Blenheim Palace Water Terrace

discover the floral splendour of britain’s greatest palace

It’s National Gardening Week from 26th April – 2nd May. Enjoy a great day out at Blenheim Palace and discover its magical mix of ancient woodland, lakes, formal gardens and ‘Capability’ Brown-landscaped parkland.

This year the Oxfordshire UNESCO World Heritage Site has also created a series of outdoor route options for visitors to explore as well as a new audio guide for the formal gardens, downloadable for free onto any smartphone.

Created over the centuries by esteemed garden designers such as Henry Wise and Achille Duchêne, the formal gardens reflect a journey through the horticultural styles of the ages.

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The formal gardens surround the Palace and they include the majestic Water Terraces, the Duke’s Private Italian Garden, the tranquil Secret Garden with all of its hidden treasures, and the beautifully delicate Rose Garden.

Look out for statues and art as you explore the Gardens. As well as temporary visiting pieces, discover permanent fixtures including ‘Untitled’ by German artist Georg Baselitz.

The Walled Garden has been especially designed for younger members of the family with a children’s play area. The Lavender Garden is specifically set out to enhance the native butterflies and you can spot plenty of nectar enriched plants in this area.

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The Duke of Marlborough’s private Italian Garden was redesigned in the early 20th century by the 9th Duke of Marlborough on the advice of his architect Duchêne.

Formal symmetrical scrollwork parterres in box and yew replaced the earlier scheme of carpet bedding, and a new bronze fountain by American sculptor Waldo Story was installed.

Look out for the precise nature of The Italian Garden’s box-hedges – each one trimmed using spirit-levels, string and many hours of dedication.

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The Water Terraces, which were constructed between 1925 and 1930, are reminiscent of the Parterre d’Eau at Versailles. On the lowest terrace stands the scale model made by Bernini for his famous fountain in the Piazza Navona in Rome.

See beds of fragrant ‘Pascali’ roses, which flower from late May into early autumn and 12 vast terracotta urns, which are decorated each summer with deep orange free-flowering canna lilies.

Stroll past The Temple of Diana where Sir Winston Churchill proposed to his beloved Clementine, walk the memorial lifeline of Churchill, taking you from his birth at Blenheim to his burial in Bladon.

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The Rose Garden, which blooms fully in June, is contained within a circular walk, arched over by slender hoops supporting climbing roses, varieties being Albertine and Iceberg.

The central statue is surrounded by symmetrical beds of roses that form a delightful display of floral beauty. From the Rose Garden, take a short walk past the hidden Temple of Flora, and on to the Grand Cascade – designed by ‘Capability’ Brown in the 1760s.

The Secret Garden is located to the east of the South Lawn. It was restored by the 11th Duke as part of the Battle of Blenheim tercentenary celebrations in 2004.

While introducing many new features the restoration also retained much of the original layout, originally designed by his father. Discover Japanese maples, giant cedars, English oaks and plantings designed to capture all four seasons.

In contrast to the formal gardens and sweeping parkland, the Secret Garden is a secluded area where winding paths lead over bridges of tranquil water. This informal style – and the fact that the plants here are labelled – provides a welcoming atmosphere for keen gardeners and families alike.

Explore the Parkland

The Oxfordshire UNESCO World Heritage site is set within 2,000 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown landscape, which was carefully designed so as to appear natural but is in fact ‘contrived to pleasing effect’.

Discover landmarks such as the Column of Victory, the Cascades and the Grand Bridge designed by Vanbrugh.

There are a number of excellent walks taking you around the Parkland which are perfect for spotting the array of wildlife, scenes from films shot at Blenheim Palace and seeing the beautiful landscape.

·         For more information visit This year visitors are also being given the chance to convert their day ticket for free into an annual pass. Please note pre-booking is essential.

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About the Author

Steve Ott