With Kew Gardens, Chelsea Flower Show and panorama-rich rooftop gardens, London is a treasure for gardeners. Step off the beaten path, and London also has secret gardens, famous flower markets, tropical oases and the world’s oldest pot plants. So, stop and smell the roses as we bring you our plant lover’s guide to London’s best gardens.
At ground level, you’d never know this famous brutalist landmark in South Bank hides London’s second largest conservatory. But this is no English garden. Tropical banana plants, tall palm trees and vines wrap themselves around a concrete tower, and flowers spill out of large grey blocks. It’s free to walk through the Barbican Conservatory, but you need to book a ticket in advance. As a special treat, you could combine garden stroll with a visit to the theatre or a meal in the garden café.
Chelsea Physic Garden
Created in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, Chelsea Physic Garden is 4 acres of plants originally grown to improve medicine and act as a teaching garden to doctors and pharmacists. In the past, this garden on the Thames Embankment played a vital role in the development of medicines. Today, the garden remains a place of scientific discovery and wellbeing – and it’s a delightfully serene space in the heart of London.
The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, teeming with 30,000 rare and important plants from across the globe. Wander around 300 acres of its carefully tended gardens and visit the arboretum of over 14,000 trees (many dating back to the 18th century). Pop by the Palm House to visit the world’s oldest pot plant, an Eastern Cape giant cycad, which arrived at Kew in 1775 from South Africa. If you’re in London during winter, Kew Gardens hosts a spectacular light trail.
Battersea Flower Station
To buy some plants to transform your own garden into a tranquil oasis, head to the Battersea Flower Station. This urban garden centre and florist off Battersea Park Road is a long tree-lined space filled with a little of everything ready to buy, from compost by the scoop to tall olive trees. They help plenty of locals make the most of small urban gardens and are happy to give you advice.
Sky Garden London
Visit London’s highest garden, with panoramic views of the capital. Sky Garden is 160 metres up, inside the Walkie Talkie skyscraper at 20 Fenchurch Street. It costs nothing to visit if you buy a ticket beforehand, with tickets released three weeks in advance. There’s dining here, too, so if you time it right, you could enjoy a gorgeous London sunset with a glass of something special.