Explore the gardens
Baron Ferdinand created his garden for the amusement of his guests, who spent an entire morning on their tour. Waddesdon had one of the most important Victorian gardens. Many of the key features have been restored and can be enjoyed by today's visitors.
Glimpse the gardens on film
Watch this short video to see stunning highlights of the gardens at Waddesdon including the aviary, parterre, sculpture and carpet bedding throughout the changing of the seasons.
North Avenue and Fountain
The entry drive curves around the central hill to end at the North Fountain and reveal the first view of the impressive façade. Major earthworks were needed to level the top of the ‘misshapen cone’ to create the majestic entry to the house. In creating his ‘instant garden’, Baron Ferdinand planted four avenues of mature oak trees. Disease and age have resulted in the new planting of English oaks in 2008.
All the reception rooms and principal bedrooms had views of the Parterre, the highlight of the formal garden. This was restored in 1994 to designs by Beth Rothschild. The magnificent display of tiers of different coloured plants is planted with a new design twice a year, using around 110,000 plants. It takes a little longer than it did in Ferdinand’s day, when the entire scheme was replaced overnight after a storm.
Waddesdon won the Europa Nostra award in 2000 for ‘the extraordinary re-creation with modern techniques of a major Victorian garden.’
The Rothschilds were pioneers of carpet bedding, using close-growing plants to create ‘pictures in plants’. The large beds around the South Fountain are planted each year with designs inspired by exhibitions in the house.
Watch this short animated film showing how we create a picture in plants.
Miss Alice de Rothschild is credited with introducing sculpture made out of living plants to the gardens. Her bird has been recreated near the Aviary.
Baron Ferdinand used 18th-century sculpture to create points of interest or to frame views in the gardens. The sculpture in the two fountains came from the palace of the Dukes of Parma. Today, these are joined by contemporary sculpture, like Le Carrosse by Xavier Veilhan.
This was restored in 2004 to its colourful Victorian appearance with raised ribbon bedding – plants of a single colour and texture planted in tiers or ‘ribbons’ one above the other. The original sculptures, one made for the gardens of Versailles, has been reinstated.
Miss Alice de Rothschild was passionate about the garden and was always seen with a weeding tool when out in the garden. The Rose Garden was planted in 2000 in memory of her achievements. Don’t miss the ‘Miss Alice’ rose, created by David Austen Roses for the occasion.
Artificial rock grottoes were a feature of late-19th-century gardens. James Pulham invented a way of creating large blocks out of lime mortar poured over brick and rubble – a cheaper and quicker way than hewing blocks of stone. In 1895 the firm was granted a royal warrant for the work they did at Sandringham and Buckingham Palace. The mound between the Aviary and the North Avenue was originally the home of Ferdinand’s collection of mountain sheep and goats.
The building was designed by the same architect who designed the Manor, this time in a French 17th-century style. The complex now houses a café, shop and the Coach House gallery. In the centre is a bronze horse by Edgar Boehm, believed to be the Duke of Wellington’s charger, Copenhagen.
Abandoned and fallen into disrepair after the Second World War, the Water Garden was rediscovered in 1989, nearly 100 years after it was created. It was originally visited on the way to the Dairy and glasshouses. A series of small lakes interconnected by Pulham rockwork, waterfalls, cascades and paths, and a lake with rare water fowl, it can be visited during special tours or pre-booked tours.
Our Woodland Playground winds through the trees, making the most of the natural environment to create a magical area to play. There’s something for everyone – up to the age of 14. Little ones can play in safety at the bottom of the hill, with seesaws, swings and plenty of soft bark to land on. At the top of the hill is our bird’s nest swing, for the less able-bodied and those wanting a more gentle play. Older children can whizz down our giant contour slide, or clamber over the climbing frames.