The Duke’s Garden, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
A modestly sized garden, to be found behind the grass beds and beyond the Alpine House and Princess of Wales Conservatory. A wide lawn with deep, generous herbaceous borders enclosed behind tall brick walls. Impressive, bold block planting of some outstanding perennials including the brilliantly named daylily, Burning Daylight, and elsewhere a swathe of searingly hot helenium. There is subtlety too, with misty grey-blue bee-magnet Echinops and lacy Ammi majus threading through the brown globes of spent allium. A superb white & gold display of Romneya coulteri too, though more compact this year than I have seen recently.
Tucked away behind high walls and decorative ironwork gates, this is an area of Kew that could easily be missed but which gives a real sense of a private space, within the acres of public parkland, and is planted with great personality.
In Kew’s early days, Princess Augusta’s advisor on all things botanical, Lord Bute, lived in Cambridge Cottage. In 1772, King George III acquired it, and his sons Princes Edward and William moved in. Subsequent inhabitants were the 1st Duke of Cambridge (Adolphus Fredrick) after whom the garden takes its name, and the 2nd Duke of Cambridge.
Kew acquired the cottage and land in 1904. The garden is called ‘Duke’s Garden’ rather than ‘Cambridge Cottage Garden’ to avoid it being confused with a classic ‘cottage garden’.
Things to look out for..
Seasonal beds frame large, manicured lawns. One exhibits gold, orange and red plants, such as Hemerocallis ‘Burning Daylight’ or Lychnis chalcedonica. Another contains violet-hued plantings, and incorporates a lavender trail containing a variety of species and cultivars. Meanwhile, the ‘exotic bed’ is a testing ground for seeing just how hardy some tender plants are. This contains exotics such as tree ferns, ornamental bananas, cannas and gingers.
With the advance of climate change, and the need for gardeners to be more economical with water use, Kew has created a ‘Gravel Garden’ within the Duke’s Garden. Sponsored by Thames Water, this contains plants that are drought tolerant. Growing beneath the shade of a large American hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) are nerines from South Africa (Nerine bowdenii), euphorbias (Euphorbia myrsinites) and wand flowers (Dierama pulcherrimum) and other plants that thrive in warm, arid conditions.