Visiting London Gardens and Parks

Having inspired you (I hope) to seek out London trees in a previous post, here are some resources to help you to plan park and garden visits – within the borough and further afield. Gardeners are fortunate in that there are many gardens, parks and other open spaces open on a daily or seasonal basis.

Kew Gardens, April 2014

Within Westminster, check out Westminster Parks, Gardens and Public Open Spaces which lists all the council’s open spaces together with comprehensive descriptions and information for many of the individual entries. To take a local example close to Marylebone Library, the entry for Paddington Street Gardens includes historical information about the two sites prior to becoming public open spaces.

The council is not the only authority responsible for administrating public open spaces within the borough. Hard to ignore (not that you’d want to) due to their size within Westminster are Green Park, Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and St James’s Park. These form four of the total of eight parks currently administered by The Royal Parks agency.

Although requiring a longer journey than the borough’s Royal Parks, it would be remiss of me not to mention Kew Gardens (pictured above) as a place to visit for gardening inspiration throughout the year.

London also contains a number of privately owned open spaces and gardens which are occasionally open to the public. To check opening details consult the following three online sources:

  • NGS Yellow Book 2014You may be familiar with the National Gardens Scheme, in which private gardens are open to the public to raise £2.5 million each year for nursing, caring and gardening charities. Apart from nosiness it is worth taking the opportunity to visit other people’s gardens for further inspiration for one’s own urban garden. The NGS Yellow Book (also available online: NGS Yellow Book) lists 212 gardens within the London area alone.
  • Another “key” to visiting private gardens is the Open Garden Squares Weekend scheme arranged by the London Gardens & Parks Trust. One ticket allows the visitor access to 200 private squares and gardens on the weekend of 14-15 June, 2014.
  • Finally, remember that several of the National Trust London properties include maintained gardens.

In addition to the websites listed above remember that Westminster Libraries stock guide books for loan. Visit your library for guides to London parks, open spaces and gardens. Public open spaces are often included in general London travel and walking guides so it is worth using these if you are planning to visit a specific area.

The London Garden Book by Abigail WillisMy favourite guide, with loan copies available in several libraries including Marylebone, is The London Garden Book A-Z, by Abigail Willis.
Whilst the big guns such as Kew Gardens (with four seasonal entries) are included, this guide includes many small and surprising entries such as front gardens, a wildflower meadow below an elevated motorway and the barge gardens at the Downings Road moorings near Tower Bridge.

London contains a number of community gardens which are open for visitors. The London City Farms and Community Gardens section of the Federation of City Farms & Community Gardens website lists London community gardens and forthcoming events, training sessions etc.

Phoenix Garden facing north towards Centre PointOne of several community gardens included in Abigail Willis’s book lies just over the Camden border. This is the Phoenix Garden which I unashamedly include here as I was a volunteer helping with the initial landscaping and planting in the early 1980s. If you are frazzled by the crowds in Charing Cross Road and Oxford Street why not visit this green oasis? It can be found hidden behind the Phoenix Theatre in Charing Cross Road.




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