If are visiting London or live here, there are so many wonderful gardens for you to explore. Some are off the beaten track while others are well known throughout the world. Whichever garden you choose, you are in for a treat.
Chelsea Physic Garden
Starting with one of the oldest Physic Gardens in Britain, the Chelsea Physic Garden is tucked away right in the middle of Chelsea. So catch a tube to Sloane Square, walk along the Kings Road, pop into a few shops and then head south along Smith Street to where it joins the Royal Hospital Road. Turn right and after a few minutes walk, turn left into Swan Walk; the entrance to the garden is on your right.
The garden has around 5,000 edible, medicinal and historical plants growing. Many are rare and endangered species as the walls provide a micro-climate for the plants to grow. There are pomegranates growing as well as a grapefruit tree, ginkgos, mulberries and eucalyptus trees.
The glasshouses were built in 1902 and are filled with exotic species. The first solid-fuel heated greenhouse was built here by John Watts in 1680.
The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries first established the Apothecaries Garden in 1673 on land leased from Sir John Danvers. When Sir Hans Sloane bought the adjoining Manor of Chelsea from Charles Cheyne, Sir Hans offered four acres of land on a lease to the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of £5.00 a year in perpetuity; the Physic Garden still pays this amount to Sir Hans’s descendants.
HAMPTON COURT PALACE
The Palace is five minutes walk from Hampton Court Train station and there are also several car parks within walking distance.
There’s so much to see at Hampton Court – you can easily spend a day here – and make sure you wander around the Palace as well
The magnificent Baroque facade in the Fountain Court was designed by Sir Christopher Wren.
After walking through the Palace, turn right and head to the Privy Garden. The Garden was created for William III in 1702 but the King died before it was finished. Anxious they might not be paid, the gardeners kept meticulous notes of the hours they worked and using the original plans and plant varieties, the garden was restored in 1992. It is magnificent!
Other parts of the garden to look out for are the Lower Orangery Garden which was where Queen Mary II kept her ‘exotick’ plant collection, the Banqueting House, the Great Fountain Garden, the Great Vine planted by ‘Capability’ Brown, the Tiltyard, the Wilderness, the Kitchen Garden, the Maze and the Magic Garden.
Cardinal Wolsey began building Hampton Court in 1515 but in 1528 he gave the Palace to King Henry VIII to try and regain his popularity. Henry enlarged the building and laid out the grounds although nothing remains of the garden from this period.
If there is only one garden in London you have time to visit, then Kew Gardens would be the top of my suggestions. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the botanic garden was founded in 1759 by Princess Augusta. The nearest tube station is Kew Gardens.
There is always something to see – and if it’s raining, there are plenty of glasshouses to shelter in – or grab something to eat in one of the many cafes.
And don’t miss the Temperate House, Arboretum, Great Pagoda, Great Broad Walk, Rock Garden, Grass Garden, Bamboo Garden and the Woodland Garden.
And before you go, visit Kew’s website as it has information on ‘What’s Looking Good Right Now’ in the garden.
HAM HOUSE AND MARBLE HILL
I would visit these two gardens together as they are almost opposite each other, only separated by the River Thames – and a fun way of crossing the river is by using the Hammerton Ferry which is the last privately owned foot ferry in London.
Take the tube to Richmond and then walk along the River to Ham House – it’s about a 40 minute walk.
Built in 1610 for Sir Thomas Vavsour, the house was enlarged and remodelled in 1670s for the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale. After Lauderdale’s death, the house was lived in by his widow and then passed to her son, the third Earl of Dysart.
The house and gardens were restored in 1720s with some later alterations in nineteenth century. In 1948, the estate was given to the National Trust by Sir Lyonel Tollemache and Mr Cecil Tollemache.
The gardens have been extensively restored by the National Trust and include the Cherry Garden, hornbeam arbours, Melancholy Walk, Rose Garden, Wilderness and the Orangery.
And now cross the River to Marble Hill
The house was built in the Palladian style for Henrietta Howard, mistress of the Prince of Wales.
Sadly there is little to see of the original gardens at Marble Hill however that is all about to change. English Heritage are using a contemporary map to redevelop the gardens as they would have been in the eighteenth century.
Henrietta Howard wanted her own piece of Arcadia at Marble Hill and with the help of Charles Bridgeman, Pope and her architect/builder Roger Morris, the garden was created.
The area around the Grotto was far more complex than is visible today and was decorated with shells.
There was also an Ice House which according to a poem written by Dean Jonathan Swift, was also used as a wine cellar.
If you are interested in Art as well as gardens, then definitely visit Kenwood House beside Hampstead Heath. Get the tube to Hampstead village and walk up the hill to the house but be sure to wear comfortable shoes!
First visit the house which has a magnificent art collection (entry is free) and then head outside.
In 1754, Lord Bute sold the estate to William Murray, later 1st Earl of Mansfield who commissioned Robert Adam to remodel the house and landscape the pleasure grounds.
The 2nd Earl asked Humphry Repton to visit Kenwood in 1793. Repton produced one of his Red Books (a sort of before and after plan), although not all of his suggestions were implemented. One of his ideas was to get rid of the Sham Bridge which he felt was ‘beneath the dignity of Kenwood’.
Repton also suggested moving the main road to the north of the house, planting trees along the southern boundary to hide the houses of Kentish Town and to create a new flower garden to the west of the house and relocate the Dairy, Kitchen Garden and Stables. Not all of his suggestions were implemented.
In 1924, Lord Iveagh bought the house and the remaining grounds, gifting them to the Nation on his death in 1927. In 1986, Kenwood House was transferred to English Heritage.
There are sculptures dotted around the landscape by Barbara Hepworth (Monolyth-Empyrean, 1953), Eugène Dodeigne (Flamme) and my favourite by Henry Moore.
One of the wonderful things about London is that it is filled with green spaces – there are numerous Parks
as well as secret gardens. I found this open space as I was wandering around the City of London. Close by St Pauls, it was created from the ruins of another church designed by Christopher Wren, Christ Church Greyfriars or Newgate.