Princess Diana's favourite garden at Kensington Palace

Princess Diana's gardener speaks exclusively to HELLO! of his royals memories

Graham Dillamore shares his memories of the royal and unveils Kensington Palace's floral tribute

Michelle Johnson

Kensington Palace is one of the biggest tourist attractions that London has to offer, and royals including Queen Victoria, Princess Margaret and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have all enjoyed residences in the state apartments there. But the palace is still perhaps best known as home to Diana, Princess of Wales, who lived in the royal palace from her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981 until her death on 31 August 1997.

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Fans of Diana, known in her life as the People's Princess, still leave tributes of flowers and cards at the palace's gold gates on the anniversaries of her death and birthday, so it's no wonder that those who knew her chose to create a floral tribute in the Princess's favourite garden for the 20th anniversary of her death.

"It's a very suitable and fitting tribute," Graham Dillamore told HELLO! when we visited him at the White Garden's commemorative Spring display. Graham is operations manager for the whole of Historic Royal Palaces, but has got back to his roots with the tribute designs.

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"I've been connected with this garden at KP for about 35 years now, so it's very exciting this year to be doing the wonderful White Garden," he said, adding that during Diana's time at the palace he looked after the White Garden and State Apartment ground at the palace. "I was lucky enough to work here at that time, and the princess would often walk past and admire the colours that were appearing in the garden.

"She was a very friendly lady," he recalled. "I was lucky to meet her many times here in the garden, and in the other gardens connected with the palace, and she was always very complimentary of the work we did."

Diana, he remembers, was rather green fingered, and enjoyed donning a cap and sunglasses to walk through the gardens unnoticed among the public tourists. "She enjoyed the gardens very much," he says. "[She] was relaxed with us and very informal. So we were very lucky. She did like a practical joke or two, and sometimes you might be on the end of those, but it was all good fun. [We] had many special moments."

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The garden itself is a real highlight for visitors to the palace. Also known as the Sunken Garden, it features a central rectangular pond surrounded by seasonal flowers and overlooking the 18th century royal residence. "We change it twice a year, so we have the Spring display, and then around the middle of May we'll change that for a summer display, which will last the whole summer right through to the end of September. This year that'll have a white theme to commemorate the passing of the princess as well."

The tranquil white blooms in the Spring display are pepper with pale pink tulips and forget-me-nots, a nod to the Princess's favourite plants. "We know that Diana liked forget-me-nots, so we've got those flowers in this garden," Graham said. "When I was lucky enough to meet Diana in here I always felt she liked the lighter pastel coloured shades, the whites, light pinks and blues were colours she enjoyed very much so I think what we've done here is very fitting."

Kensington Palace takes its plants from another of the Historic Royal Palaces group, Hampton Court, which was the home of Henry VIII. "There's a wonderful team of guys and girls who do a fantastic job here at Kensington Palace, and they're all supported by people in our nursery who grew all these wonderful plants at Hampton Court, so it's been a fantastic team effort by everyone at Historic Royal Palaces."  

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Read more in HELLO! Magazine, on sale from Tuesday 2 May.

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