The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 2 Hyde Park

Floral bedding and herbaceous borders in Hyde Park

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The idea of introducing flowers into the Park began about 1860, and the long rows of beds between Stanhope Gate and Marble Arch were made about that time, when Mr. Cowper Temple was First Commissioner of Works. They were made when "bedding out" was at the height of its fashion, when the one idea was to have large, glaring patches of bright flowers as dazzling as possible, or minute and intricate patterns carried out in carpet bedding. Now this plan has been considerably modified. The process of alteration has been slow, and the differences in some cases subtle, but the old stiffness and crudeness has been banished for ever. The harmony of colours, and variety of plants used, are the principal features in the present bedding out. It seems right that the Royal Parks should lead the way in originality and beauty, and undoubted success is frequently achieved, although even the style of to-day has its opponents. The chief objection from the more practical gardeners is the putting out of comparatively tender plants in the summer months, when the same general effect could be got with a less expenditure both of money and plants. But on the other hand numbers of people come to study the beds, note the combinations, and examine the use of certain plants which they would not otherwise have the opportunity of testing. The public who enjoy the results, and often those who most severely criticise, do not know the system on which the gardening is carried out. Many are even ignorant enough to suppose that the whole bedding out is contracted for, and few know the hidden recesses of Hyde Park, which produces everything for all the display, both there and in St. James's Park. The old place in which all necessary plants were raised was a series of greenhouses and frames in front of Kensington Palace. The erection of these pits and glass houses completely destroyed the design of the old garden, although even now the slope reveals the lines of the old terraces; and they entirely obscure the beauty of the Orangery. A few years ago three acres in the centre of Hyde Park were taken, on which to form fresh nurseries. Gradually better ranges have been built, and soon the old unsightly frames at Kensington will disappear. The new garden is so completely hidden that few have discovered its whereabouts. The ground selected lies to the north-west of the Ranger's Lodge. There, a series of glass houses on the most approved plan, and rows of frames, have been erected. The unemployed have found work by excavating the ground to the depth of some eight feet, and the gravel taken out has made the wide walk across the Green Park and the alterations in the "Mall." A wall and bank of shrubs and trees so completely hides even the highest house in which the palms-such as those outside the National Gallery-are stored, that it is quite invisible from the outside. There are storehouses for the bulbs, and nurseries where masses of wall-flowers, delphiniums, and all the hardier bedding plants, and those for the herbaceous borders, are grown. Of late years the number of beds in the Park has been considerably reduced, without any diminution of the effect. In 1903 as many as ninety were done away with between Grosvenor Gate and Marble Arch. There is now a single row of long beds instead of three rows with round ones at intervals. But even after all these reductions the area of flower beds and borders is very considerable, as the following table will show:-