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Myddelton House
Myddelton House

The best green spaces for urban gardeners in London

Whether you’re tending a rooftop oasis or tackling a cactus in a pot, inspire your green fingers this spring with these lovely urban gardens in London

By Abigail Willis and Time Out London Things To Do
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The sun is finally starting to make an appearance and so it’s time to get outdoors and tend to your poor neglected plants. Author of ‘The London Garden Book A-Z’ Abigail Willis recommends the best urban gardens to inspire your eager green fingers.  

Urban gardens in London

Inspiration for... roof gardeners

Beech Gardens

Essentially a giant roof garden above the far less scenic Beech Street tunnel, this garden features a beautiful vista of wildlife-friendly plants that thrive in the site’s unforgiving climate and go a long way to softening the Barbican’s brooding brutalism. Spring bulbs get the year off to a bright start but it’s technicolour in midsummer.

Inspiration for... veg gardeners

Things to do King’s Cross

The Skip Garden

A veg patch housed in builders’ skips, this nomadic garden has been migrating around the King’s Cross development site for the past few years. Run by the social enterprise Global Generation and providing horticultural training for young people, this ‘garden of a thousand hands’ is organically run and its zero-food miles produce is served in the onsite café.

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Leake Street Pocket Park
Leake Street Pocket Park

Inspiration for... urbanites

Leake Street Pocket Park

Pocket parks have been popping up all over London recently, and one of the best is at the opening to Leake Street Tunnel. Designed by landscape consultants, (Uncommon), this dinky public space embraces the urban grittiness and its robust planting scheme deploys cheery red tulips in spring, tough but tactile swaying grasses, and elegant purple hazel to make this a pleasant perch to scoff street food from nearby Lower Marsh market.

Leake Street Pocket Park, beneath Waterloo Station, SE1

Inspiration for... community gardeners

Culpeper Community Garden

One of London’s bombsite gardens, this is a lush inner-city oasis where people, plants and wildlife happily coexist. Its 40-or-so mini allotment plots are tended by local gardeners, and there’s a lawn for lounging, bee-heavy glades of flowers, a rose-covered pergola and a pond that is a magnet for frogs, dragonflies and eager young pond-dippers.

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Athenaeum Hotel Living Wall
Athenaeum Hotel Living Wall

Inspiration for... street gardeners

Athenaeum Hotel, Lavender Field and Lauriston Road roundabout

Some of London’s most inventive gardens are hidden in plain sight. Next time you’re stuck in traffic along Piccadilly, look out for the Living Wall that wraps around the Athenaeum Hotel. Designed by vertical gardening guru Patrick Blanc, this flourishing façade is the response to the hotel’s lack of a traditional horizontal garden space.

For a more Provençal jaunt, check out the Lavender Field, near Lambeth North tube station. Planted by guerrilla gardener Richard Reynolds, it’s a fragrant and colourful addition to the south London streetscape. 

Over in Hackney, potter Caroline Bousfield Gregory has been tending the Lauriston Road roundabout for over ten years, and has magicked a weedy wasteland into a Mediterranean island. Drifts of euphorbia, santolina, sage and pink valerian thrive on the dusty conditions.

Inspiration for... plantaholics

Myddelton House Gardens

The atmospheric garden of the great plantsman AE Bowles has recently been restored, but the playful spirit of ‘Gussie’ Bowles remains with quirky features like the Tulip Terrace, the ‘Irishman’s Shirt’ and ‘Tom Tiddler’s Ground’. Known as the ‘Crocus King’, Bowles was also keen on snowdrops and alpines – the collections here are first rate, so now is the perfect time to visit. 

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Inspiration for... plants as medicine

Attractions Parks and gardens Chelsea

The oldest botanic garden in London quickly became a world leader in natural medicine after opening in 1673. Its location next to the Thames in Chelsea is no accident – the river’s proximity creates a warmer microclimate meaning rare and endangered species are able to thrive. Within its walls 5,000 different edible medicinal plants grow - how's that for medicinal plant inspo?

Inspiration for... boozy rooftop gardens

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Whitechapel

This roof space, just a stone's throw from the City's skyscrapers, is used to grow veggies and herbs that feature on the gastro pub's modern menu. There are a few rustic tables parked between climbing vines, or benches to perch on beside planters flourishing with herbaceous life, but in truth, seating is scant, making this a very desirable spot for some peas and quiet. Rock up early to secure your spot and let the prosecco flow.  

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Inspiration for... hippy havens

Attractions Parks and gardens Dalston

Step away from the aggressive redevelopment of Dalston Junction into this peaceful community garden, where a bark-chip path winds through plots, patches and whimsical picnic tables. If you feel the chill there are water bottles available in the kiosk alongside a seasonal menu from the charming grass-roots cafe and bar, whose funds help keep this community-driven space running. We'll make it a large G&T in that case - gotta support your local community projects, ey?  

AT_opengardensquaresweekend_kinghenry.jpg
AT_opengardensquaresweekend_kinghenry.jpg
© Friends of King Henry's Walk Gardens

Inspiration for... organic gardening

Attractions Parks and gardens Canonbury

King Henry's Walk Garden is the party queen of community gardens. Apart from thriving organic fruit and veg and stunning flower beds, there’s a host of activities, including fermentation workshops, herbal tea making and produce shows. There are also regular volunteering sessions, where you can get your hands dirty and learn from the pros. 

Discover more of London’s green bits

Paul Wood

London’s best street trees

Things to do Walks and tours

Did you know that London is home to around 900,000 street trees? Paul Wood, author of the blog London’s Street Trees,  picks nine of his faves. 

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