Open Garden Squares Weekend – June 13th-14th 2009

From West to East by Tube and Bus

by CATHERINE MILLER

This year a variety of smaller gardens caught the eye of London Landscapes' reporter.

(Click on a garden name for further information.)

The Roof Gardens Setting off early on the Sunday morning of Open Garden Squares Weekend, I managed to get to The Roof Gardens, located round the corner from Kensington High St tube, before they closed at 11am. There I found a cornucopia of gardening delights. There are three separate gardens: Spanish, English courtyard and a wildlife garden, including four (presumably tame) flamingos. The size of the trees is remarkable, considering the location. The courtyard in particular uses old bricks and mature climbing plants to reproduce the relaxing atmosphere of a country garden.
Lansdowne and Elgin Crescent Gardens From here I took a bus to Lansdowne and Elgin Crescent Gardens, where I was taken on a welcome tour by two children, who showed me the wildflower area, a play area, Mediterranean planting, and the bench where Hugh Grant sat in the film 'Notting Hill'. The houses here have gardens which back directly onto the large square garden.
Lighthouse Garden It was a short walk to the very busy and popular Lighthouse Garden, which just about every cyclist in London was visiting, judging by the number of bikes parked outside. This garden has obviously been designed by someone who likes plants -among other beauties were a very pretty begonia with long slender leaves and orange, lily-shaped pendulous flowers, variegated myrtle, cactus garden, Syrian hibiscus, large banana plants and scented citrus in pots. The café and plants for sale were both very good value and the garden can be visited by the general public using the café.
Royal Crescent Garden

Maggie's Centre

I went to another therapeutic garden via the replacement bus service from Ladbroke Grove to Hammersmith, passing  Royal Crescent Garden, with its central pergola, roses and lavender, large lawn and herbaceous borders, and the huge bulk of the new Westfield shopping centre, to arrive at the garden at Maggie's Centre, in a corner of the Charing Cross Hospital grounds. There are myrtles and figs in pots with woodpiles, stones, and indoor gardens to promote contact with nature for people recovering from cancer. The walls are painted with a bright orange ochre, giving the impression of being in a hotter country. There is a Californian light and airy feel to the planting and landscaping.
William Morris Garden From here I walked to the river and the William Morris Garden  - a very pretty English garden with plenty of roses (helpfully Iisted by name), honeysuckle, clematis, lilies, foxgloves, a bowling green lawn, and fine metal garden furniture. Opium poppies bring to mind the personal dramas of William Morris's circle. It feels like an old and well-loved family garden, and you could imagine it in Victorian times - if you block out the noise from the nearby road and the flocks of green parakeets!
MaRoCoCo I walked back along the river via the West London GreenFest in full swing, taking the tube from Hammersmith to Knightsbridge, and walked to MaRoCoCo, where there was a winning combination of a chocolate shop and lovely little Moroccan courtyard, with mirrors, lamps and tiled floor. I spoke to the staff who said the Open Gardens Square Weekend had been a phenomenal success. They had prepared for 100 or so visitors and had reported over 1000.
Belgrave Square Next I went to Belgrave Square, a fine, very large, well maintained square with good shady planting fortexture and a fun
kids' play area. This would be a good place for a picnic.

There are interesting statues including a large statue influenced by a famous Leonardo da Vinci's drawing.

The Goring Hotel I walked to busy Victoria to find the Goring Hotel garden - a smart and classy affair with shades of white and green in the planting, apart from a central bed of very bright pink geraniums. The garden had more than 300 visitors on the Sunday alone.
King Henry's Walk Garden The Victoria line was closed; so, to get to King Henry's Walk Garden, I took the Circle line to Embankment, then the Northern line to Angel and the 38 bus. This new community garden has a woodland area, pond and small plots where local people can grow fruit and vegetables. There is a central raised bed with seating and herbaceous planting. The garden is enclosed by the surrounding housing and walls and is very peaceful and relaxing. They reported about 900 visitors on the Saturday, and were selling plants to support the running of the garden.
Fassett Square I ended my day at Fassett Square, a short bus ride away. I nearly said Albert Square, as the set for EastEnders in Elstree is based on this garden. It is unexpectedly small and peaceful and, as the surrounding houses are mostly small, it feels almost like a village green. The planting is a mixture of formal and informal - Japanese anemones and knautia with semi-wild orange hawkbit. They reported three times as many visitors as last year.

It seems in this year, with all its financial storms, that people are even more appreciative of the reliable and simple pleasures of gardening - and the Open Gardens Squares weekend is a great way of exploring the variety to be found in London.

Catherine Miller works for the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens in London (www.farmgarden.org.uk).
An updated free map of London's city farms and community gardens has just been launched. For a copy, please send an SAE to FCFCG, PO Box 25359, 1 Cressfield Close, London NW5 4ZN.