Jo Penn and I spent last weekend exploring gardens which had been opened to public. Below are descriptions (taken from the Open Squares Guide book/website) and my pictures of the gardens we visited.
King Henry’s Walk Garden:
In this hidden organic garden, local residents grow their own vegetables, fruit and flowers; join in the year-round programme of workshops and events; or simply relax in a peaceful environment.
Visitors can enjoy the ornamental flower borders around the lawn, wander through the mini-plots that are rented out to local people, or watch the pondlife and the many birds that visit the garden.
As well as espalier and fan-trained fruit trees, the site includes a small area of woodland, most unusual in this part of Islington, which is managed as an area of wildlife habitat. All planting has been planned to encourage biodiversity and attract beneficial insects.
The garden is run on sustainable principles: using recycled materials where possible; composting all garden waste; and collecting rainwater.
St James Close:
Private communal garden surrounded on three sides by a church and Victorian almshouses. The property belongs to the Church of England and most of the residents have some connection with the church.
The garden consists of a small lawned area and beds of herbaceous perennials and shrubs. It is a secluded haven of calm in a busy, densely populated area and much appreciated by the residents.
Gardener: Maggie Ford
International Lutheran Student Centre (ILSC) sunken courtyard:
The private courtyard of St Mary with St George German Lutheran Church and the International Lutheran Student Centre (ILSC), is a sunken haven.
It was created on a site damaged during WW2, to provide a safe, calm place for student residents and members of the Church congregation and community to work and relax, planted with a variegated Weigala and Japanese rowan tree surrounded by ground-level beds and hanging baskets.
In St Mary’s Church, which opens onto the garden, there is a sculpture of Christ on the Cross by Elisabeth Frink, who also created the wonderful Walking Madonna at Salisbury Cathedral.
British Medical Association Garden:
The garden of the British Medical Association is a hidden secret on the site of Charles Dickens’ house on the corner of Tavistock Square. It was designed by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and is today planted extensively with medicinal herbs.
Planting is refreshingly green around a central oval pool and the use of physic plants among the planting bears witness to the continuing role of plants in contemporary pharmacology.
Our 2017 planting explores medicinal herbs and their historical role in health and nutrition.
Gardener: Ms Daniela Sikora
MaRoCoCo Garden at Rococo Chocolates:
A small courtyard garden behind Rococo Chocolates. The layout by Dræyk van der Hørn of Bonnington Square Pleasure Garden was executed by Chantal Coady, the shop’s founder, who has also been closely involved with the Bonnington Square gardens.
Once a neglected city space, with a lone acacia tree, the garden now features a Moroccan tile mosaic and is filled with fragrant plants – all used in the Rococo repertoire: rose, lavender, geranium, mint, jasmine and a kaffir lime. The result is a stunning asymmetric mirrored courtyard in the middle of Belgravia.
Many elements in the garden are recycled: old mirrors came from the late Lady Rusheen Wynn-Jones’ house in Sprimont Place and tiles from Dar Interiors. The garden is now a favourite hangout for local birds, with a couple of resident robins, a family of blackbirds, and even a great-spotted woodpecker visiting the garden.
Ham Yard Hotel Rooftop Garden:
This leafy rooftop garden is set on the fourth floor of Ham Yard Hotel, with sweeping views over the London skyline. Designed to satisfy the senses, the garden is watched over by two ancient olive trees and surrounded by apple and pear espaliers.
Now over two years old, the garden blooms all year round with seasonal flowers, from poppies and lemon verbena to jasmine, creating a wild meadow.
Raised beds made of railway sleepers and picket-fencing form salad, herb and vegetable gardens. There is a lounge area scattered with Whitman benches and a settle with upholstered seats.
Gardeners: Clive and Kate Goodman
Courtfield Garden West:
A mid-Victorian garden, dominated by a spectacular London plane tree, containing a wide variety of shrubs and rare ornamental trees. Examples include: wedding cake tree, handkerchief tree, tobacco tree and giant sequoias.
The Square dates from 1873 and takes its name from ‘Court Fields’, a meadow in the estate of the Earl’s Court Manor House – demolished when the Underground was constructed.
Recent improvements include the reinstatement of perimeter railings which were sacrificed for the WWII war effort; wildlife haven with pond, several tropical beds; orchard of native fruit trees; play area and Victorian gazebo and arbour.
Courtfield Gardens West has received many London Garden Competition Awards over the years and is popular with visitors to Open Garden Squares Weekend.
Contract gardener: Garden Associates – Robert Player
I wonder if a fairy resides in this tree!
Courtfield Garden East:
In the mid 19th century most of the area between Earls Court Road and Gloucester Road was part of the Gunter estate.
When plans were being made to develop the area around Earls Court Manor House (next to the site of the present Earls Court Station) the Gunter family gave a portion of the fields as a site for a new church.
St Jude’s opened on Christmas Eve 1870 and closed as a parish church in 2004. Today the building houses St Mellitus Theological College.
The surrounding deeply sunken garden has ornamental flowerbeds and a bank of azaleas and rhododendrons with an abundance of self-seeded violets.
Wilton Crescent Garden:
Wilton Crescent was an addition by Thomas Cundy, the Grosvenor Estate surveyor, to the original 1821 Wyatt plan for Belgravia.
Today this crescent-shaped garden is planted with a white theme and is a tranquil enclave only a stone’s throw from Belgrave Square. Modern sculpture mixes with imposing London plane trees.
The garden was highly commended in the 2011 London Gardens Society Competition. Senior Gardener: Dean Evans
Eaton Square Garden:
Eaton Square is one of London’s premier addresses. The layout, along with Belgrave Square, was begun in 1826 by Thomas Cubitt for the Grosvenor Estate. The square was named after Eaton Hall in Cheshire, home of the landowner, the Duke of Westminster. The gardens flanked either side of what was the main approach to Buckingham Palace.
Today the garden remains a tranquil retreat of formal lawns, shady pathways and quiet seating areas divided between six main enclosures. The central garden on the south side is open for OGSW. In 2015 these perfectly manicured gardens received London in Bloom’s ‘Small Park of the Year’ award.
Mixed borders around two formal lawns are divided by a path and seating through a shaded enclave. In addition, there is a tennis court with a planted walking area around the outside and formal raised beds, which always offer a vibrant display in time for open days. Sundials, water features and garden sculptures by David Harber are currently on display around the garden.
Famous past residents include prime minister Neville Chamberlain (no. 37) and actress Vivien Leigh (no. 54).
Senior Gardener: Brett Domnall
Chester Square Garden:
Chester Square was laid out between 1828 and 1840 by the 1st Duke of Westminster and his surveyor and architect Thomas Cundy II as part of the Grosvenor Estate. St Michael’s Church on the west side was also designed by Thomas Cundy and still provides a backdrop to the garden today.
The garden is planted with shrub and herbaceous borders and contains a delightful central rose garden. Just under 1.5 acres in size, it was restored in 1997 to the layout that appears in the Ordnance Survey map of 1867. Rope-edged tiles and some original trees have survived.
The garden’s essence today is one of peace and tranquillity. Past residents include the poet Matthew Arnold (1822-88) at no. 2, and Mary Shelley (1797-1851), author of Frankenstein at no. 24.
Senior Gardener: Dean Evans
The change in the bark seen in the above picture is the graft point at the height commonly used in Victorian nurseries.
The Catalpa bignonioides (Indian bean tree) doesn’t come from India and doesn’t have beans. It’s grown for its large, heart shaped leaves (seen below) and long pods. It’s a native to eastern United States and takes its name from the Native American tribe located in the region where it was first located.
Almond tree (Prunus dulcis) is a native of Mediterranean regions of the Middle East. It is thriving in this sheltered corner of Chester Square.
Belgrave Square Garden is Belgravia’s green and leafy centrepiece. This 4.5-acre private garden was designed by George Basevi and first planted by Thomas Cubitt in 1826 to act as a landscape to the grand new houses of the square.
Influenced by a design of John Claudius Loudon, the layout of the square remains faithful to its original network of paths and retains some of the original planting in the form of mature planes. A central path curves through pergolas overhung with wisteria and roses.
The garden is large enough to lose yourself in and grand enough to balance the imposing mansions that surround it. Four summer houses with covered seating known as ‘the temples’ have been added around the inner path. More obvious recent additions are the tennis court, children’s playground, and outdoor gym.
The statuary around the garden reflects the international nature of the square and offers a rare chance to see a collection of modern figurative work. A 1998 statue of Sir Robert Grosvenor by Jonathan Wylder at the corner of Wilton Crescent features a quote from John Ruskin: ‘When we build, let us think we build for ever’.
The Belgrave Square garden committee seeks to balance the maintenance of the garden’s historic character with the needs and expectations of modern users.
Senior Gardener: Stuart Camm
This was the first year I’ve explored gardens under the Open Garden Squares Weekend scheme. I’ll definitely be back next year! I would love to see more rooftop gardens (including the Nomura International PLC) as well as the Inner Temple and Middle Temple