The 19th-century gardens and estate eventually covered more than 2,000 acres (800 hectares). The current estate extends to 354 acres (143 hectares) and includes formal terraces with statuary, a walled garden and extensive parkland.
Within the grounds are the Swiss Cottage, Swiss Cottage Museum, and a miniature fort with redoubts (detached earthworks), which were all built as educational tools for the royal children. The area around them was also reserved for the children’s education, and was used by them to grow fruit, flowers and vegetables.
Prince Albert was concerned with every aspect of the development of the gardens and estate. His planting scheme was to some extent dictated by the already well-established late 18th-century landscape. Other influences included his liking for poplars, and for the Italian fashion of lining principal drives and walks with evergreens, such as myrtle and laurel. Magnolias, rhododendrons and azaleas were also planted. The prince planted many of the trees in the parkland himself, sometimes with the children: in 1847 the queen noted in her diary ‘we walked out with the children, & they helped, or at least thought they did, in planting some trees’.
The parterres on the terrace, which have been restored to their original appearance, were interspersed with statuary and were framed by formal walkways of coloured imitation lava. A rich variety of bedding plants were used: Queen Victoria writes in her journal of geraniums, stocks and heliotropes and the summer evening air scented with orange blossom and roses. Many of these plants are used today in seasonal bedding schemes.
Within the 18th-century walled kitchen garden the original cross-path layout has been restored, and a garden was added in 2000 to the design of Rupert Golby as part of the Contemporary Heritage Garden project. It incorporates many plants with names associated with Victoria or Albert, in a contemporary planting style.