Open season: catch a glimpse of London’s secret gardens
A highlight of the summer is the opening of over 200 hidden and little known gardens to the public during Open Garden Squares Weekend from June 17 to 18. The exquisite gardens on display will range from the traditional to the experimental, including those of historic buildings, rooftops, private houses, community allotments, gardens in skips, on railway platforms and on the water.
This year, for the first time ever, the weekend will include a number of tours and walks, including a one-off behind-the-scenes tour at Kew Gardens’ Tropical Nursery, the hidden gem of Kew Gardens; a talk and walk with Professor Nigel Dunnett on the challenges and triumphs of planting beech gardens and the High Walk on the grade II-listed Barbican Estate; and tours of the Coutts Skyline Garden a unique rooftop space, 30 metres above street level, and consisting of over 9,000 organic plants including vegetables, fruit, herbs and edible flowers.
Other highlights this year include Barbican Station Pop up Garden, the first community garden on the London Underground created on a 100-metre-long disused platform, and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which was created to host the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, and the transformation of which included the decontamination of nearly 2 million tonnes of soil and the planting of the largest wildflower meadow ever planted in the UK.
Over 30 specialist walks have been revealed including those exploring the greening of London’s King’s Cross, Soho Stories, Green Rooftops in the City and Constable’s Hampstead. Many participating gardens will host their own programme of events including pond-dipping, bee-keeping and urban farming, Medieval soapball making, botanical art workshops, flower-pressing, seed planting and herb discovery walks.
Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, president of the London Parks and Gardens Trust, organisers of the event, said: “Open Garden Squares Weekend is a unique and vibrant annual event, offering people a chance to visit, explore and learn about the capital’s exciting and diverse green spaces. Now in its 19th year the weekend is much broader than the Open Garden Squares’ title suggests and offers visitors unrivalled access to some of London’s most exciting floating and rooftop gardens, allotments, transformed brownfield sites, urban wildlife and ecology centres as well as new, experimental gardens.”
All the weekend’s specialist tours and walks are free to book with the purchase of a weekend ticket. The organisers, the London Parks and Gardens Trust, anticipate such high demand for some of these events that places will be allocated by ballot only – others will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. To book tickets, to find out more about all the specialist tours and walks, and for ballot entry details visit www.opensquares.org/activities/tours/html
Find out more by visiting www.opensquares.org. Tickets are priced £12 in advance (£14 over the weekend). Children under 12 go free.