The bustling metropolis that is London is in full bloom this summer, with special Platinum Jubilee floral displays bursting into technicolour glory, including a moat filled with flowers at the Tower of London
One of the world’s greenest cities, London has more than 3,000 parks and green spaces. Take your pick from wildflower meadows, lesser-known gardens, royal parks and even flower markets to experience the abundance of flora and fauna the city has to offer this summer.
In celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee last year, various Historic Royal Palaces in the capital planted wildflower meadows amongst their otherwise perfectly manicured gardens, to attract pollinators and create a new bio-diverse habitat for wildlife. They will be in bloom until September.
What was once a defensive necessity designed to deter invaders, the moat surrounding the Tower of London is now being used for a very different purpose. More than 20 million seeds were sown last year to form a vast carpet of colourful flowers interjected with paths. It may have been planted for the late Queen’s Jubilee, but it was the first step in transforming the Tower Moat into a beautiful, lasting naturalistic landscape.
Meanwhile, at Kensington Palace, the Wildflower Meadow works in stark contrast to the formal gardens – such as the Sunken Garden – that surround the palace. Expect to see an abundance of poppies, Campion, daisies and several other native wildflowers as you wind down paths through the sea of blooms. Good news for us and for them: The bee population seems to have doubled since its inception.
With its immaculate lawns and symmetrical design, Hampton Court Palace gardens are literally fit for a King and it is easy to imagine Henry VIII wandering through the grounds as he plotted his next dramatic move. When you’ve explored the world’s oldest puzzle maze, the pond garden and the magic garden, among others, experience a shift in atmosphere as you wander down to the intimate wildflower display (hrp.org.uk).
Gardens of Paradise
There’s nothing quite like the sweet, heady scent of a rose, so just imagine how heavenly a whole garden of roses would smell… At Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Rose Garden is home to a monumental 170 different species, from the scarlet ‘Rosa Trumpeter’ to the apricot ‘Lady of Shalott’. Why not visit early in the morning or in the evening when the flowers give off their strongest scent? (kew.org).
Dating back almost 350 years, Chelsea Physic Garden is London’s oldest botanic garden and a calm oasis from the hubbub of traffic nearby. It houses more than 5, 000 species of plants, with a focus on medicinal specimens. Although the greenhouses are currently closed for refurbishment, there’s plenty to explore outside, such as ‘the garden of world medicine’ – divided into different continents from around the world and featuring plants that people still look to for their medicine today (chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk).
Why not pack a picnic and take advantage of the warm weather as you unfurl your rug under the shade of a tree in one of the capital’s many parks? You can even experience a taste of Japan at the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park. This calming, Zen-like space was designed in 1991 as a gift from Japan. Tiered waterfalls, a pond full of koi carp and beautiful deep red Japanese maple trees add to the undeniable feeling of serenity one feels while there (rbkc.gov.uk).
Regents Park, named after Prince Regent (who later became King George IV), features everything from formal gardens to sports facilities, a wetland area and playgrounds. Queen Mary’s Garden, named after the wife of King George V, has the world’s largest collection of roses, as well as a Delphinium border and a Begonia Garden with 9,000 begonias. If you feel like taking in more of the sights, amble down to Primrose Hill, where you can witness a stunning view of the city skyline (hrp.org.uk).
Soak up the atmosphere
Even if you don’t want to walk away with a handful of peonies, Columbia Road Flower Market, situated in Tower Hamlets, is a destination in itself. Every Sunday, generations of market traders set up their stalls to offer you everything from cut flowers to succulents, house plants to herbs, at affordable prices. With a spectrum of shapes and colours, it’s quite the spectacle, and the smell is, of course, not something to complain about (columbiaroad.info).
Clifton Nurseries, nestled in the prestigious neighbourhood of Maida Vale, is London’s oldest garden centre. The beautiful glasshouse is brimming with exotic flowers and houseplants – the ideal chic retreat from the city. After perusing the plants and blooms, why not pull up a chair and while away some time in Flotsam & Jetsam café? Indulge in brunch, cakes or pastries in the lovely surroundings of the glasshouse, set among the plants (clifton.co.uk).