IN PICTURES: Hampton Court Tulip Festival with the palace’s head gardener

By Oliver Monk

8th Apr 2024 | Local Features

Hampton Court Palace's Tulip Festival starts today, 8 April (Photo: Oliver Monk)
Hampton Court Palace's Tulip Festival starts today, 8 April (Photo: Oliver Monk)

With spring well and truly here, Hampton Court Palace has launched its fourth annual Tulip Festival today, 8 April.

Running until 29 April, visitors can expect to see a number of dazzling blooms across every corner of the palace and its gardens.

Nub News spoke to Hampton Court Palace's Head Gardener, Graham Dillamore, to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes.

Tulips can be found across the palace grounds, and in the palace complex itself

With 100,000 bulbs to plant by hand, the festival is a huge logistical challenge for the gardening team. Planning begins a full year in advance, with the logistics of 2025's festival already underway.

"We spend a long time planning and make sure we have everything written down and labelled. It's easy to forget what bulb goes where!" says Mr Dillamore.

He adds that climate change is making this planning harder each year, with "tulips that flowered in May 20 years ago now flowering in April."

Planning for the next festival is already underway

Some of the tulips on display in horse-carts, wheelbarrows and other containers within the palace courtyards are grown in our on-site plant nursery, and brought out into the public areas of the palace ready for the festival. 

However, with so many bulbs required for each festival, the gardening team does import some of their stocks each year.

"Our bulbs come from Holland, but tulips originally came from further afield, such as Turkey, Russia, or Greece," explains Mr Dillamore,

"The tulips are planted out in beds around the palace and gardens to lay dormant through the winter months, before they burst into colour in Spring."

Climate change is making it difficult to predict when the flowers will bloom

The gardening team are especially excited for this year's installations, bringing even more tulips inside the Tudor palace courtyards, along with a new horse-cart dressed to look like a flower seller's cart from the Victorian period.

"There will also be three giant pots outside the front gates this year, alongside some fan favourites from previous years – including a wine fountain spilling with champagne and rose toned tulips, the regal Fountain Court filled with thousands of bright flowers, and freestyle planting in the Kitchen Gardens."

Fountain Court
Kitchen Gardens

All of Mr Dillamore's Gardens & Nursery team are involved, supported by a dedicated team of volunteers.

"Without [our volunteers], spectacular displays like this would not be possible," he says.

So what's the team's advice for visitors looking to grow their own tulips?

Mr Dillamore says: "Choose your plot well in advance and prepare the soil well. It should be free draining and get plenty of sun."

Hampton Court Palace has a long history with tulips, as former resident Queen Mary II was a keen horticulturist, and collected plants from across the globe to feature in their gardens at the palace.

A selection of rare, historical tulip cultivars can be found in the Lower Orangery Garden

The palace displays a selection of historic tulip cultivars in the Lower Orangery Garden, giving visitors the chance to see rare tulips as they would have looked in William and Mary's time, as well as more recent specimens.

For those wanting to discover more, expert Palace Hosts will also be delivering daily Tulip Talks, sharing the history of the most coveted flower of the 18th century and the Queen who introduced them to Hampton Court.

Rachel Mackay, Head of Hampton Court Palace, said: "We're delighted to be welcoming visitors back into our gardens at Hampton Court Palace this Spring with a whole host of events and activities for all ages to enjoy."

"The palace really will be a sight to behold throughout the Easter holidays and beyond," she added.

More information about Hampton Court Palace's Tulip Festival can be found here.


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