Last month I participated in the Open Garden Squares Weekend, an annual event organised by the London Parks and Gardens Trust. Over 200 gardens across London open their gates for one weekend, most of which are normally closed to the public.
Open Garden Squares Weekend banner
Because there were so many gardens to choose from I had a hard job deciding which ones to visit! The gardens ranged from traditional squares to roof terraces and allotments, as well as gardens belonging to historic buildings, schools, shops and cafés.
I narrowed it down to the areas of London which were most accessible for me and went from there. I realised the Kensington Roof Gardens were open which made up my mind instantly – even if I only saw that garden I would be happy!
Kensington Roof Gardens
It’s exactly what it says it is, just over an acre of gardens on top of a building. The idea alone is awesome, I love the thought of a natural hidden oasis overlooking London! If I lived in the capital that’s exactly what I’d want my garden to be like.
The garden is split into three different sections, the Spanish Garden, Tudor Garden and English Woodland. When I was in the Spanish Garden it felt like I was on holiday, you could definitely tell it took inspiration from the Alhambra palace in Granada.
Stepping into the Tudor Garden was completely different, it was a beautiful green space. There were lots of evergreen shrubs, with lilies, roses and lavenders in flower. It had a lake with flamingos in it, yes real flamingos! I had to do a double-take!
Strawberries growing on the wall!
The English Woodland is at its best in spring when it has bulbs of daffodils, crocuses, muscari and more all flowering. It still looked pretty in summer, with tall grasses and foxgloves surrounding a small pool of water.
I finished by heading up to the Babylon on the 7th floor – the views across London were breath-taking. Even though it wasn’t a clear day you could still see for miles, imagine having that as the view from your window every day. . . it was stunning!
Views from the Babylon
I walked a minute down the road and stumbled across Kensington Square. It’s one of the earliest garden squares in London, dating from the 17th century. It was a peaceful, leafy haven of trees and a perfect square of lawn.
I then walked back along Kensington High Street, and saw the Royal Albert Hall for the very first time. I couldn’t believe it when I saw a lorry belonging to the English National Ballet parked outside, talk about a coincidence!
Impressive building in Kensington High Street
Royal Albert Hall
From there I visited several garden squares in the space of a few hours: Cadogan Square Gardens, Cadogan Place Gardens, Eaton Square and Belgrave Square. I love how I suddenly found myself on a street and discovered by accident several gardens on the OGSW list – I felt like Alice in Wonderland!
Cadogan Place Gardens
Cadogan Square and Cadogan Place Gardens had some lovely herbaceous borders, I could smell a garden was nearby thanks to the fragrance of the roses!
Cadogan Square Gardens
Lychnis coronaria alba (white version)
Eaton Square had some interesting sculptures and some great formal raised beds which were planted with vibrant flowers.
Belgrave Square was quite large compared to the other garden squares, at 4.5 acres. It had fantastic London plane trees (Platanus x hispanica) and again, some excellent herbaceous borders. I took the tube to the next gardens I wanted to visit, which were right next to each other – handy for me!
London plane tree (Platanus x hispanica)
The Middle Temple Garden was traditionally the scene of the plucking of the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York, as told by Shakespeare in Henry VI. Today the connection lives on with a rose called ‘William Shakespeare’ planted in the main terrace.
Middle Temple Garden
It had a cute little glasshouse which I adored, the shrub and herbaceous borders had some bedding mixed in which gave it extra colour.
The highlight out of the two was definitely the Inner Temple Garden, there’s been a garden there since the 12th Century – legend is that the War of the Roses began after an encounter there!
Inner Temple Garden
It had two deep herbaceous borders either side of the main gates which were in full flower, the colour combinations were so innovative and vivid. There were aquilegias, roses, poppies, lavenders, geraniums and dead allium heads which off set the rest of the plants wonderfully. It was gorgeous!
London plane tree broad walk
It had a broad walk of mature London plane trees on the side of the garden nearest the Embankment boundary – I loved seeing the river in the distance.
The last garden I visited was St Paul’s Cathedral Churchyard. The north side of the garden is home to some of the oldest London plane trees in the city as well as the capital’s only giant fir tree, while the south side has a beautiful rose garden.
St Paul’s Cathedral Churchyard garden
I’d never seen St Paul’s Cathedral up close before so that was an added highlight for visiting the garden!
St Paul’s Cathedral
I was knackered after trekking round London for the day but I saw some amazing, memorable gardens which I wouldn’t have got the opportunity to see at any other time of the year. I hope you enjoyed the photos! 🙂