A World Garden In London

| 22 June 2007
photo shows woman lying on beach on sunbed

It's not raining all the time - an optimistic sunbather at Kew Mediterranean beach. Courtesy of Kew Gardens.

London contains the gardens of many cultures - from vast parks to secretively secluded spots. As the summer holidays approach, we pick some of the best from around the capital.

We also choose museums where you can combine events and exhibitions from London's diverse history with a stroll in the park and a game of frisbee.

Know about a good international garden that we ought to include? tell untoldLondon

1. Kew Gardens are an obvious place to start. Enjoy the summer air, or explore glasshouses full of plants from every climate from tropical to desert.

Kew has recently replanted half an acre of its gardens with plants typical of Mediterranean climates - not just in Europe, but also from Australia, the Cape of South Africa and Chile. The redesign centres on a beach with plenty of room for sandcastles.

Amidst the animal ecology of sunbathing Londoners, you'll see over thirty different plant species including palms, grasses and the Californian Poppy.

Elsewhere in the gardens, look out for the Japanese minka, a whole traditional farmhouse shipped to Britain as part of a festival six years ago. As we'll see, Japanese gardens are tucked away in many parts of the city.

photo shows olive trees

The Olive Trees in the Mediterranean Garden. Courtesy of Kew Gardens.

2. More contemplative spots include the beautiful Buddhapadipa Thai Buddhist Temple in South London. These small gardens with lakes and willows are for walking around in quiet meditation. All are also welcome inside the temple itself, which is the only traditional Thai temple anywhere in Europe.

There are other Buddhist Gardens in London, including a Tibetan garden near the Imperial War Museum, and the peace pagoda in Battersea Park. Find out more here

photo shows white building with ornate red and gold roof in gardens

The Buddhapadipa Thai Buddhist Temple near Wimbledon Common. Courtesy of Buddhapadipa Temple.

3. Whilst we often recommend the beautiful Arab Hall at Leighton House Museum, the gardens are less well known. Staff tell us that they are often very quiet and empty - a good place for peace and quiet in an otherwise very urban area.

photo shows two women in eighteenth century dress in a garden

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray later Finch-Hatton, attributed to Zoffany. Courtesy of The Earl of Mansfield at Scone Palace, Perth, Scotland


4. Kenwood House is set in acres of beautiful grounds, which in turn lead out onto Hampstead Heath. Two hundred years ago, this grand mansion was home to Dido Belle, the Black great-neice of Lord Mansfield, a senior legal figure.

An exhibition at Kenwood until 2nd September tells the story of her life there, and asks how far Lord Mansfield's judgements - which tended to support the rights of enslaved people - were influenced by their affectionate relationship.

photo shows house grand sandstone house beneath very blue sky

Kenwood House. Courtesy of English Heritage.

5. All of the museums in Greenwich are just five minutes walk from Greenwich Park - 183 acres of grounds suitable for picnics, kite flying and informal football games. They include the Fan Museum which has its own tiny Japanese garden tucked away in its grounds and invisible to all but visitors to the museum.

More Japanese gardens can be found in Holland Park and, most improbably, three stories up, above the Brunei Gallery in London, although the latter is extremely minimalist and there's no grass for sunbathing.

photo shows the african garden at the horniman museum

The new African garden at the Horniman Museum, featuring a banana plant. Photography: c. Horniman Museum

6. A year after its planting the Horniman Museum's African Garden is beginning to flourish, with an abundance of banana plants and native African horticulture. From Wednesday 4th July, you can see the Zimbabwean sculpture exhibition Mystery in Stone within the garden.

The Museum has also just launched its huge summer programme much of it with an African theme, with events in both the museum and the gardens.

7.The Ismaili Centre has a spectacular garden on its roof - including flowers, trees and traditional Islamic geometric design. Only open once or twice a year, the next opportunity is likely to be during Open House Weekend in September. However, the centre arranges visits for groups throughout the year.

8. Finally an event at the British Library called 'The Sacred And Nature' asks how religious traditions from across the world can help us to protect our gardens, and indeed the world. 24th July 18:30 - 20:00 Entrance £6/£4

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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