Lavender Pond Nature Reserve was created round one of the holding docks for timber in the former Surrey Commercial Docks and every year the small Reserve develops under the care of its single manager, with the help of volunteers. The Pumphouse is a striking feature in the Reserve, standing over the short channel which leads to the river Thames on one side, and a lock (now in some disrepair) which leads into Lavender Pond on the other.
I visited Lexham Gardens during the Open Garden Squares Weekend and it was like being on a village green as the residents were celebrating with their Annual Garden Party. Free drinks as we came through the gate – wonderful! – people chatting everywhere, and the children (and adults) enjoying a wonderful magician.
Lexham Gardens is part of the original Manor of Kensington which was given to the De Vere family by William the Conqueror. (Bina Gardens, Nevern Square, and Earls Court Square are also within this historical manor.) The houses were developed in the 1870s and the gardens laid out in 1877. The original occupants of the square were professional people, and particularly army officers and their families. Today the gardens are privately owned. Renovation in the 1990s divided the gardens into compartments, with a little stream, and overgrown, secret walks leading to an open lawn. Beyond that is a rose garden. And everywhere there are interesting trees and plants.
The history of the Manor of Kensington
The history of Lexham Gardens
First thing in the morning I check the garden – just to make sure it is still there! I still can’t believe what has been achieved. The grasses are flowering, and beautiful in the early sunshine.
I was excited about seeing the Winter Garden at Avery Hill, where, I was told, ‘…The well-stocked Winter Garden is open to the public, and to the west are terraced flower gardens… The main domed structure was “flanked by fernery and conservatory, the best survival in London of such Victorian extravaganzas” (Pevsner) and it took 8 years to build. In the eastern conservatory is a fountain with a marble statue of ‘Galatea Reclining on a Dolphin’, 1882, by Leopoldo Ansiglioni, which depicts the figure and dolphin surrounded by 4 bronze birds and a group of sea turtles…’. Wonderful! I could hardly wait!
There were some beautiful geraniums, including a few with scented leaves.
Geraniums? Let’s look closer.
Scatted in the devastation I saw these plants.
Are these the ‘..terraced flower gardens..’?
A parttime gardener was doing what she could with no resources, remembering the lost glory to the consoling sounds of Radio 3.
Inspired by Nomura International PLC‘s roof garden and the Roof Gardens in Kensington, I wondered if there were any similar gardens in London, and found Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street, aka the ‘Walkie Talkie Building’!
The garden is newly planted and needs time to develop, but there are beautiful ferns and cycads, and something I haven’t seen for a long time, Tradescantia Zebrina, which I remember from my childhood in South Africa.
The top floor of 20 Fenchurch Street is effectively a giant conservatory where people were quietly enjoying the time of day, and the plants are secondary to the amazing views. Visits can be booked here.
The views are amazing! I only had my small camera, and photographs have to be taken through the glass, so I recommend something with greater definition and filters, or heavy editing afterwards.
And there are more roof gardens in the City.
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20 Fenchurch Street
Fann Street Wildlife Garden puzzled me slightly – perhaps my visit was too brief during the Open Squares Weekend in London. However, it was the one garden which left me thinking.
The 4.5 acres of Belgrave Square were planted by Thomas Cubitt in 1826 – today it is quite simply stunning – parkland in the centre of London for residents of the square.
Eaton Square was started in 1826 for the Duke of Westminster, the landowner.
Chester Square was laid out in 1828-40 by the first Duke of Westminster and his architect, Thomas Cundy.
Eccleston Square dates from 1928 when Thomas Cubitt designed a 3-acre garden to replace the existing swamp. Today the garden is filled with unusual plants and trees and includes the National Ceanothus Collection.
I visited several squares on Sunday 14 June – all amazing! Kensington Square is one of the earliest garden squares in London, with layout beginning in 1692.
Queen’s Gate Gardens was laid out in the 1860s and we were asked to note the mulberry tree and the catalpa, both from the original plantings.
Hereford Square was built between 1845-50 and is actively managed by the residents, with many interesting and beautiful plants and trees.
Sunday 14 June, the second day of the Open Squares Weekend, started very early at The Roof Gardens on Kensington High Street – what a fantastic place!
The Roof Gardens covers 1.5 acres on the roof of the former Derry and Toms building on Kensington High Street and is now owned by Sir Richard Branson. In 1853 Joseph Toms started the small department store on Kensington High Street which became Derry and Toms in 1862 and which has changed ownership several times over the years. Trevor Bowen, Vice President of Barkers commissioned the gardens from Ralph Hancock and work started in 1936, with the gardens opening in 1938. Today the gardens remain open to the public.
We entered through the Spanish Garden which is modelled on the Alhambra in Granada.
The Tudor Gardens are planted with white – roses, arum lilies, paeonies, philadelphus – beautiful and peaceful.
The English Garden has lawns, trees, flamingoes, and a stream!
Beech Gardens, EC2Y 8DH, in the Barbican is a new garden and I think it will be very exciting in a few years’ time. The garden is open to the public as it is on and alongside a walkway through the Barbican, but I hadn’t seen it for a few years and took the opportunity of the Open Squares & Gardens Weekend to revisit. I love the planting which looks ‘wild’ and free, and I love the colour mix.