|Entrance to the moated Tudor castle in Kent|
There's nothing better than the heady scent of roses, and the rose garden at Hever Castle in Kent is looking quite spectacular right now, as are all the newly-restored statues in the Italian garden. This is a good garden to visit at any time during open season (March to October), but particularly handsome now as Stage I of the statuary restoration programme has been completed and the gardens are in full bloom.
|Immaculately mown lawns and stunning vistas are par for the course at Hever|
The moated Tudor castle was once home to William Waldorf Astor, and the recent statue restoration work was carried out by a specialist team who came from his other great home, Cliveden in Buckinghamshire. Hever Castle was also the childhood home of one of Henry VIII's many wives - Anne Boleyn. Astor purchased it in 1903 and spent considerable money and effort restoring the property, renovating the gardens and adding a 38-acre lake. Once work at the castle was complete, he gave Cliveden to his son and new wife as a wedding present.
The pergola runs one full side of the Italian garden at Hever and is one of the most impressive in England, with its shady grottoes filled with damp-loving plants including hostas, polygonums and astilbes; its views over the four-acre garden it borders and the huge man-made lake at the end of the property. There is always something flowering here, starting with camellias early in the year, and followed by wisteria, Virginian creeper and roses.
The gardens at Hever are certainly impressive and it's not just their scale and planning that sets them apart from other properties in the area, but also the way they are maintained, with the plants in the garden rooms on the North side of the Italian garden being changed throughout the season. Elsewhere in the grounds the plants remain static and the gardens have reached maturity. Near the castle, the theme is predominantly Tudor, with yew topiary chessmen, a yew maze and the Tudor village constructed by Astor during his time here.
The walled rose garden is spectacular now, with more than 4,000 rose bushes in bloom. The latest addition to the collection is the property's own Hever Castle rose, introduced at Hampton Court Flower Show in 2010 and planted in situ by well-known British actress, Judi Dench. The scent of the roses is wonderful and all you see as you look into the garden is a sea of colour.
Hever is open daily throughout the season from 10.30 (gardens) and midday for the castle. But it doesn't come cheap, with an entry fee of £14.00 for an adult for house and garden (£11.50 for garden only). At this price, it's worth joining the Historic Houses Association, priced at just £40 annually, because members get in free and can then enjoy all the other garden properties in the portfolio. Hever has good facilities for disabled visitors/wheelchairs, with special parking close to the castle.
|The pergola at Hever has camellias, wisteria, Virginia creeper and roses|
|One of the many rooms in the Italian garden, incorporated into the design to display Astor's sculpture collection|
|The topiary chess set forms part of the Tudor gardens, in keeping with the moated castle|
|The walled rose garden has more than 4,000 plants as well as its own "Hever Castle" rose|