After snowdrops, cherry blossom and wisteria, the capital moves on to the next big botanical bloom — roses. The London rose season normally runs from late May through to July. Here are some of the more glorious looking (and smelling) rose gardens in the capital.
1. Queen Mary's Garden, Regent's Park
We discovered Queen Mary's Gardens by accident a good few years ago — then it took us a couple of years to actually find it again. If it's roses you're after, these well-tended gardens should be high up your list; this is home, to London's largest collection of roses (about 12,000 and 85 varieties) of them.
The circular layout is surrounded by a pagoda-style structure, allowing climbing roses to show off their colours too.
Queen Mary's Garden is located within the park's Inner Circle, beyond some of London's fanciest gates, along with the gorgeous Japanese pond garden, home to all manner of fairytale bridges and trickling streams — and it's not far from the Open Air Theatre.
2. The Rose Garden, Hyde Park
Although Hyde Park's rose garden's variety doesn't compare to that of Regent's Park, it's hard to believe such a beautiful space can be found so close to the roaring traffic of Hyde Park Corner. And it's not just roses — herbaceous plants are mixed in too. The yew hedge, meanwhile, is apparently designed to be the mouth of a trumpet or horn heralding your arrival in the park, while the flowers represent music notes emerging from said instrument.
Throw in fountains, statues and a pergola and you've got an unexpected beauty, smack dab in central London.
3. Roses at Kew Gardens
Botanical paradise Kew Gardens has a rose species named after it, so as you'd imagine it's got the odd rose bush lying around. You'll find the main Rose Garden right behind the Palm House, the resplendent glasshouse overlooking a lake. There's been a rose garden at Kew since the 1920s, but it's been expanded and replanted in the last few years. The gardens are also home to a rather gorgeous rose pergola that crawls with colour every summer — find it in the Woodland Garden, near the Temple of Aeolus.
4. Roses in Holland Park
Head for the Orangery right in the centre of Holland Park to find its rose bushes, planted between the cafe and the stable yard. It's a petite offering, with just nine flower beds, but they're planted with precision, each species keeping itself to itself.
5. Roses at Ranger's House, Greenwich
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Not only is Ranger's House the place to see cherry blossom in London, it's also an excellent spot for a bit of rose-bothering. Greenwich Park's own rose garden is planted right in front of the villa house, its redbrick frontage offering a rich backdrop to yellows, pinks, maroons and creams. Sure, it's a bit of an uphill trek from the centre of Greenwich, but in rose season there's a satisfying symmetry about the place, making the schlep so worth it.
6. Rose garden, Hampton Court Palace
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Although Henry VIII had a great many things built at Hampton Court Palace (wine fountain, anyone?), a rose garden wasn't one of them. Instead, the rose garden is a fairly recent addition, in an area previously used as a kitchen garden. The beautiful scents and gorgeous colours are only enhanced by the sprawling palatial backdrop. The Hampton Court gardens can be an exhausting excursion — 60 acres, for goodness sake — but make sure the rose garden is on your route.
7. Roses at Lambeth Palace Gardens
Usually off-limits, Lambeth Palace opens its gardens occasionally between May and September. It's not awash with roses, but the roses we spotted on our visit are absolutely charming, climbing romantically up the old stone walls, and adding a splash of colour to the statues.
Find out about upcoming open days.
8. Rose garden at Morden Hall Park
National Trust-owned Morden Hall Park has been home to a rose garden for almost 100 years, and its origins may lay in the nearby snuff mills. Roses were used to scent the tobacco-based product, although the rose garden here was built shortly before the mills closed, so it wouldn't have been put to that use for long. Recently, the rose garden has been restored to how it would have looked in the 1920s.
Morden Hall Park usually hosts rose-themed events during the season aimed at those wanting to grow their own roses, with talks and tips from experts.