Open Garden Squares Weekend: what's on?
The capital's most secret and most stunning gardens open their gates for one weekend only this June
© Marianne Majerus
Thanks to Open Garden Squares Weekend, every June us Londoners get a flash of the capital's best green bits without, for once, the need to scale a fence or cro-bar wrought iron railings. Excitingly, OGSW is back for a 16th year and returns to the capital for 2014 with a programme hotter than last summer's heatwave.
OGSW sees London's most luscious, leafy and often locked-down gardens open their gates to the public for one or two days only, with most hosting exclusive grounds tours and one-off workshops. Over the weekend of June 14 and June 15, exclusively for OGSW, Number 10 Down Downing Street and Highbury Square, home of Arsenal Football Club back in 2006, are set to scrap their customary VIP policy and let in the riff-raff for a peek at their perfectly-kept pots, planters and pansy. Get your Open Garden Squares ticket here and enter the ticketholder ballot for entry into Number 10 Down Downing Street now.
Gardens to visit on Saturday June 14
This beekeeping and environmental education community project is located at the Keeper’s Lodge in Kennington Park. Local volunteers have transformed the unused garden with new beds, fruit trees, soft fruit, nectar-rich plants, herbs and flowers to support the bees in the ‘Bee Barn’. Volunteers learn about gardening, beekeeping, construction and carpentry, cooking, candle-making, paper-making and more. Visitors can join in activities including candle-making and beekeeping.
This hidden, semi-wild, garden in the middle of Bloomsbury was once part of the first graveyard set outside church land in London. The gravestones (and bodies) remain. It then became the site of a medical school specialising in anatomy and dissection and was used by the University of London and the Garrett Anderson Hospital for Women. For the past 50 years the garden, which was given in posterity of the use of children, has been used by a cooperative nursery run by local parents. The gardens will be running activities for children and their families as part of Open Garden Squares Weekend 2014.
This small community garden was created on the site of the former shoe-making college. The garden's focus is on the wider uses of plants and it has a small medicinal plant bed. Regular dye workshops are held using flowers, leaves, weeds and bark gathered from the garden. This year flax is being grown as part of a London-wide project to grow a garment entirely within the bounds of the M25.
This 'meanwhile' site is a Core Landscapes community plant nursery and 'pop-up' garden project. Staff and volunteers reclaim and develop wasteland for communities and wildlife – then move on. Visitors can take garden tours, pick up plants for a song, find inspiration for container growing and take part in a nature trail.
FARM:shop is the brain child of three eco creatives, Andrew Merritt, Paul Smyth and Sam Henderson of designer agency Something & Son. Bringing together their knowledge in art, engineering and business the trio came up with the ingenious social initiative FARM in 2010. The aim is to encourage farming in the city and inspire Londoners to grow their own food, and produce their own fabric and medicine, and the potentially sell it in the FARM:shop. Housed in a once derelict store, the shop now has a fish farm, allotments, polytunnels and a rooftop chicken coop on site and uses the ultra-local produce in its café as well as offering it for sale.
These historic moorings date back 200 years or more and have a direct view of Tower Bridge. Gardens have been created on the decks of the barges to form a floating garden square. The gardens, which are usually closed to the public, are opening for Open Garden Squares Weekend on both Saturday and Sunday with the proceeds from sales of tea and cakes going to the RNLI.
Reclaimed by local residents in 2012, this large new community garden is on the derelict site of an old wharf of the Surrey Canal. The garden is maintained using sustainable methods and permaculture techniques to develop an edible forest garden and to grow vegetables for three local restaurants. The garden has bumblebee sanctuaries, hot composting, a compost toilet, a pergola, a pond and a polytunnel and features specially constructed plant-growing mounds. Visitors will be able to enjoy homemade refreshments, take tours of the garden and participate in workshops with the master gardeners.
Once the setting for garden parties and evening strolls, the elaborate Pergola overlooks West Heath and was created by Lord Leverhulme and landscape architect Thomas Mawson. When construction began in 1905, the large gardens of The Hill needed to be raised in order to realise Mawson’s designs and – without mechanical diggers or earthmovers – getting hold of the vast quantities of earth required could have posed a challenge. Luckily, the Hampstead extension to the Northern Line was being built at the same time. The contractors were delighted to find somewhere to dump the spoil from their tunnels – and Lord Leverhulme was even paid a small fee per wagon for accommodating the material he was so pleased to obtain. There will be a display of old and contemporary photographs tracing the development of the garden.
The private courtyard was created during the construction of the main building with the intention of providing a safe and calm place for student residents and members of the Church congregation and community to work and relax. There is a variegated weigela shrub and Japanese rowan tree, with ground-level beds containing a variety of perennial shrubs, seasonal and annual plants. Visitors will be able to participate in guided meditations and hear the church’s music group performing from its repertoire of classical Lutheran church music. Refreshments will be on sale in the clubroom and St Mary’s Church, which opens on to the garden, will also be open.
- International Lutheran Student Centre Sunken Courtyard Thanet Street, WC1H 9QH
- Open 10am to 5pm
Perfect for sunbathing on warm sunny days, this communal garden is normally only open to the lucky key-holder residents of Bayswater’s Kensington Gardens Square. Enclosed by railings and a wrought-iron gate (a replica of the World War II original), the private plot will be open to the public on Saturday, offering visitors a chance to see the square’s stucco-fronted mansions from a fresh angle, and admire the mature trees and pristine lawn.
This small courtyard garden behind Rococo Chocolates features a Moroccan tile mosaic and is filled with plants used in the adventurous Rococo repertoire including rose, lavender, geranium, mint, jasmine and kaffir lime. Look out for the resident robins in the asymmetric mirrored courtyard. During Open Garden Squares Weekend visitors will be able to watch demonstrations in the chocolate kitchen and try a menu of freshly baked cakes and pastries.
Although this allotment is ordinarily open to the public during the week (Mon-Fri 8.30am-4.30pm), Open Garden Squares Weekend gives visitors a chance to learn more about the community enterprise from those who run it. Members of Capital Growth – a charitable organisation that supports food-growing urban spaces through funding and training – will be on hand together with the allotment gardeners. Visitors can also enjoy garden tours, seed swapping, a plant sale and activities for children.
As the oldest medical college in England, the Royal College of Physicians (founded by royal charter in 1518) has one of the most impressive and fascinating medicinal gardens in the country. Opened in 1965 and replanted in 2005, it contains some 1,300 plants, each used in some way as medicine somewhere in the world over the past 3,000 years. A tour of the garden will reveal plants used as anaesthetics and botanicals that fight leukaemia, cancer and intestinal worms, as well as those used in illegal drugs and hallucinogens. Inside, the college museum collection is packed with books, manuscripts, portraits, silver and medical artefacts.
The Catholic Ursuline Sisters came from Holland to Forest Gate in 1862 and established this school on a large piece of land. The walled garden has been preserved and developed despite the growing demand for space from the school and it is tended two days a week. As well as one of the oldest flowering tulip trees in the south of England, it contains many religious icons and provides a refuge for the school's staff and students who come from a variety of different cultures and backgrounds. Sixth-form students will conduct tours of the garden and give a brief history of the school.
In 2014 around 200 communal gardens not ordinarily open to the public will unlock their gates for a weekend to take part in this annual event, held in association with the National Trust. Spanning 27 boroughs, the gardens take in all sorts of spaces, from traditional squares to roof terraces and allotments, as well as gardens belonging to historic buildings, schools, shops and cafes.
You can also buy discounted advanced tickets for the Open Garden Squares Weekend at the City Information Centre located south of St Paul's cathedral. And National Trust cardholders can buy them at half price.
Over 200 gardens across 27 London boroughs, all for a recession-beating £10 for the whole weekend?? What's not to love! A great annual event . . . Gardens in skips, on barges, rooftops, at restaurants, historic buildings, artists studios and galleries, as well as community gardens, traditional squares - and lots more. Count me in . . .
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