What is your favourite public garden in London and why?
I don’t have a favourite as such, although one that does spring to mind is the fantastic Chelsea Physic Garden. Established in 1673 this is London’s oldest botanic garden which contains a unique living collection of around 5,000 different edible, useful, medicinal and historic plants that have changed the world. The garden’s warm microclimate means that many of the tender plants flourish within the sheltering walls including a number of rare and endangered species. They also house the largest outdoor fruiting olive tree in Britain. From pomegranates to ginkgos, mulberries to eucalyptus, there are over 100 different species of trees alone in the garden, many of which are rare in Britain. There are glasshouses, dicotyledon order beds, a pond rockery, a historical walk and various different gardens dedicated to edible and useful plants, world woodlands and medicinal plants. This is one place for me that is fascinating from the perspective that you can never stop learning and you always come away with new and exciting ideas for your own garden.
Another garden which also springs to mind would be The Salters Garden in the City of London. I was personally involved with it in the mid to late ’90s along with the lead designer, the late David Hicks. This is one of London’s hidden gems with a portion of London wall running through the acre-wide gardens, giving the wonderful outdoor space Roman heritage site status. The gardens are laid out quite formally with lawn, structured topiary hedging, gravel paths and paving with a series of arches to support the beautiful rambling roses. There are three fountains/water features, one adjacent to the building and one at each end of the garden and a central decorative urn near the Roman wall. Your eye is drawn particularly along the west vista to the circular pond that emulates a sense of breathing as the water pulsates. There is also a number of obelisks interspersed within the planting beds to support the floribunda roses. This garden has most of the elements I favour in terms of structure, whilst being an extremely tranquil place to visit in the heart of a bustling city.