London Open Gardens - 12 June 2021

Featured Gardens

The Aga Khan Centre

The Aga Khan contemporary Islamic Gardens at King’s Cross – part of the new Aga Khan Centre – have been designed to showcase the diversity of Muslim cultures and also to bring a conceptual ribbon of Islamic-inspired gardens to this developing area. There are six gardens, terraces and courtyards at the Aga Khan Centre, two at Victoria Hall and two in the public realm – Jellicoe Gardens and Lewis Cubitt Square. They range from contemplative courtyards inspired by Andalusia and loggias inspired by the Middle East, to rooftop spaces inspired by South and Central Asia. The Aga Khan Centre is home to the Aga Khan Foundation UK, Aga Khan University-Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations and The Institute of Ismaili Studies – all founded by His Highness the Aga Khan, hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.

Photo: John Sturrock

The British Medical Association

This is the home of the UK’s professional association for doctors. This picturesque garden is a hidden central London gem. It was built on the site of Tavistock House, once the home of novelist Charles Dickens on the corner of Tavistock Square. Architect Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the garden and today it is planted extensively with medicinal herbs. The garden centres on an oval pond and is home to an abundance of physic plants, showcasing the continuing role of plants in contemporary pharmacology.

Photo: Janne Watson

Approach Gardens

Award-winning Approach Gardens in Bethnal Green is a thriving community food garden brings together local and diverse groups. A resident-led committee raised funds to rescue the site and the garden now boasts 40 raised beds which are cherished by local families, schoolchildren and a daycare centre. There is a small, shared fruit orchard and a wildlife area and pond (with frogs and toads), a native hedgerow, bug hotel, wildflower meadow and ivy for the bees. The garden won Silver in the 2018 London in Bloom Awards (Thriving garden category) and the Best Community Garden and Best Wildlife (Group category) in the Tower Hamlets in Bloom Awards 2018 before being crowned the Overall Group Winner.

Photo: Nathan Oley

The Deanery

This gem of a secret riverside garden, just beside the Globe Theatre, belongs to the Dean of Southwark Cathedral’s private residence and dates back to 1712. Hidden away from neighbouring and bustling tourist areas, it has become a tranquil haven for wildlife. The Deanery garden has been planted with mature shrubs, trees and herbaceous plants and is tended by the cathedral’s gardener. Access to this small garden is via historic Cardinal Cap Alley, which is narrow.

Photo: Colin Wing

Eccleston Square

Eccleston Square is named after Eccleston in Cheshire, part of the Duke of Westminster-owned estates. Created from a low-lying swamp, it was drained in the early 17th century and designed in 1828 by Thomas Cubitt (1788-1855). The garden has been replanted over three decades to provide year-round interest. The garden boasts many specialist collections, including camellias, climbing and shrub roses, and a National Collection of ceanothus. In 2006, a Wollemi pine – considered extinct until found recently in Australia – was donated to the square. Other unusual tender plants include the giant Mexican dahlia, Dahlia imperialis, and the white sunflower tree, Rojasianthe superba, from Guatemala.

Photo: Diana Jarvis

Cannon Bridge

This private rooftop terrace garden offers stunning views of London’s skyline and is a perfect example of planting for biodiversity right in the heart of the city. It shows how a wide range of plants can be grown successfully in a garden all year round. The multi award-winning garden, which includes a lawn laid to golf green specification, features unusual and exotic plants as well as garden favourites.

Photo: Anna Barclay

The Ismaili Centre

This beautiful roof garden in the heart of Knightsbridge is a sanctuary of calm set against the backdrop of a bustling city. It reflects motifs from Islamic architectural heritage in its serene setting and also draws on the traditions of Muslim civilisations that have inspired outstanding buildings around the globe for hundreds of years. The chahar-bagh (four-part garden), delineated by a central fountain, draws inspiration from the Qur’anic imagery of the Garden of Paradise. It combines granite and greenery with geometry, symbolism and the sound and flow of water in a sheltered yet open garden.

Photo: The Ismaili Centre

Royal Crescent Gardens

Robert Cantwell laid out the Royal Crescent Gardens in 1846. Perimeter railings, removed in WWII, were restored in 1997 and the gardens were improved from 2003. A rose and herbaceous border surrounds an oak gazebo centrepiece and the garden has two magnificent plane trees, at least 170 years old, as well as a tulip tree, red oak and some younger specimens. It won the Kensington Society award for garden design (2007) and first prize for communal gardens in North Kensington, under the Brighter Kensington and Chelsea Scheme (2008). It also came second in that competition from 2009 to 2013 and in 2016 and 2017, and won accolades from the London Gardens Society.

Photo: Stephanie Stephenson

Ladbroke Square Garden

This Grade II-listed garden in Notting Hill was originally the site of the Hippodrome racecourse entrance, built by John Whyte in 1837. The venture foundered as the course was too heavy-going. An 1849 plan, signed by architect and surveyor Thomas Allason, shows the garden laid out as it is today, the largest of the Ladbroke Estate’s 16 communal gardens. It is also one of London’s largest private garden squares. Within the railings, shrubbery and stately trees enclose a long, east-west walk along the north side, with winding paths around three spacious lawns, flanked by colourful herbaceous borders.

Photo: Stephanie Stephenson

The gardens of the Honourable Society of Middle Temple

Wander (virtually) through courtyards and cloistered areas of barristers’ chambers and discover a secret vegetable and cutting garden behind the Church of the Knights Templar. Two fine mulberry trees planted to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in Fountain Court. Charles Dickens sought inspiration for scenes in Pickwick Papers and Great Expectations around these squares. In the main garden the fine medieval hall forms a spectacular backdrop for a terrace of mixed shrubs and roses and a seasonal planting scheme. This is where the first recorded performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night took place. 

Photo: Colin Wing

Core Landscapes

A closed community garden in Hackney. Core Landscapes transforms vacant land in deprived urban areas into hubs for community engagement

through horticulture, design, workshops, training and events – improving physical health, mental health, wellbeing and community cohesion.

The small roof garden site was developed in the last two years in an unusual setting over two small buildings. It includes a teaching and workshop space, micro plant nursery, greenhouse, water- harvesting and demonstration roof top garden plants that can withstand heat, exposure and drought.

Photo: Nemone Mercer

Barbican Wildlife Garden

The Royal Horticultural Society and London in Bloom have judged the garden ‘outstanding’ for the last three years. It is part of the Barbican and St Alphage’s Garden Grade II Site of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation (SBINC), which will be expanded and upgraded to Grade I when the new City of London Local Plan is adopted.  

Photo: Anna Barclay

Alara Permaculture

These interlinked gardens on Camley Street have been created from a piece of derelict land, just a 10-minute stroll from King’s Cross. Some 50 tons of rubbish were removed in 2005 as work started on transforming the largest area into a Permaculture Forest Garden, using coppiced sweet-chestnut logs. This has been planted with silverberry, pomegranate, Japanese wineberry, apricot, apple, pear, plum and edible hawthorn and the garden now produces more than 80 different food crops. There is a vineyard by a lorry park, an orchard by a cash and carry and compost heaps. A greenhouse was added and the meeting area extended in 2014.

Photo: Anna Barclay

The Greenwood Centre

The Greenwood Centre is Camden’s first Centre for Independent Living run by people with disabilities. Opened in February 2019, the community resource centre has a thriving rooftop garden which is home to the Greenwood Centre Garden Group. This group runs a beautiful kitchen garden, a herb garden with great views and a rooftop lawn for relaxation. 

*Please note that the programme is subject to change

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