I once read that London is the "Garden Capital of the World." So it came as no surprise to read in Victoria Summerley's introduction to her book, Great Gardens of London, that 45% of greater London is green space.
With text by Victoria Summerley and photographs by Marianne Majerus and Hugo Rittson Thomas this may be your only chance to step through the door of No 10 Downing Street and into the Prime Minister of England's back garden. According to Summerley this garden would not win prizes for design but is more of a family garden with several distinct areas including rose and woodland. Some years ago they took advantage of a crater left by a IRA bomb crater to make a pond. Most are unlikely to visit the residence of the US ambassador in Regent's Park, seen on the front cover of the book above. It is good to know that they take sustainability seriously because after all the American public fund its upkeep. These two gardens along with several palaces and homes of one-time Prime Ministers are included in the first section of the book titled Pomp and Circumstance. Among them Prince Charles' London home Clarence House. You can imagine that being a keen gardener himself the Prince has had quite an input into the planting. It is hard to imagine when looking at the photographs that this in only 1/2 acre.
Each of the four other chapters in the book cover a particular garden style- among them wild, woodland, rooftop and gardens for the gardener. Many have a long history whereas some are recently made like the Olympic park which uses the popular concept of wildflower meadow gardening. Some have been created to take advantage of a modernizing world. The Downings Roads Floating gardens are built on barges which once plied the waters of the Thames, moving cargo from the larger ships up the river. The book is amply illustrated with beautiful color photography but make no mistake this is not a coffee-table book but one to really delve into the history and diversity of London gardens as well as learn about current owners and the gardeners who care for them.
A map is followed by visiting information. Many of the gardens are open to the public although some only open for a few days every year on the National Garden Scheme, others are open by appointment only.
Victoria Summerley lived and worked in publishing in London for many years. A gardener and blogger who opened her own garden in London for charity under the National garden Scheme she now lives in the Cotswolds where she is creating a new garden and which she writes about at Tales from Awkward Hill. This is her second book with Frances Lincoln, the first being Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds.
Photography is by Hugo Rittson Thomas, leading portrait photographer, who also photographed Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds and Marianne Majerus renowned for her atmospheric images of gardens.
Whether or not you plan to visit London in the near future this book will entertain both the avid gardener and garden lover alike.