London is well-known for its amazing public parks, with spaces such as Regents Park, St James's Park and Hampstead Heath the envy of cities around the world, but the capital is also home to some equally impressive smaller private gardens.
Open Garden Squares began with a focus on the posh private gardens such as Eaton Square, Cadogan Square and Fitzroy Square in London's West End, which are usually only accessible by residents
Green spaces created by the likes of Capability Brown, John Nash and Thomas Cubitt are dotted around London in private squares or gardens belonging to institutions – and these are opened to the public one weekend a year for Open Garden Squares.
Now in its 21st year, the scheme will run on 9 and 10 June in 2018 – with visitors able to buy a single ticket and tour the gardens of their choice.
As you might guess from the name, Open Garden Squares began with a focus on the posh private gardens such as Eaton Square, Cadogan Square and Fitzroy Square in London's West End, which are usually only accessible by residents.
Over the years it has expanded to include more than 200 gardens, from office rooftop oases such as the Nomura Building Roof Garden to exclusive spaces like the BMA Mind Garden at the British Medical Association's HQ (designed by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens) or Capability Brown's garden at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability.
There are also a number of community gardens, allotments and social enterprises included in the scheme – with highlights including the Skip Garden in Kings Cross and the Providence Row scheme in East London which provides both therapy and food for homeless people.
Luck of the draw
A few private gardens in the event are so popular they have to be administered in a ballot scheme. Visitors can put their names down in the hope of seeing the garden at 10 Downing Street or being shown around the tropical nursery at Kew Gardens – with the “winners” picked at random.
Some of the gardens are within easy walking distance of one another, but many visitors choose to buy a Transport for London Travelcard that allows them to hop between locations by bus or tube.
Recommended highlights and a guidebook featuring all the gardens will be available beforehand so you can plan your journey in advance. A series of themed and guided walks are also offered for an additional £3.
Eating al fresco
Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic to many of the gardens, and some will be offering food and drink for sale. The Museum of the Order of St John is renowned for its authentic English cream teas (involving a scone with clotted cream and jam), while enticing botanical gin cocktails are on offer at the Cleveland Square garden.
Tickets were priced at £13 advance and £15 on the day in 2017, and this is unlikely to change by much. Teenagers are cheaper and under-12s go free.