Open Garden Squares Weekend is Bliss for Voyeurs

Open Garden Squares is the one weekend in the year when people can visit London gardens not usually open to the public and discover all sorts of hidden, unknown squares and patches of green that are privately owned. Due to a peculiarity of English architecture, many houses back on to large communal gardens which are completely surrounded by the buildings and only accessible to the owners. Other squares (we would call them small parks) are gated and open just for the adjacent residents' usage. Many, as in 173 of these, are open for a single wonderful weekend in June--and this was it. The choices are mind-boggling: Lambeth Palace Garden is one of the oldest and largest private gardens in London on a site which has been occupied by the Archbishops of Canterbury since the end of the 12th century. It includes a fig tree originally planted by the Archbishop in 1555.

A roof garden on top of an art deco department store, created in the '30's is a treat (pictured). Given that it is 70 years old, it must be one of the originals of this genre. Rarely open, and owned by Sir Richard Branson of Virgin everything fame, it is a private club now. There are three themed gardens: Spanish,Tudor Courtyard and English Woodland Garden, with over 70 full-size trees and a flowing stream, with fish, ducks and two resident flamingos. The flamingos are over 20 years old and live there all year round. Planted 100 feet above street level and one and half acres in size, the soil is the original and is 18 inches deep. Originally there were 500 species of plants, themed according to the area.

This is not a walk in the countryside--this is the woodland garden at the Roof Gardens, complete with water features, and spring flowering bulbs and 100 feet above street level.

Here are the flamingos, at home in their pond, high in the sky.

Adelaide Community Gardens are something completely different--they are local, community plots which are worked on collectively by "members". This is a private club as well, albeit a very different one, membership here is a fiver ($10) and you get a plot after proving that you are a dedicated and serious worker. There are vegetables galore, including 5 foot high artichoke plants and lots of sun loving, bee loving flowers. It is wild and untamed and a delight to see. :: Open Garden Squares Weekend

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