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The little rain from the day before was long gone, and we had blue skies and mild temperatures for our last full day in England, Thursday, May 30. Our final two gardens were Penshurst Place and Hever Castle.

Our first stop was Penshurst Place.

Once the property of King Henry VIII, Penshurst Place was left to his son King Edward VI and granted to Sir William Sidney in 1552. The Sidney family have been in continuous occupation for more than 460 years since, and still lives there today. There are over 50 acres surrounding the home, with over a mile of yew hedges which divides the garden into "rooms".

We once again divided into two groups

and we both had superb guides,

who knew not only the history of the place, but the plants and gardens as well. Interesting displays of color

and pruning techniques.

We were sad we will miss the blooms on the 328 foot peony bed with thousands of peonies about to burst open.

We then loaded up and went to our last garden of the trip,

Hever Castle.

Dating back to the 13th century, Hever Castle was once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII and Mother of Elizabeth I. The castle was surrounded by a moat

and there were elaborate gardens surrounding it.

Today, much of what we saw was the result of the efforts of William Waldorf Astor, who used his fortune to restore and extend the Castle and gardens in the early 20th century. Since school has let out in England and it was a beautiful day, families were all over the park enjoying picnics and fresh air. It was a lovely setting.

Until William Waldorf Astor bought Hever Castle in 1903, only a modest garden existed around the castle walls. Astor hired Joseph Cheal and Son who laid out the gardens at Hever Castle between 1904 and 1908, turning marshland into the spectacular gardens we saw today.

One of the grandest areas of the gardens is the Italian Garden,

which was designed to display William Waldorf Astor’s collection of Italian sculptures.

Over 1,000 men worked on the grand design, with around 800 men taking two years to dig out the 38-acre lake at the far end of the Italian Garden.

An added treat after our garden tour was afternoon tea at Hever.

Gallery: tea at Hever

We all had a delightful time before heading back to the hotel to pack, rest and get ready for our farewell dinner.

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