The success of the National Gardening Week, which was launched by the RHS four years ago has led to the first ever National Open Gardens Day on 17 April 2015. To celebrate the incredible array of gardens in this country, the RHS have asked gardens that normally charge for entry or that are closed to the public on that day to take part. The RHS is kick-starting the campaign and its gardens and many RHS’s Partner Gardens will be joining too and throwing their doors open for free as will some of the National Gardens Scheme gardens.
Entrance to the Gardens on Derry Street
London has many wonderful and impressive gardens, however The Roof Gardens of Kensington is one of the most unusual and unexpected horticultural delights of the city.
The gardens were the idea of Trevor Bowen, the vice-president of Barkers, the department store that owned the site . The gardens were laid out between 1936 and 1938 by Ralph Hancock, a landscape architect at the cost of 25,000 and were opened to the public in 1938. A shilling was charged for entry which raised £120,000 for charity over 30 year period.
When you arrive at the Roof Gardens, you are transported into almost surreal world high above Kensington High Street. However this is not a fantasy terrace with views all over London, this is a real walled garden with over 60 trees, some planted over 70 years ago.
Remarkably considering the size, it is not one garden but three. You step out into The English Woodland Garden with a lawn and a couple of bridges and plenty of colour with thousands of plants fighting for your attention. But its is the ducks asleep on the lawn and the strutting flamingos walking around the garden that you tend to focus on before you follow the winding path to the Tudor Garden.
The Tudor walkway and the three courtyards are planted with plants that would recognisable in Tudor England. This is a peaceful and relaxing place to sit and admire the pots of Lime that guard the archways.
It was in this peaceful oasis that I came across Head Gardener of the Roof Gardens, David Lewis. I was interested how the minimal depth of soil 18 inches could sustain so many trees and plants. David’s answer was it necessary to make sure you planted the right sort of plants for the environment, he also suggested that it was exciting to maintain the traditions of the garden but also try to keep it up to date with some of the latest horticultural developments. David is restricted in some aspects due to the trees being made subject of preservation orders in 1976 and the gardens being acknowledged as a place of ‘ Specific Historical Interest’ and given a Grade II listing by English Heritage.
Head Gardner – David Lewis
If the visitor is surprised by the gardens up to this point, the sight of the Spanish Garden will really excite the senses. Based on the Alhambra in Granada, the Spanish Garden offers a distinct Moorish flavour with a white campanile with bell complementing the view of the spire of the local church.
The previous two gardens seem muted compared with the colour schemes in this Mediterranean haven, bright and colourful English plants are mixed with Mediterranean trees to provide a wonderful sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the London streets below.
Although the Roof Gardens of Kensington is a RHS Partner and part of the National Open Gardens Day, the good news is that the Roof Gardens of Kensington are open to the public at other times. If there is not a private event in the gardens, visitors can take a walk around the gardens free of charge.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
To find out more about the Gardens and find out about openings , visit the Roof Gardens of Kensington website here
To find out more about the National Gardening Week and the National Open Gardens Day, visit the RHS website here
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