If you are into growing your own food or would ideas and to know more about this rising trend, then I recommend a visit to the Horniman Gardens in Forest Hill SE23.
The Horniman Museum & Gardens have been redeveloped over the last three years with funding from the Heritage & Big Lottery Funds, and the gardens have now just reopened. There are lots of impressive new features to see such as the very cool and contemporary pavilion with its green sedum roof and ground-source heat system, the renovated Dutch Barn and bandstand, a musical play area and a redesigned animal enclosure (with animals due to arrive in the autumn).
But what I found really fascinating and inspiring was the World Food Garden. This new area includes an enormous range of tender and hardy fruit, vegetables and herbs, all beautifully laid out in a large plot on a south facing slope. Whilst tending a plot this size is more than most would be able to manage, there’s lots of ideas to take from here, such as what you can grow outside in London, how to plan and lay out a kitchen garden and ways to train fruit trees and protect plants from pests. All the plants are clearly labelled so its easy to see what’s what. Most of the planting is quite new and young at the moment so I look forward to visiting again later in the summer to see the fruits of the gardening team’s labours.
The adjacent Italian Sunken Garden has been replanted as a Dye Garden, showing a wide range of plants that have been used as natural plant dyes through history, with plants grouped according to the colours they are used to make. There’s also a Materials Garden showing plants used for making musical instruments and a Medicinal Garden of natural plant remedies. I also really liked the new oak gates used to access these garden areas.
If you would like to visit the Horniman Gardens, which I recommend you do, more details are on the web site www.horniman.ac.uk.
Summers are for being outside and what better way to spend an afternoon than nosing around someone else’s private patch of paradise. Every year more gardens open their gates to the public to help raise money for good causes. It can be a great source of ideas and inspiration for your own garden, but even if you’re not a keen gardener, it’s a great way to relax and enjoy a warm summer’s day.
Leading the way is the National Gardens Scheme (NGS), now in its 85th year, with gardens open for charity right across the UK. A full list of their open gardens are detailed in the NGS Yellow Book 2012 which can be purchased from www.ngs.org.uk. If you’re just interested in visiting London gardens, you can pick up a copy of the NGS London Gardens 2012 booklet from garden centres, libraries and bookshops.
Then there’s the Open Garden Squares Weekend on 9-10 June 2012, organised by the London Parks & Gardens Trust. This focuses on private institutional, commercial and communal gardens and squares, with over 208 gardens participating this year. One ticket gives you unlimited access to all gardens over the two days. More information from www.opensquares.org.
In my own neighbourhood of Dulwich there are plenty of gardens to visit, all of which are conveniently listed in the booklet Dulwich Gardens Open for Charity 2012, published by the Dulwich Society. You can pick up a free copy from local bookshops, libraries, garden centres, etc..
Among other treasures in this booklet is the garden I have been maintaining and developing over the last eight years. It’s at 103 Dulwich Village, SE21 7BJ and it’s open on Sunday 17th June, 2-5pm under the NGS and on Sunday 24th June, 2-5pm in aid of St Christopher’s Hospice. At half an acre, it’s a lot bigger than your average London garden but includes a wealth of plants and features. Its style is classic English Country Garden with roses, a long herbaceous border, spacious lawn, a pond, topiary and kitchen garden. Tea and cakes are served on the lawn. Entrance is only £5 and includes next door’s garden as well. You can even buy a plant lovingly nurtured by me with all proceeds going to the NGS charities. I hope to see you there.