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The city of London could be described as an urban jungle, albeit with towering skyscrapers in place of trees. In the very centre of the city, it can seem like there are buildings upon buildings; although punctuated by several open green parks such as Hyde Park and St James’ Park, can exotic plants and outdoor wildlife be found anywhere in the capital?
They can indeed. The UK capital is home to many gardens – both outdoor and indoor – where everything from medicines to tropical flora and fauna can be found growing. And of course there are many beer gardens to be found in the city too.
Here, we take a look at London’s best gardens, which we’ve divided into categories.
The capital is home to several royal palaces, and with these come magnificent gardens.
Kensington Palace Gardens were once home to King Henry VIII’s herd of deer. Today, they feature beautifully laid-out formal gardens, which sit alongside the Sunken Garden, planted in 1908 and housing ornamental flower beds, a pond and a flowing fountain.
Meanwhile, Buckingham Palace Gardens – HM Queen Elizabeth II’s back garden, nonetheless – are also open to the public, with visitors able to enjoy a walk along the south of the gardens and their 19th century lake after visiting the palace’s State Rooms.
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (which don’t come with a palace, but do have a spectacular greenhouse) are home to the largest and most diverse botanical collection in the world, making them a must-visit for lovers of exotic flora and fauna while they’re in London. Highlights of Kew Gardens include its thousands of orchids, as well as its giant bee hive, which is playing a significant role in preserving the UK’s declining bee population.
Hampton Court Palace Gardens are the former backyard – albeit a very impressive one – of King Henry VIII and still hold several majestic elements in their regard. Peacocks roam the gardens, while there’s also a hedge maze, allowing visitors to get lost in what was once the back garden of the British royal family.
Not everyone in London is lucky enough to have a garden due to its may high-rise tower residential tower blocks and rows upon rows of terraces. However, some of those who do have a garden are kind enough to open them up to the general public, allowing others to enjoy the green oasis they have created amid the bustle of the urban jungle.
33 Wood Vale in Muswell Hill, North London, is one of the best-kept examples of this, encompassing one-fifth of an acre, hidden behind a 1930s terraced house.
The garden features several plants native to Australasia and the Mediterranean, bringing a touch of hotter climes to the UK capital, while there’s also a rockery, bog garden and beautifully-scented rose beds.
Alternatively, check out the Phoenix Garden, which can be found nestled in a hidden spot between Covent Garden and Tottenham Court Road. With banana palms, roses and dragonflies aplenty occupying this patch of otherwise normal pavement, this is one of the capital’s best secret gardens.
The Chelsea Physic Garden is an outdoor space with an unusual purpose, having first sprung up in 1673 as an apothecaries’ garden, providing local medicine men with a place to grow the herbs and flowers needed to create their remedies.
Today, the garden is still used to grow approximately 5,000 different varieties of edible and medicinal plants, we well as those that are useful in other ways or that have an important history. Visitors are sure to learn something new during a trip to this fascinating garden.
Not all gardens are about plants, however. Rooftop terraces and beer gardens are also seen as havens of relaxation across the city, with some of the best to be found at The Albion pub in Islington, where customers can enjoy a pint surrounded by drooping wisteria, and the Magic Garden Pub. This Battersea watering hole has a beer garden decorated with fairy lights, comfy armchairs and even has its own outdoor cocktail bar, making the pub’s exterior equally – if not more – attractive than its cosy interior.
Although not quite a garden in the clouds as its name might suggest, the Sky Garden is still an incredibly interesting place to explore and there’s no chance of being interrupted by the rain as all of its fascinating plants are housed indoors.
Situated at 20 Fenchurch Street, the Sky Garden covers three storeys of a glass building, which features an indoor landscaped garden, observation decks and an open air terrace, with spectacular 360 degree views of the city visible from every floor.
Due to its unusual indoor setting, the garden is heavily populated with plants that thrive in dry, hot weather. Mediterranean and South African varieties are particularly prevalent, including the African Lily, French Lavender and Bird of Paradise, all of which add an eye-catching splash of colour to the landscape above the rooftops of central London.