(Click on a garden name for further information. Click on a photo to
I set off on Saturday to enjoy a fascinating array of very
different gardens for OGSW 2015. As I was cycling, I thought
of the discussion of the health benefits of gardening during
television coverage of the 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show,
with the RHS Director, Sue Biggs, and MP Sarah Wollaston.
I had been meaning to explore Queen's Wood
for years and discovered a garden that is magical
for kids and relaxing for adults. There were medicinal herbs,
fruit, vegetables, aquaponics and a pond, all in mature
woodlands where I half expected to see a Gruffalo! The
information signs in the
garden are very good and
tell you a lot about the plants.
From Highgate I went
down to Hoxton and popped into
St Mary's Secret Garden, where the motto is 'Wellbeing through
Gardening'. This beautiful garden uses horticulture to benefit
physical and mental health, to address social isolation, and also
runs gardening courses. I bumped into Gus from the Golden
Company, which runs bee-keeping training for kids at St Mary's
beehives, and we watched a tiny fox cub playing and learned of
the importance of planting forage flowers for bees.
It was a short cycle to
St Leonard's in Shoreditch, new
to OGSW, to see swathes of poppies and wild flowers at the
back of the church, along with fruit trees, massed roses,
herbaceous borders and a vegetable garden, developed by a
project working with people in recovery from addiction. I had
gone past this church numerous times and it was good to feel
‘invited in’ to discover the garden.Next I headed into the City to Girdlers' Hall, also new to
OGSW. It was astonishing to see a venerable old walled garden surrounded by
so many new glass and steel buildings right in the City of London, with artistic, beautiful
planting taken from a carpet design. It
included Rosa glauca, artemisia, Gladiolus byzantinus, peonies,
box, nepeta, bronze fennel, red sedum and sisyrinchium.
Nearby, also new to OGSW, was the Eversheds roof garden.
This was a showcase for biodiversity, replacing the
built-on footprint with sedums and wild flowers such as
St John's Wort and Viper's Bugloss. Some of the staff have made
a sheltered corner where they cultivate a wide range of fruit
trees and vegetables in a lunch hour with a difference! They have
the opportunity to pick fresh produce in relative peace and quiet with a view of
St Paul's and were enthusiastic about the rooftop garden to the 400 visitors already
welcomed for OGSW.
From here it was a short walk over the wobbly bridge to the
garden at the side of the Tate Modern.
I had not revisited since the
opening about 10 years ago; it has established nicely, and has a
quiet sense of place right under the nose of one of the busiest
tourist attractions in London.
New for OGSW, the Ham Yard Hotel roof garden is
just a stone's throw from Piccadilly Circus! It has a very pleasing
comfortable atmosphere, two old olive trees, two arbutus,
trained fruit trees, wild flowers, two beehives, and planters full
of vegetables and salad. This garden was a real crowd-pleaser,
with 600 visitors reported by 3pm.
Finally I cycled across Hyde Park to Cleveland Square,
where there were many unusual plant combinations — black
poppies, bright peonies, fragrant roses — and a holiday atmosphere
with people enjoying themselves. They reported about 250
visitors. It was apparently World Gin Day, and locally-made gin
cocktails were on hand! This garden is so relaxing it is hard to
believe Paddington station is just round the corner.
Sunday was a bit cold and drizzly, but there has not been
enough rain this year — it has been another dry spring. Usually
the lime blossoms are out by OGSW time, but they have
perhaps been delayed by the lack of moisture.
I headed to Sydenham Garden, on the Overground,
where there is a pond, woodland trail, vegetables and fruit with
a barbecue area. The Victorian greenhouse is a great facility.
The first time I came to this garden about 10 years ago, there was
very little on site, just lots of ideas, and it is great to see how it
has developed. The charity that runs it was set up to improve
health and is actually getting commissioned by the NHS to
provide gardening sessions.
I went across town to Ladbroke Grove and Wesley Square,
a newish square, also new to OGSW 2015 and usually
closed to the public. The residents bought the freehold and
were very happy to share the pleasure in their garden with the
50 or 60 visitors so far. This is a lovely garden, well-maintained
and planted, with a very relaxed and sociable atmosphere.
Next I visited the Phoenix school garden, new to
OGSW 2015, where there is an astonishing range of flowers, trees
and produce grown in the middle of White City. Kids can learn
outside, can grow, pick and eat fresh strawberries, and have started
keeping chickens too. It's well organised and very productive,
with polytunnels growing more exotic crops like aubergines, as
well as sweet peas, berries and spinach in the open.
I walked to Ravenscourt Glasshouses, where a local
charity, Hammersmith Community Gardens, is making good
use of a former council facility. This location is used for health
and education programmes and includes a Shelf Life project,
taking inspiration from a Chelsea Physic Garden exhibit at the
RHS Chelsea Flower show a few years back. The idea is to
show people how many plants they depend on in everyday life
by, for example, growing bean plants using a tin of beans as the
Finally I headed to Osterley Park on the Piccadilly
line. The walk across barley fields from the tube was like a
country stroll – if you discounted the aeroplanes heading for
Heathrow and the parakeets. Osterley is a beautiful National
Trust garden featuring ancient trees including a 260-year-old
plane, walled gardens with scented sweet peas, a cutting garden
with plate-sized peonies and plenty to keep a gardener happy!
You could spend a whole day exploring the grounds here.
Gardens humanise the city, connect us with the natural
world, and offer so much benefit to our physical and mental
health. The OGSW is a great way of discovering the range of
beautiful gardens on offer to us as Londoners.