an alternative to flowers, the posies feature a mix of evergreen leaves and colourful berries. Pictured: One of the winter posies
Royal Collection Trust’s latest publication follows a year in the life of the famous garden at Buckingham Palace, giving readers a rare glimpse into the behind-the-scenes management of this hidden oasis in the heart of London. Pictured: A member of the gardening team tends to the roses
Over the years, many resident kings and queens have appreciated the garden’s spring flowering shrubs and trees. Pictured: The stunning lake
Stripes are created in formal areas of lawn using a mower with a built-in roller to help lead the eye and make the garden or lawn look larger, as well as framing the flower borders.
There are more than 1,000 trees in the central London garden, including 98 plane trees, 85 different species of oak and 40 different types of mulberry tree.
The Royal Collection Trust’s Buckingham Palace Gin is infused with botanicals collected from the garden, including lemon verbena, hawthorn berries, bay leaves and mulberry leaves.
The rose garden contains 25 beds of roses, with each one planted with 60 rose bushes of a different variety.
No two adjacent beds are of a similar colour.
There are also 200 different varieties of camellias in the garden.
The lake features a waterfall and a secluded island which acts as a haven for wildlife, including five beehives.
They produce 160 jars of honey a year for use in the royal kitchens.
Over the years, many resident kings and queens have appreciated the garden’s spring flowering shrubs and trees.
During the 1930s and 1940s, the Queen’s mother and father, George VI and Queen Elizabeth, oversaw the planting of magnolias, cherries and camellias, many of which still thrive today.
Queen Victoria noted in her diary in May 1843: ‘It was so fine in our pretty garden, with all the azaleas & rhododendrons out.’
In April 1844 she wrote of ‘all the lilacs coming out & the apple trees loaded with blossom’.
In 1762, Queen Charlotte established a menagerie in the garden, including an elephant, monkeys and one of the first zebras ever seen in England.
The book is available for £14.95 from Royal Collection Trust shops and at www.rct.uk/shop and can also be bought from other outlets.
Buckingham Palace: A brief history
A house has stood on the site of Buckingham Palace since the late 17th-Century, when King James I was on the throne.
However, the building which forms the core of what people to see today was built in 1703 and was then known as Buckingham House.
It fell under royal ownership when King George III bought the home in 1761 for his wife, Queen Charlotte. It became known as the Queen’s House and was the birth place of 14 of the king’s 15 children.
After coming to the throne in 1820, King George IV decided to transform the house into a palace with the aid of his architect John Nash. Nash remained faithful to the original house but doubled its size by adding a further suite of rooms.
Built from Bath Stone, the style of the current palace reflects the French neo-classical influence favoured by George IV.
Nash’s work also saw the north and south wings demolished and rebuilt on a bigger scale, with a triumphal arch added.
However, the cost of the project had escalated to nearly £500,000 by 1829. George IV’s successor, William IV, took on another architect to finish the work but never ended up living in the palace.
Queen Victoria was the first sovereign to live in the renovated home. She moved in in July 1837.
However, the Queen and her new husband Albert quickly realised there were no nurseries and too few bedrooms for visitors.
A fourth wing was therefore built and the Marble Arch was moved to the north-east corner of Hyde Park.
An attic floor was also added to the main block of the palace. The work was completed in 1847.
In 1913, the decision was made to replace the facade of the palace and Sir Aston Webb was commissioned to produce a new design. It was made with Portland Stone and took 13 weeks to complete the work.
The palace’s main forecourt was formed in 1911, as were the gates and railings.
The Buckingham Palace garden is the large private park attached to the palace.
It is bounded by Constitution Hill to the north, Hyde Park Corner to the west, Grosvenor Place to the south-west, and the Royal Mews, Queen’s Gallery, and Buckingham Palace itself to the south and east.
The garden is Grade II listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. King James I planted a mulberry plantation for rearing silkworms where the garden is now located.
The garden still boasts a mulberry tree which dates back to the reign of James I.
The green space is not usually open to the public but visitors are allowed in to part of it during August and September because it forms part of the exit following the paid-for tour of the palace.
People who attend palace garden parties will also be able to experience the garden.
The Buckingham Palace garden is the large private park attached to the palace. It is bounded by Constitution Hill to the north, Hyde Park Corner to the west, Grosvenor Place to the south-west, and the Royal Mews, Queen’s Gallery, and Buckingham Palace itself to the south and east