Mary Mary, how does your garden grow? 100ft above Canary Wharf, that’s where! Because these aren’t your common garden variety gardens, but rather sky gardens, roofgardens, the hanging gardens of London. Think that gardens are boring? That an English Country Garden can’t be dynamic and towering? Here are a selection of gardens and high enough to give you Capability Brown trousers. Pack your hamper, we’re going…
Let’s start with one of the best sky gardens around (not to mention a visually enticing image to whet the appetites of the Insta generation), and it’s actual Sky Garden. This cavernous aircraft hanger of a greenhouse is perched atop 20 Fenchurch Street like it was meant to be in Kew Gardens but got misplaced en-route, a veritable Noah’s Ark of foliage and fun, run aground on the Walkie Talkie tower. The venue features an array of restaurants and regular events, and a view that never fails to wow.
Where: Sky Garden, 20 Fenchurch Street, London EC3M 8AF, UK
Nearest station: Monument (0.2 miles)
Bank Station can get really intolerable at times, with all the bankers fighting to hit the Northern Line at rush hour. But go up a few levels, and suddenly all that pales into insignificance, because you’re transported to a garden paradise that is Coq d’Argent’s garden. Stroll on the lawn with a glass of wine, or Pimm’s, in hand and admire the view as if you werern’t in the most densely populated square mile in London.
Where: No 1 Poultry, Poultry, London EC2R 8EJ, United Kingdom
Nearest station: London Cannon Street (0.1 miles)
The Culpeper is a smart East End pub, with all the hipster amenities you’d expect, like craft beers, distressed furniture, a smart b&b and, of course, a roof garden up on top. The rustic surroundings of a greenhouse and planters is ideal for a Sunday afternoon watching the clouds go past.
Crossrail is famous for being decidedly under the ground, hewn from the London stone by giant diggers the size of a 4 bedroom semi. But when it hits Canary Wharf the above-ground station also boasts an even abover-ground roof garden and it’s splendid. The 300 metre garden is fully enclosed, has palm trees growing like it’s the jungle, an oasis in the concrete jungle.
Barbican Beech Gardens
Talking of concrete jungles, the Barbican isn’t just a brutalist high-rise conglomeration, it’s also ideal for a stroll in the meadow. Beech Gardens, on top of part of the Barbican complex is a key section of this piece of 1960s social and practical engineering and there are few places better to take a book and relax on a summer’s day. And then maybe catch a play or an exhibition at The Barbican itself.
Another reminder of a time when concrete poured more than the London rain is the Southbank, but on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall you’ll find an unexpected garden that’ll have you whipping out a picnic rug and staking out a claim for the afternoon as you relax in the summer’s rays.
Kensington Roof Gardens
Currently on hiatus, though open occasionally for events is the Kensington Roof Gardens, one of London’s original and most enchanting examples of sky gardening. When billionaire Richard Branson decided that he couldn’t afford the bills any more the waning club and restaurant shut shop, but we hear that a new tenant has been round and the roof gardens, with their exotic scenes, and famous flamingos, will fly once again in 2020.
Fen Court is London’s newest public space, and these gardens are notable for being very much not at ground level. Set on top of 120 Fenchurch Street, the new development, 15 floors above the street and the 2,800 square metre roof garden is fully open to the public. Just show up and get shown up.
If you’re posh enough you might just get shown the roof garden at private bank Coutts & Co. Famously the queen’s bank, and with a reported requirement that clients need to have over £5m cash just to open an account, it’s probably the most exclusive roof garden in London. As well as being rather beautiful, the garden provides produce for the dining rooms, and while you’ll probably never get invited to eat there you may still be able to venture up onto the roof as part of one of the regular guided tours run by the bank, for example during London’s Open Square Gardens Week.
Mention gardens and London in the same sentence and you’ll instantly think of Kew Gardens. The Royal Botanic Gardens in South West London is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of London’s best days out. While most of the garden action takes place where plants naturally grow, in the ground, the aerial walk way takes you to where they grow to, that is 100ft in the air as you take in trees as you seldom enjoy them. The magical experience is a chance to enjoy the majesty of nature, and the genius of Kew.
Not everyone can make a sky garden, but this Aga Khan (geddit?). The Aga Khan Centre in King’s Cross features a series of interlinked and stunning rooftop gardens. The Islamic Gardens each echo Islamic architectural and garden styles and represent how diverse Muslim culture is across the globe. They’re also serenely peaceful and ideal for meditating and reflecting, even if you’re only reflecting the summer sun. Open to the public for tours, the gardens are a good place to learn a little more about Islamic culture