Posted by: marymarthatours | July 29, 2010

Secret Gardens of London

London has many beautiful gardens, large and small, public and private, that are wonderful to visit. For its sheer scope and its amazing Palm House, Kew Gardens is a must for anyone interested in horticulture.


Palm House at Kew Gardens, M&M Tour 2007

In addition to its famous gardens, London also has some out-of-the-way and difficult-to-find gardens that are among our favorites.

In 1995, Martha introduced me to the Kensington Roof Garden, a series of three themed gardens on top of a 6-story department store. Looking up from Kensington High Street, only a few tree tops can be seen. But take the elevator to the roof, and you won’t believe that you are not in a ground-level Spanish garden, a Tudor style garden, or an English woodland garden complete with flamingos and 60 year old full-sized trees growing in only 18 inches of soil.


Spanish Garden at Kensington Roof Gardens (photo by Rosalind Mitchell)

Although it’s more familiar now, when we first visited the Garden History Museum in 1995, it was still remodeling the interior of the old church of St. Mary-at-Lambeth to tell the story of gardening in England. We loved the section on Gertrude Jekyll, and we found the intricate recreated knot garden behind the church to be delightful. On our last stop there in 2007, it was still a pleasure to wander in the garden near the tombs of the famous 17th century gardeners and plant-hunters, John Tradescant Sr. and Jr.

Another museum garden that is off the beaten horticultural path is the educational garden at the Geffrye Museum in north London. Inside, the museum displays the changing face of domestic interior design from 1600 to today. The room arrangements are wonderful. The exterior also features rooms – of the garden variety. In addition to the walled herb garden, which we saw in 1999, there is now a series of small gardens depicting English garden styles for each of the last four centuries.


Edwardian Garden at the Geffrye Museum (photo by Mandy Williams)

This fall, Martha and I plan to visit two more well-known London gardens that we have not seen before. Although we have been to London together and separately many times, neither of us have been to Kensington Palace, the Palace gardens, or the adjacent Kensington Park gardens. We’re hoping to have lunch or tea at the Orangery at Kensington Palace.


Kensington Palace from Kensington Gardens (photo by Uli Harder)

The Chelsea Physic Garden is also on our list of must-sees. One of the oldest botanical gardens in Britain, the Physic Garden is home to thousands of plant varieties, over 300 of them in the herb garden alone.


Chelsea Physic Garden (photo by flickr-rickr)

Even though we won’t be there for the summer flowers, we’re looking forward to enjoying some new gardens in London this fall. We’ll let you know if we find any more hidden gems.

(by Mary)

Photo credits:

Kensington Roof Gardens: copyright Rosalind Mitchell and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attributions ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Geffrye Museum Garden: copyright Mandy Williams and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attributions ShareAlike 2.5 license.

Kensington Palace: copyright Uli Harder and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attributions ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Chelsea Physic Garden: copyright flickr-rickr and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attributions ShareAlike 2.0 license.



  1. Gosh, do you suppose that Rebecca Dalzell at the Washington Post has been reading the M&M Tours Blog for ideas?

    On Friday, July 30th, the Post ran a great article by her entitled “London’s Secret Gardens”. You can read her article and garden suggestions at:
    Check it out for some additional Secret Garden possibilities.

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