The Olympic Park or The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to give it its full name, is an initiative of the London Legacy Development Corporation to create a new residential, cultural, and business centre in the East End of London around the buildings of the Olympic Games of 2012.
Arnold Circus is at the centre of the Boundary Estate, which started building in 1890 and was one of the earliest social housing developments. The Friends of Arnold Circus have renovated the bandstand and now care for the planting and wildlife on the site. This is a quiet spot, well-used, and just a few minutes away from busy Shoreditch High Street – do visit, and linger, during Open Garden Squares Weekend when you can meet some of the Friends as well. The Gardener, Andy, will be on site, planting, and willing to talk about the difficulties of shade planting, particularly dry shade planting.
Dalston Eastern Curve is a peaceful and calming site created from a derelict railway line and now well-patronised by local people. The black fencing and vibrant mural don’t prepare you for the green haven where gardener Emma plants in deep shade and patches of sunlight. Do visit during Open Garden Squares Weekend, or at any time during the year and support her hard work and then sit down with a cup of tea and the excellent lemon and polenta cake and relax into the peace.
One of the many pleasures of Open Garden Squares Weekend is to ‘discover’ a beautiful garden in an unexpected setting. Fassett Square is such a pleasure – a modest garden square enclosed by railings in a mix of Victorian and 20C buildings is green and lush with some pretty plant combinations. You know this will be a cared-for and enjoyable garden when you walk into the square and see luscious pink paeonies draped over a wall – do visit!
The Commercial Road in East London is a busy, bustling highway and Watney Street (which opens on to the Commercial Road), one of London’s oldest markets can be found here. It is always busy, multi-cultural, and with one of my favourite fabric shops. But this is a post about gardens and just round the corner is Winterton House, an uncompromising tower block of flats with a wonderful, hidden garden which was created by Melvyn and Ken from the wasteland hidden behind the building.
Where has the time gone? It is nearly the start of the 7th month of the year and more than time to look at the garden again and review progress. This is a very difficult garden, with several patches of completely different ‘climates’ and with the overall problem of SNAILS & SLUGS! Oh, and there are the squirrels, cats, and foxes as well. I am trying to make a varied garden which is snail-resistant, but which is also relatively easy to maintain as I am the sole gardener. And I am trying not to spend a fortune on plants – the price of plants, particularly perennials and shrubs, seems to have soared, or am I being unrealistic?
At the end of May there was a lot of pink: the cistus draped over the wall was pink all through June, but needs to be cut back – this may mean its demise, but it is too woody so I will take cuttings and see what happens. And the pink geraniums were wonderful! I think they are a variety of macrorrhizum, but it hasn’t been identified. They don’t repeat – just the one glorious burst of pink. And underneath the Knautia Macedonica is finally happy with the dry heat at the base of the wall. All that gaudy pink has been replaced by the Hydrangea grown in a tub.
In the brick wall border the veronicastrum is falling over and the Japanese Anemones are reaching upwards. The grasses are starting to flower, the Philadelphus thrived after its early spring transplant, and various geraniums have been a joy. The Libertia and Euphorbias are going to ‘work’, I think, and I have found the snails don’t eat Tellima Grandiflora. Neither do the snails eat Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia Vulgaris) and I may have to add more next year.
The Fence border, with its mix of hot, dry sunshine, and dry shade is not quite right yet. I don’t think the Viburnum Plicatum is going to flourish – we had to move it twice while redoing the garden – and so with a heavy heart it is going to be replaced. Seeing how well ‘Annabelle’ is doing near the Bay Tree I am considering hydrangeas.
And then there is the fernery…
‘…The Phoenix Garden is the best-kept secret of London’s West End. Open daily, it provides a peaceful green retreat for local residents, workers and tourists all year round, and is a haven for a wide range of urban wildlife.
Created by local volunteers in 1984 on the site of a former car park, this is the last of the Covent Garden community gardens. The location can be challenging, yet the Phoenix Garden demonstrates what can be achieved with ingenuity upon a bedrock of West End rubble. Phoenix Gardens…’.
Trees give shade but are also interesting – birch, elder, fruit trees – and a gingko biloba.
This is a haven of quiet – somewhere to escape from Oxford Street and just sit quietly for a while, or perhaps read the book bought at nearby Foyles.
The garden is in a Victorian part of London, as you can see from the date on the warehouse, and also backs on to the Church of St Giles in the Fields.
A pond attracts dragonflies and damselflies, and, I assume, frogs to eat the snails. And there are clever planting ideas for the very dry ‘rubble bed’, created when the new centre was built. Plant your old parsnips and carrots, let them flower, and you have tall heads resembling Queen Anne’s Lace! And what about Phacelia Campanularis, salvias, and lychnis (instead of knautia macedonica) for fast-draining, hot and dry beds?
The garden opens officially on Monday 19 June, but you can preview during Open Garden Squares Weekend – do visit!
The Brunel Museum will be open during Open Garden Squares Weekend, 17 & 18 June – do visit! The Museum is housed in the Engine House which was built by Sir Marc and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel as part of the Thames Tunnel. The garden is on top of the Rotherhithe shaft and home to the cocktail bar, The Midnight Apothecary, whose cocktails use flavourings grown in the garden.
The Tower or Rotherhithe Shaft was the original entrance to the Thames Tunnel, the first tunnel a river anywhere in the world. The Tunnel was built between 1825-43. The day the Tunnel opened 50,000 paid to walk under the Thames! The Tunnel was built to facilitate trade across the river, however, not as a tourist attraction. Today the shaft is used as a performance space and the garden on top of the shaft is home to the cocktail bar, The Midnight Apothecary, whose cocktails use flavourings grown in the garden or foraged locally.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s work is humourously remembered in two benches at the Museum – the Hungerford Bridge (1845) and the Royal Albert Bridge in Saltash (1854). And don’t miss the striking seats and table behind the Museum, or the remains of the priming pump from the Surrey Docks.
Winterton House is a ‘Hidden Gem’ in Open Garden Squares Weekend on 18 June 2017. This wonderful garden is tucked away behind a building that gives no hint of anything horticulturally special. But do visit! The photographs give you a taste of the garden where plants of all kinds and varieties are on show and there is also a small allottment area and speciality poultry and ducks.