Leeds Castle’s Secret Gardens

When my girls were little, we used to visit Leeds Castle a lot. We would try to spot a shimmering peacock (there was an albino peacock, which was especially exciting). The girls would hide in the giant rhubarb (Gunnera), pretending that they had shrunk. We would lose each other in the maze and get spooked in the grotto.

We let our membership lapse a couple of years ago because a) it is expensive and b) there are so many other wonderful places to visit.

Today I went back to Leeds Castle.

This Hellebore was metres away from the entrance gate. What delicious freckles!

As I walked through the Wood Garden, I had memories of my girls in their little wellies, skipping off in front.

One of their favourite hollow trees to climb has been felled. I think this is the tree that had a large cleft between two branches, and the girls could stick their head through the gap. It has been carved into a rather lovely seat. Leeds Castle is associated with black swans, hence the swan motif here.

This part of the grounds has been planted with groups of shrubs. Many of these have colourful stems for winter interest. Here are some snowdrops with red Cornus (Dogwood) and yellow Salix (Willow) behind.

I had fun getting down low to take this photo. I wanted to capture the sunlight shining through the petals and stems.

If that wasn’t beautiful enough, look what I saw next!

It was still quite early in the morning, and the crocuses were just starting to open. If you look closely at this one, you can see that it has been nibbled just a little bit!

The anthers and carpel inside a crocus is a stunning tangerine colour.

There were more Hellebores above the Pavillion Lawn. I couldn’t resist having a peep. They are suited to being grown on a slope like this: if you stand beneath them you can more easily see their flowers.

I got an obligatory picture of the black swans on the moat. If you look carefully, part of the castle is currently wrapped in bandages. I wish it a speedy recovery.

The Culpeper Garden is a lovely walled garden, which at the moment looks like this:

This was the first day I felt the warmth of the sun on my back. It was delicious.

The walls help to heat the garden up. I love espaliered fruit trees. Especially when they are as old and gnarly as this.

I don’t know about you, but when I visit a garden over and over again, I tend to go in exactly the same direction in the same order as every other time I have visited.

Somehow, in the nine years I have been visiting Leeds Castle, I have managed never to have noticed Lady Baillie’s Mediterranean Garden. It is just a few steps down from the Culpeper Garden, but I’ve never seen it before!

It really didn’t feel like a February morning in England here.

Date palms. Who’d have thought?

I could have thought myself transported to the Riviera, if it were not for the squabbling swans on the lake.

I took this picture so that you could appreciate the blueness of the sky this February day.

I made my way back through the woodland garden, stopping again to admire the carpet of crocuses, which had opened to the sun.

It was rather lovely to see these great swathes of Crocus tommasinianus grown through grass. You don’t notice the foliage this way, and the flowers look like they are hovering, balancing on their alabaster stems.

I shall be back later on in the season to see the Culpeper Garden at its zenith. Who knows? I might discover another whole new garden I missed before?

The Mindful Gardener tends her own garden in Kent, The Garden of England. She likes to have a poke around other gardens for ideas and inspiration.

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35 Comments Add yours

  1. Rupali says:

    Lovely colours Alison.

    1. Thank you Rupali. They are the gentle colours of spring.

  2. Emma Cownie says:

    I once visited Leeds Castle (a million years ago, my boyfriend at the time was playing in a band at a wedding or birthday party), I can remember very little and I certainly didn’t get to see the gardens. These photos are great. The black swans are so exotic! I have a real weakness for Victorian brick walls in gardens – they immediately look warm and inviting!

    1. It is a lovely walled garden. It needs some shelter as Leeds Castle is in a notoriously cold spot!

      1. Emma Cownie says:

        Oh, I love walled gardens, I never got over “The Secret Garden”!

      2. Me too! Would love a secret garden.

  3. I have always dreamed of visiting Leeds Castle. Such a beautiful place. A brilliant February day. I love the black swans. Thank you so much!

    1. It is my pleasure to share it, Lisa. You must come and visit one day!

  4. susurrus says:

    Your post made me want to find out where Leeds Castle is – I noticed from a google search that they’re calling it the ‘Loveliest Castle In The World’. That’s quite some claim! The grounds do look very pretty with all the crocuses and hellebores.

    1. It is a big claim, but I think they can just about get away with it because it was a quote! It is a very lovely place; there are so many castles that can claim loveliness too!

  5. nanacathy2 says:

    Oh my, so much to see and take in . I never knew there was such a thing as Black Swans. I really enjoyed your pictures , thank you.

  6. Christina says:

    I haven’t visited for years; you chose a beautiful day.

    1. It was the perfect day. It can be very cold there, but was not at all on the day I visited.

  7. bcparkison says:

    Bucket list! Your photos make it a must…someday…maybe.

    1. Oh, yes, definitely one for your bucket list!

  8. Wow – another spectacular English castle garden. Just LOVE the fields of crocus and snowdrops. May try it here – I wonder if rabbits will eat crocus? I was most impressed with how they carved the stump of the tree – what a fitting way to honour it!

    1. Crocus tommasinianus seems resistant to rabbits and squirrels. I noticed a few trees have been felled and carved into sculptures since I last visited – you are right, it is a fitting way to honour a beautiful tree.

  9. Ann Mackay says:

    Lovely garden visit, Ali! You’re making me want to go and see the gardens there. 🙂 Meanwhile, it’s wonderful to be able to accompany you through your blog!

    1. It is worth a visit if you are ever nearby!

  10. It looks a lovely place to visit😊

    1. It is; there is always more to do than you have time for in one visit.

  11. Heyjude says:

    I must release my Crocus tommasinianus from the pot they are in and hope they spread like these! They look amazing (though I suspect a few hundred were planted at some point in time). I almost went to Leeds Castle nearly 40 years ago – got to the entrance and then balked at how expensive it was. What I do remember though was feeling my third baby move for the first time, that weird flutter you feel. So it has an unusual association for me!

    1. Aw, that is a lovely association. Yes, it is too expensive, which is why we had a break of a couple of years. The National Trust is much better value.

      1. Heyjude says:

        NT around where you live is a bargain. Plenty of fab gardens to visit. Though I guess some get awfully crowded. I used to have the RHS membership when I lived in Surrey, Wisley was only 30 mins away and en route to my daughter so we visited often. No good now as the nearest RHS garden is a good 2 hour drive away.

      2. Yes, we do have loads of NT gardens, just within a half-hour radius, and even more within an hour, hour and a half. We tried RHS too, which was great for Wisley, but that does push towards a 2 hour drive, which makes a big difference, doesn’t it?

      3. Heyjude says:

        An hour each way is enough I think, gives you plenty of time at the garden too. Takes me that long to reach Heligan, Lanhydrock or Eden Project which are about as far as I go.

  12. Thanks for the tour Ali – fabulous flowers and swans. It looks a magical place.

    1. It is; it lives up to the promise.

  13. Clare Pooley says:

    Even though I grew up in Kent I never went to Leeds Castle or any other castle, garden or stately home. Thank you for showing me what I missed. Beautiful crocuses!

  14. Karen says:

    My Aunt used to work at Leeds Castle so she had her Wedding Reception in the Culpepper Garden. Wasn’t she lucky!

    1. Oh my goodness, so lucky! Though I expect she had earned that privilege!

  15. Cathy says:

    How lovely to have a property and garden like this so close that you can visit regularly – and exciting to find a part you have missed seeing before. I have recently discovered there is an area at Wisley that I didn’t know even existed – but it’s near Elder Daughter’s and not near here, so it’s a future treat 😉

    1. These big gardens can be overwhelming when you are there, can’t they. I need a return trip to Wisley.

      1. Cathy says:

        They have replanted some areas too, so there will more new things to see

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