They say you have to stop and smell the roses sometimes. With 47% of Greater London dedicated to green space, you can be certain there are plenty of gardens full of roses (and other plants) to enjoy. Some gardens are managed by the Royal Family, others by trusts or private individuals. What’s more, there are many different types in which you can indulge, from Italian gardens to Japanese Gardens and even gardens in the sky. Regardless of which type of plant or flower you’re in the mood to see or where you are in the city, you can find one of these ten gardens nearby. What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments.
Buckingham Palace Gardens
The tour doesn’t normally include the palace gardens, but during the summer months, Queen Elizabeth II opens the gardens to the public. Purchasing a ticket for the State Rooms Tour will get you into the gardens as well, which is worth it for the palace’s 39 acres of flora. The guided tour includes the Herbaceous Border, the Rose Garden, the tennis courts, and the wisteria-clad summer house. The gardens tour runs all the way through September.
Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew
If you can’t make it to the palace, the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew are another option. The Kew Gardens are even larger than Buckingham Palace at 300 acres and over 30,000 different plants. The garden’s greenhouse, known as the Palm House, dates back to the 19th Century and was designed by Decimus and Nicole Burton and built by Richard Turner. What’s more, the Kew Gardens has a fantastic treetop walkway that will let you gaze down at the plants from above. There is so much to see here you may want to plan your day around it.
If you’re looking for something smaller and are already close to St. Paul’s Cathedral, you may want to take a detour down to Postman’s Park. This little garden in the middle of central London gets its name from being the former location of the General Post Office. George Frederic Watts built his Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice there, dedicated to ordinary people who died saving the lives of others. The entire area was grade II listed in 1927 to preserve its character.
An attorney’s work can be pretty stressful, so the Inner Temple, one of the four Inns of Court, has its own garden that is available to its members and also the public on a more limited basis. The three-acre gardens possesses a combination of wide lawns, winding trees, and herbaceous borders that are perfect for an unwinding barrister or tired pedestrian. Access to the public is through the main gate opposite Crown Office Row from 12:00 to 3:00 PM on week days and visitors are asked to mind their surroundings and take any rubbish with them when they leave. Be sure to check as to availability since the garden is sometimes used for private functions.
Chelsea Flower Show
Not a garden per se, but it is the largest gardening exhibition in the UK and worth your time if you can make it for one of the five days it’s open every year. Some of the greatest garden designers from all over the world come to the show to exhibit their creations and techniques, with over 100 nurseries represented. Be sure to have a walk through the Great Pavilion to see nearly every type of plant that grows in Britain and peruse the trade stands for supplies, books, and advice on making your own garden grow.
Created in the 1800s by Lord Holland and containing some 50 acres of plant life, you’ll marvel at the varied selections and utter beauty of these gardens in Kensington. One of the great attractions of Holland Park is its Kyoto Garden, donated by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce in 1991, which possesses a gorgeous waterfall spilling into a koi pond and traditional Japanese plants. If your children are getting restless after being dragged all over the city, there’s also a separate play area where they can have some fun of their own.
The Roof Gardens
Another great garden in the Royal Borough, this one started off as part of the department store Derry and Toms. The store is long since gone and the gardens on top of this six-story building are now run by Virgin Limited Edition. The gardens are divided into three sections, a Spanish garden, a Tudor garden, and an English woodland garden, which itself has over 100 different types of trees. If you’re hungry, the Babylon Restaurant operates as part of the gardens and gives its diners an excellent view of the woodland garden.
Maybe the treetop walkway or the Roof Gardens aren’t high enough for you? Fine, then. The Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street (in the building also known as the Walkie-Talkie for its shape) can be found starting on the 35th floor. The three-story terrace is open to the public and free for visitors, you only have to get a ticket for a pre-arranged time to visit first. The garden’s plants are mostly Mediterranean and South African so as to require less water and thrive in the higher altitude. There are also three different bars and restaurants on the terrace levels so you can enjoy a pint or a meal while you enjoy the view of the gardens and the city.
Chelsea Physic Garden
Society places a much greater focus on holistic and natural remedies now than it has in the recent past, but in 1673, the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries created Chelsea Physic Garden to cultivate medicinal plants. Its age puts it as the second oldest botanical garden in Britain (the oldest being the University of Oxford Botanical Garden, established in 1621). It also possesses Britain’s oldest garden devoted to alpine plants in its rock garden. It is divided into three areas: the Garden of Medicinal Plants (with plants arranged by ailment or the culture that uses them), the Garden of Edible and Useful Plants, and the World Woodland Garden.
The 242 acre Kensington Gardens was originally developed by Queen Caroline, wife to King George II, in 1728 when she added the Serpentine lake and much of the current design. The park was gradually opened to the public over time and the Italian Gardens were added in 1860. What’s more, Kensington Gardens has perhaps the most monuments and memorials of any garden in London, including the Albert Memorial, Edward Jenner (discoverer of the smallpox vaccine), Peter Pan, and a playground dedicated to Princess Diana. Adjoining Hyde Park, one can easily wander from one into the other, though Kensington typically closes at sunset.