One of the many ways Princess Diana is being commemorated, to mark twenty years since her shocking death, is through a garden in her former home of .
The was unveiled in April to celebrate the life of . It is open to the public and on display until September, it is the brainchild of Kensington Palace's head gardener Sean Harkin and his team.
Sean, 33, spoke to Country Living UK about the inspiration for the garden, the late Princesses' love of flowers and how they want it to be a place of happiness rather than mourning.
What is your role as head gardener at Kensington Palace and how long have you worked there?
I have been working there two years in October, working for National Trust before. My daily tasks include leading a team of gardeners, planning for longer term projects and helping to guide and instruct. Around half of my time is spent actually gardening: , helping bedding changeovers, hedge cutting, sorting pot displayers, for example.
How did the White Garden come about?
When I started working here, Graham Dillamore [the gardens manager based at Hampton court] told me about his time as a . He has memories of working here when it was .
The Sunken Garden (where the White Garden is based) is the jewel of Kensington Palace and it was a particular favorite of Princess Diana's. In the mornings, she would go out for a jog and would stop by the garden and have a chat with Graham and the gardeners. She would say how much she liked the garden and comment on what it was looking like depending on the seasons. She would have a bit of a joke with them and was really friendly and warm.
What is the 'white' part about?
I knew we would be doing to mark 20 years since she died and thought we should do something in garden as well to celebrate the memory of Princess Diana actually being here, it seemed good to do it in the Sunken Garden as she particularly liked it.
Diana . Certain pieces in the exhibition stood out like the famous Elvis dress as well as some of the photos from the Mario Testino shoot in 1997 where she wore cream. The whole feel of the exhibition, those photos and the dresses was quite radiant and the feeling was quite uplifting which is what we wanted the garden to be.
What flowers did Princess Diana like?
We wanted to include her within the planting scheme. One of the key flowers were the forget-me-nots. Earl Spencer has previously said the white forget-me-nots were one of her favorites because he gave them to her as a child, it's also fitting that Prince Harry's charity translates in Lesotho to 'forget-me-not' and he established the charity in memory of his mother.
Other soft pinks around the garden. White roses were another favorite of Diana's so around the reflective pond there are large terra cotta pots with big displays of white roses in them. as Princess Diana would often have these around her when she lived in Kensington Palace, we have hundreds of whites and
What have Princess Diana's family said about the garden?
They have been and are really happy we're doing something that celebrates the legacy of Princess Diana. There hasn't been an official visit yet though. [The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry have also been "regularly updated with plans for the garden and have been very supportive of the project", a representative for the grounds told us.]
What has the public response to the garden been?
It's been quite overwhelming, lots of people have come to the Palace this year for the exhibition and the garden, it's been a lot busier than it would usually be. People have been saying how special it is and how moved they are by it.
Is the garden specifically tailored to Princess Diana?
It is but we didn't want it to just be a collection of flowers next to each other. The nice thing about the garden is there is a walkway and tunnel where people can view the area. It creates this beautiful picture, for example we picked daisies as a key flower through the central bed because Princess Diana would wear floral dresses when she wanted to make uplifting visits to hospitals.
We didn't want the garden to be flat, we wanted it to be celebratory and joyful. It's not just white, there are silvers, golds, soft pinks and purples throughout the garden. We don't want it to just be a memorial garden, we want it to be an uplifting and happy garden.