For a city with a rep for being a concrete jungle, London really does pack in those green spaces and gardens. From the ever bountiful – and garden-strewn – Richmond Park, to tucked-away community gardens crammed with greenery and volunteers, there’s a garden for all horticultural types in London. Well–manicured spaces seem to always be crowd pleasers, but there are rooftops, urban secrets and indoor rainforests to uncover too. Some even come with the chance of a post-garden piece of cake. Beautiful.
Chelsea Physic Garden
Many still peg the Chelsea Physic Garden as one of London’s top secret green spaces. And while it certainly doesn’t draw the kind of numbers Kew Gardens might muster, the days of this garden hiding in plain sight next to the Thames seem to be over. As the city’s oldest botanic garden, it’s got enough historic intrigue to entertain plant-phobic types. And, the collection here could cure all your ills. Chock full of medicinal and edible plants, there’s a staggering 5,000 species to have a pop at naming. Europe’s oldest rockery lies within the grounds, where alpines and Mediterranean plants flourish in the unique micro-climate.
Queen Mary’s Gardens
If your approach to gardens falls into the ‘go big or go home’ category, get yourself to Regent’s Park. Not just for the park itself, though it’s a cracker. No, you’re here for the rose collection in Queen Mary’s Gardens. 12,000 roses are yours to sniff, admire and generally bask in. In rose collection stats – it’s the largest rose garden in London. Explore and you’ll find another whopping collection – delphiniums this time. Along with 9,000 begonias. In the wider Richmond Park, the deer are always a joy to spot.
Orbzii tip: If you prefer your gardens a touch wilder than the well-manicured gardens in the park, nip along to the Isabella Plantation and Brownies Stream. You’ll find mature, native oak woodland and all the wilderness you’d expect to accompany it – with the added bonus of late flowering azaleas.
King Henry’s Walk Garden
It’s fair to say, London’s got its fair share of community gardens. Plants are cropping up in skips, on rooftops and just about any space left vacant long enough. But, King Henry’s Walk Garden is perhaps the best of the bunch. An award winning, organic garden in Islington, this green and lush space is entirely run by volunteers. The gardens are open to the public on Saturdays (and selected Sundays) but there’s also the chance to muck in. All are welcome to pitch up to the monthly work sessions. You’ll be weeding, maintaining the ponds or building a new project. And in return for your hard graft? Well, there’s rumours of home–made cakes.
Syon House and Gardens
Whether you find your way to Syon because you’ve seen the house in Netflix’s period romp Bridgerton is neither here nor there. All that matters is that you visit. Gardens, parkland an arboretum, a conservatory and very unique tidal water meadows await those that track this beauty down. We could bombard you with some ecology facts – Syon boasts some impressive fungi and lichen numbers. Or we could wax lyrical about the centuries of gardening history this house has seen. But really, we need drop only one name. Capability Brown. In the 1700s he designed the park and lake. Though, other famous gardeners have since left their mark. There’s much to find delightful about this place before you even set foot in the treasure-filled house.
This will perhaps come as quite the shock to anyone expecting us to recommend solely cheery and bloom-filled spaces. But, oddly, cemeteries used to be spaces families loved to stroll and picnic in. Once THE place to see and be seen – at least in Victorian times – Highgate Cemetery remains a respectfully green space. Since 1839, nature has overwhelmed the 17 acres here, and it’s only through a sensitive period of rejuvenation that the area has become a more manicured spot. There’s architecture, magnificent trees and some famous graves to note too. You can’t just stroll in to the West Cemetery, but guided tours are available.
There are times, in this city, when the weather doesn’t lend itself to mooching among the daffodils looking for a place to picnic. In those times? You head to indoor gardens in London to experience something distinctly more tropical…
It’s hard to believe there’s an indoor rainforest hidden in the depths of the Barbican estate. The outdoor setting might not be up to par, but the Barbican Conservatory on the theatre’s roof is a beauty. Step into the balmy world to see cacti, banana plants and palms all growing happily under glass. A genius plan by Barbican architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, the glasshouse was created to cover the rather unsightly flywheel on top of the theatre. Four decades on, the space is now an oasis of tropical calm in London. With 1,500 species of trees and plants, there’s a global mix of flora to tick off your list. But keep an eye out for some other life forms too. Ponds hold a smattering of wildlife, including Japanese ghost carp, terrapins and some slightly more local tench.
When you think of indoor gardens in London, you think of the Prince of Wales Conservatory at Kew. And while it’s more than deserving of a spot on our list, it pays to remember that it’s a solid 40 minute journey out of the city centre. Tucked away in Richmond, this glass-covered set of ecosystems certainly wows. Whether you’ll go weak at the knees for the state-of-the-art climate control system is debatable, but what these green-fingered folk grow under the glass is impressive. Computers control every climate zone, enabling orchids, carnivorous plants and succulents to happily grow side by side. By far the best part of Kew? The surrounding gardens outside. By all means drop by for a stroll through their indoor rainforest, but don’t miss the arboretum and rose garden.
As soon as you step out of the lift and enter the dizzying heights of London’s highest public garden, you’ll notice one very interesting phenomenon. All eyes are on the view. Yes, the skyline’s a sight from this perspective, but there’s a tropical mix of African Lilies, Bird of Paradise and plenty of lush green foliage behind you. Entry is free, though there’s the option to dine among the Mediterranean plants, if you like. Yes, this spot almost made our top Instagram restaurants in London list, but we’re here for the views and sky garden vibes, more than a bite to eat. Don’t miss the landscaped terraces and bars. As for the best time to go? Synchronise your watches for a sunset to remember.
Orbzii tip: Entry is free – but you still need to book a space. Bookings open around three weeks in advance and demand is high.