Open Garden Squares Weekend – 9-10 June 2018

By Catherine Miller

(Click on a garden name for further information. Click on a photo to enlarge.)

The Deanery
OGSW 2018 brought perfect sunny weather to be out and about in London, and I was excited to get the opportunity to see two tiny, charming gardens on the river right in the centre of town. I had always wondered what was behind the ancient houses in the middle of all the modern buildings of Bankside; and along with many other visitors I ventured down a narrow alley to find the Deanery, a harmonious garden with a view of the top of the Tate Modern, scented philadelphus, and the sound of trickling water to muffle the city noise.

49 Bankside
On the other side of the alley a low doorway led to a creatively planted garden, 49 Bankside with another surprisingly large water feature and the biggest star jasmine I've ever seen, wonderfully fragrant, scrambling up high. There is a very large planter halfway up one wall that must need an acrobatic gardener to maintain it!

Cody Dock
From here, via the Jubilee line and DLR, I went to a very different waterside enterprise at Cody Dock. This is an interesting, family- friendly regeneration project where links with the Royal Horticultural Society helped to make wildflower habitats, herb garden, tiny greenhouses and raised beds for vegetables. There is also a rather cool outdoor classroom with a fire pit, where you can imagine kids enjoying themselves in this creative environment.

Bowes Park
Via the useful Ginger line, I visited Bowes Park, a neighbourhood community garden in north London, where there was a summer party in full swing. There were plant and cake stalls, and trees for kids to climb. This is evidently a much-loved space, and very popular with families.

Victoria Hall
Heading back into central London, I went to two gardens in King's Cross. Victoria Hall - The institute of Ismaili Studies has a restful pool and rill, with a carefully limited range of plants in a beautifully tiled roof garden on the 8th floor. On the first floor is a Garden of Reflection, with a larger pool and multi-stemmed Japanese cherry trees.

The Skip Garden
In the 'wild north' of King's Cross, so much of which is still being built, this is something of a sanctuary. Nearby, the latest incarnation of the Skip Garden has a marvellously eccentric recycled house that serves as a cold greenhouse for less hardy plants. The skips have fruit trees, herbs, soft fruit and plenty of flowers everywhere. There is an ongoing programme of activities for local families.

Museum of the Order
of St John
In the evening I had a welcome Maltese beer at a musical evening at the Museum of the Order of St John, in a courtyard garden planted with medicinal herbs and fragrant roses. The plants reflect the origins of the ancient Order, caring for sick pilgrims in Jerusalem.

Stationers' Company Garden
On Sunday I cycled into the City to marvel at the enormous old plane tree, dating from 1837, which totally dominates the interesting historical site of the Stationers' Company Garden. It was good to talk shade plants with the gardener, as this is a common topic among London gardeners! This garden was very popular with many visitors for OGSW.

Cable Street Community Gardens
There is a cycleway part of the way to Cable Street Community Gardens. The site has thrived since I was last there a few years ago, and it has a friendly atmosphere, with plotholders from many different backgrounds. When you walk around this prolifically flowering site, it is noticeable how many birds and insects there are. With an adjacent railway line, flats and views of the city skyline, it is still quite easy in this very urban garden to become immersed in the world of plants and flowers.

South London Gallery
Back on the Ginger Line, I headed to Peckham, to see the Orozco Garden. This beautiful construction is behind the South London Gallery, and is almost a cross between a sculpture and a garden. I was very impressed with the planting, which was supported by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Tough plants, which will stand up to dry conditions, have been chosen, and some, like Mexican daisies, will self-sow.

Glengall Wharf Garden
I cycled downhill to Glengall Wharf Garden, which is tucked away in a corner of Burgess Park. I was invited to sample strawberries and a walk around revealed wild areas, raised vegetable beds, bees and chickens. It has a flock of resident sparrows and an apricot tree, laden with fruit. There is a programme of courses where people can learn about different gardening techniques.

Triangle Garden
Finally I headed across town to three large private gardens in Maida Vale, which have opened for OGSW for many years now. The Triangle Garden is immaculately maintained, with velvety green lawns, shady borders with roses and topiary, and is very relaxing and peaceful to sit in. It is amazing how blissfully quiet these large private gardens are.

Crescent Garden
The Crescent Garden is enormous! Having such a large site provides opportunity to plant interesting trees and these included swamp cypress, liquidambar, and several different types of flowering cherry. The garden also has plenty of space for children to play and as you meander around the scent of honeysuckle, mock orange and roses fill the air.

Formosa Garden
The Formosa Garden features many pollarded plane trees in a formation which, when viewing them from the entrance path, reminded me of an ancient temple. This is another very restful garden in which to spend some time. Any noise you do hear is from goldfinches and wheeling swifts.

This year's OGSW has been a very welcome event after the seemingly never-ending winter. Visiting gardens this summer, it seems that many plants have even thrived after the prolonged cold spell, especially roses. And all the different kinds of gardens that you can visit during OGSW show that Londoners are fortunate to enjoy numerous green spaces all over the city, recreational places where children and adults alike can enjoy and learn about the natural world.

Catherine is a horticulturalist gardener. trustee of the London Environmental Education Forum and community garden expert.