The City of London – that most renowned of urban spaces – is revealing its hidden gems of greenery once more over the weekend of 9th and 10th June as Open Gardens returns for another year. A limited opportunity to stroll around verdant gems usually closed off from the public at large, these private and little-known oases dotting the cityscape are a delight not to be missed (and will no doubt serve to inspire your own green-fingered endeavours, no matter the size of garden).
Caroline Aldiss came up with the concept of opening up the hidden gardens of the capital 20 years ago, and with help from English Heritage and the London Parks and Gardens Trust 43 gardens in all took part in the very first London Garden Square Day back in 1998. A community event with a focus on conservation, since then Open Gardens has revealed “rooftops, in allotments and behind schools, shops, institutions and cafes” and unlocked “the private gardens of historic buildings and institutions”. The weekend really is something special for Nature-appreciative urbanites and tourists alike.
New gardens being opened up this year in the City include Cannon Bridge Roof Gardens (Cannon Street station), kept in shape throughout the year by Paul Burnage of Grasshopper Displays gardening contractors. Burnage will be giving talks over the weekend as well.
Favourites of recent past years are once again opening up as well, including Beech Gardens in the Barbican Estate (accessible by St. Paul’s or Farringdon station over the weekend; the Barbican will be non-operational). Here, modern horticulture blends with Grade II-listed architecture, developed by Professor Nigel Dunnett and including 22,000 herbaceous plants. Interestingly, 14 new and multi-stemmed trees have now been added to the layout as well.
Another roof garden not to be missed sits at the very top of law firm Eversheds’ building in the heart of the City (Bank or St. Paul’s tube). The views from Eversheds Sutherland Roof Garden are spectacular, there is beekeeping (overseeing the care of two hives) and talks on such, and there is also a cake sale with tea and coffee to boot. How much more quintessentially English country could one ask for amid the urban jungle that is the City of London?
If, however, history is what you seek when discovering usually hidden gems of greenery, then Drapers’ Hall Garden is the pick for you (Bank, Liverpool Street, or Moorgate station). Part of the upper section of the original historic garden purchased by the Drapers’ Company from King Henry VIII in 1543, the current garden is as it was shaped in 2014 in celebration of the company’s 650th anniversary of the grant of its first charter by King Edward III in 1364. There is also a particularly lovely tradition of fruit-bearing trees within the garden (there are currently five Mulberry trees).
Over 20 gardens are open in the City proper (with 200 open across London as a whole). What better excuse for a soul-calming outdoors snoop do you need?
Children under 11 years old go free and Early Bird prices apply if you purchase a weekend ticket before 7th June (12-18 years £8; students £12; adults £15).