London Blog

Open Garden Squares Weekend

A similar idea to the more well known Open House Weekend, Open Garden Squares Weekend is a annual event aimed at opening up London’s private gardens to the general public. Next weekend, 11-12th June, 213 gardens across London will be opening to the public and hosting special events to celebrate London’s hidden greenery.

With 213 options, there’s a lot of variety, ranging from HMP Wormwood Scrubs to the Kensington Roof Gardens, so I’ve done a round-up of the scientific highlights – by all means suggest other highlights in the comments.

A £7.50 ticket buys you access to all the gardens throughout the weekend: available in advance or on the door of some, but not all, gardens on the day.

Brunel Museum Garden:

Sat and Sun: 10am – 5pm

A fascinating museum devoted to engineering, located in the Brunel Engine House which is part of the Thames Tunnel. The museum, which has been talked about many times before on Nature Network, including Matt’s guided tour of the Thames Tunnel Shaft, also boasts multiple gardens including the compass garden, featuring a giant sundial on the roof of the Entrance Hall.

Royal College of Physicians’ Medicinal Garden

Sat and Sun: 10am – 5pm

Founded in 1518 by royal charter from Henry VIII, the College runs a medicinal garden featuring rare medicinal plants from the ancient world, Europe, Asia and the Middle East and runs tours to show plants from which we obtain “local anaesthetics, treaments for swine flu, leukaemia, cancers, cardiac problems, asthma, scurvy and intestinal worms – as well as narcotics, hallucinogens, ecstasy, and more”.

British Medical Association Council Garden

Sat 10am – 5pm

Located at BMA HQ in Tavistock Square, this garden includes a collection of physic plants bears witness to the continuing role of plants in contemporary pharmacology. Tours of the garden on the hour, starting 11am.

Chelsea Physic Garden

Sun: 9am – 11:30am

London’s oldest botanical garden, founded as the Apothecaries’ Garden in 1673, and Britain’s second oldest, following the Oxford Botanical Garden (1621). It became the world’s most richly stocked botanical garden in the 1700s and maintains a seed-exchange programme today. In 1983 the garden became a registered charity and is now a member of the London Museums of Health and Medicine

South London Botanical Institute

Sun: 2pm – 5pm

From the oldest to the smallest botanical garden in London: the SLBI Garden contains over 500 labelled species in a tiny space of 24m x 16m, including a medicinal plants border. A good one for kids and big kids – pond dipping available.

The Wildlife Garden at the Natural History Museum

Sat and Sun: 12pm – 5pm

Another good one for children with activities all day. Museum scientists on hand to discuss the plants and animals living in this garden inside the museum walls.

And a chance to see behind the scenes of two of London’s lesser known universities:

Grove House Estate at Roehampton University

Sun: 12pm – 5pm

Featuring a grotto, an icehouse and a mausoleum: guided tour at 2pm.

St George’s Medical School

Sat and Sun: 2pm – 5pm

Only three years old, founded by medical students inspired by a trip to Swaziland to grow edible plants on wasteland within the university. Now a thriving allotment.


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