The redesigned Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace – home to the new Diana, Princess of Wales statue – has been filled with more than 4,000 flowers and offers a “calmer and more reflective setting” for the permanent tribute to the princess.
The Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex, whose troubled relationship has been well documented, are set to unveil the monument to their late mother on Thursday.
It will be the first time they have appeared together since the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.
New turf was laid in May (Historic Royal Palaces/PA)
Harry, whose rift with William dates back to before his wedding to the Duchess of Sussex, quit as a senior working royal last year and has since raised a string of allegations about the royal family, the most damning being a claim of racism.
Ahead of the ceremony on what would have been Diana’s 60th birthday, the garden’s designer Pip Morrison described it as a “very special project” to work on and said it featured many of the princess’s favourite blooms.
The redesign of the area – one of the places Diana loved most at Kensington Palace – began in October 2019, and since then, five gardeners have spent a total of 1,000 hours working on the mass planting.
An artist’s impression of the redesigned Sunken Garden (Historic Royal Palaces/PA)
More than 4,000 individual flowers – many of them Diana’s favourites – have been put in place, including forget-me-nots – known for being adored by the princess – and other spring and summer blooms in a variety of pastel shades.
Others include 200 roses, of five varieties including Ballerina and Blush Noisette, 300 tulips, of three varieties including White Triumphator and China Pink, some 500 lavender plants, more than 100 dahlias and 50 sweet peas.
The new design features “a simplified layout of deeper flower borders and a more generous lawn around the pool to create a calmer and more reflective setting for the statue”, Kensington Palace said.
Five varieties of rose including Ballerina, pictured, have been planted (Kensington Palace/PA)
Mr Morrison said: “This has been a very special project to work on, as the Sunken Garden was a favourite place of Diana, Princess of Wales.
“We have worked carefully to ensure that the new layout and planting scheme compliments the statue, providing a calming place for people who visit Kensington Palace to remember the princess.”
William and Harry will be joined by Mr Morrison and renowned sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley for the unveiling of the statue of the late princess, who was killed in a car crash in 1997 when William was 15 and Harry just 12.
Diana’s close family, thought to be her siblings, will also attend the small gathering, along with the statue committee and others involved in the process.
Lavender bushes line the Sunken Garden (Kensington Palace/PA)
Historic Royal Palaces’ deputy head of gardens and estates Graham Dillamore, who led the team of gardeners, said the princess would often stop to talk to him when she lived at the palace.
“While she was in residence at Kensington Palace, Diana, Princess of Wales regularly admired the changing floral displays in the Sunken Garden and would always stop to talk with me and the other gardeners who cared for it,” he said.
“Over three decades later, I’m honoured to have been part of the team preparing the garden for the installation of this statue.
“We’ve incorporated a number of the princess’s favourite flowers into the design, and I hope that visitors to the palace and gardens will enjoy its peaceful setting, and take a moment to reflect on the life and legacy of the princess.”
Harry and Meghan in the Sunken Garden for their engagement photocall in 2017 (Eddie Mulholland/Daily Telegraph/PA)
More than 400 metres of fine, short-cut turf has also been laid as part of the new design.
The Sunken Garden, where Harry and Meghan held their engagement photocall, was created in 1908 by Edward VII, in an area of the palace gardens previously occupied by potting sheds and greenhouses.
The layout of the garden takes inspiration from the 17th century Dutch-style Pond Garden at Hampton Court Palace.
For the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death, it was temporarily renamed The White Garden and planted with flowers in white and soft pastel colours, inspired by items from the princess’s wardrobe then on display in the palace.
Designed to be viewed from the Cradle Walk, the garden and statue will be free to view during Historic Royal Palace opening hours.