One is never exactly short of things to do in the capital, but if flowers are your thing then step this way. Here’s a few of the most flowerful places in London…
We all need to escape sometimes… but if you’re seeking a bit of peace and tranquility, you don’t need to leave the city. From London’s most resplendent pubs, to its secret – and not quite so secret – gardens, here are some of our favourite flowerful places. There are too many for one post, so this one limits itself to places north of the river…
1. The Churchill Arms, Kensington
And so we begin with the first of our seven most flowerful places in London. This Chelsea Flower Show winner is also a pub! Famous for its glorious floral displays, and a regular winner of London in Bloom, the flower-festooned Churchill Arms is one of only a handful of public houses to have received such recognition from the greats of gardening.
Built in 1750, this historic pub was once frequented by Winston’s Churchill’s grandparents – hence the name – and is still visited by modern-day celebrities today. Now run by Fuller’s the Churchill Arms was also the first pub in London to feature Thai food on the menu. The Thai restaurant has been running for over 25 years and offers a range of authentic dishes, all served up in a flower-and-butterfly themed conservatory.
2. Chelsea Physic Garden
Image © Charlie Hopkinson
Often referred to as London’s ‘secret garden’, Chelsea Physic Garden is actually one of the oldest botanical gardens in the city. Established back in 1673, the garden houses a collection of around 5,000 plants, including edible, medicinal and endangered species. Its position by the Thames allowed the Apothecaries – forerunners to our modern day pharmacists – to transport plants from around the globe, and provided a unique microclimate, making it ideal for growing more tender examples from the Mediterranean and Canary Islands.
Attractions include the Garden of World Medicine, which houses the Catharanthus roseus (Madagascan Periwinkle), used in cancer drugs, and Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet), used to help control heart rhythms. Not to mention the Grade II listed Pond Rockery – which features lava shipped over from Iceland, and carved stones from the Tower of London!
And when you’ve finished taking in the gardens, you could take a spot of lunch or afternoon tea al fresco style, at the award-winning Tangerine Dream Cafe, and peruse the book and gift shop.
Just what the doctor ordered!
3. The Dickens Inn, St Katharine Docks
The Dickens Inn is a beautiful reconstructed early 18th century inn and restaurant, situated in the picturesque St Katharine Docks. As well as offering great views of nearby Tower Bridge and the Shard, more importantly the Dickens boasts some stunning flower displays, with window boxes and hanging baskets galore spilling from its impressive three-storied balconies.
Originally a warehouse believed to have housed tea, the building has witnessed some other big changes in its history. In the 1820’s the timber frame was encased in brick to help it fit in with its neighbours in the Docks, under the remit of the great Thomas Telford – and later the entire inn was relocated, with its 120 tonne timber shell being moved to a new site just 70 metres away!
Nowadays the sawdust covered floors have been replaced by stripped wood – though we recommend the beer garden, which is perfect for taking in those gorgeous flowers. What the Dickens are you waiting for?
4. The Roof Gardens, Kensington
Set 100ft above the city, The Roof Gardens in Kensington offer a beautiful and unexpected city oasis, with spectacular views of the London skyline. Covering 1.5 acres, they were first opened in 1938, with an entry fee of one shilling. Today the gardens are Grade II listed and have been designated a place of Specific Historical Interest.
The Spanish Garden has a Moorish influence, being based on the elaborate Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain. This colourful garden features a mixture of English flowers and Mediterranean trees. Meanwhile, the Tudor Garden consists of three period courtyards with characteristic red brick walls, Tudor arches and plants from the era of Henry VIII.
Finally, there’s the lovely Woodland Garden, which is a riot of colour in the spring when thousands of bulbs come into flower, including narcissus, crocus, grape hyacinth and bluebells, underneath the impressive 75-year-old trees. There’s even a pond featuring exotic birds including Mandarin ducks and some resident flamingos. And if you fancy a bite to eat while admiring the view, you can check out the Babylon Restaurant.
5. Osterley Park
This Georgian estate is one of the largest open spaces in West London and offers a beautiful restored 18th century formal garden, sporting traditional herbaceous borders, roses and ornamental vegetable beds.
In spring you can enjoy a succession of colourful blooms in the gardens, from bright daffodils to delicate cherry blossom, while fragrant primroses and magnolias adorn the Temple of Pan. As summer begins to appear, the spring blooms make way for magnificent roses.
Now owned by the National Trust, the neo-classical mansion was built in the 1570s by Sir Thomas Gresham, and boasts acres of parkland complete with a range of walks. And why not try out the Stables cafe, which features produce from the ornamental vegetable garden.
6. Clos Maggiore, Covent Garden
We couldn’t contemplate our favourite flowerful places without giving a mention to Clos Maggiore – that tourist-magnet in the heart of Covent Garden. Regularly voted the ‘world’s most romantic restaurant’, it’s famous for its beautiful intimate interiors – including the eye-poppingly stunning cherry-blossom-covered conservatory.
Clos Maggiore also offers fine Provencal cuisine using local seasonal produce, and boasts a world-class wine cellar.
7. Chiswick House Gardens
Image: Laura Nolte
Chiswick House and Gardens is an impressive neo-palladian estate. The house features an extensive collection of paintings by the Old Masters, while the restored 18th century gardens are a real delight.
The award-winning gardens include spectacular displays of flowers and shrubs, as well as hidden pathways, impressive vistas, temples and columns. In fact, Chiswick House Gardens were the birthplace of the English Landscape Movement, and provided inspiration for the famous gardens at Blenheim Palace and New York’s Central Park.
Moreover, in another claim to fame, the gardens boast a gigantic 302-foot Grade I listed conservatory which houses a beautiful collection of pink, red, white and striped camellias, dating back to 1828. The collection includes some of the earliest and rarest varieties, and is known to be the oldest collection of camellias in the Western world.
That’s our lowdown on the most flowerful places in London (north of the Thames, anyway). But if we’ve missed your favourite why not let us know?
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