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Have you been to the Garden Museum?

  • Have you been to the Garden Museum?
  • Have you been to the Garden Museum?
  • Have you been to the Garden Museum?
  • Have you been to the Garden Museum?
  • Have you been to the Garden Museum?
  • Have you been to the Garden Museum?
  • Have you been to the Garden Museum?

When I was in London last week I stumbled, quite by chance, on the Garden Museum. The Museum is in St Mary-at-Lambeth next to Lambeth Palace on the South bank of the Thames. I'm glad I did as it is an interesting place with a bright future.

In the grounds of the church, which had become derelict by the 1970s, is the tomb of John Tradescant (1570-1638), the first great gardener and plant hunter in British history. His magnificent and enigmatic tomb has now became the centrepiece of a 17th century knot garden planted with flowers that grew in his London garden four centuries ago. These plants, which include introductions by Tradescant such as the scarlet runner bean, red maple and tulip tree, can be viewed on the Museum's new Grower page.

Inside the church is an exhibition area showing a selection of the 10,000 objects collected since the Museum opened over 30 years ago. The collection spans 400 years of gardening, from tools to artists’ impressions, grand country house gardens to small back yards, rare and precious things alongside everyday objects. It's a real insight into how ideas, technologies and passions in British gardening have changed over the years.

In the selection I saw, for example, was Gertrude Jekyll's desk, an early commercial seed packet stand, a cabinet with gentleman landowners 'slash sticks' (walking sticks with a hidden blade for slashing back undergrowth on paths) and some interesting early pictures of suburban back gardens.

The Garden Museum is an active and growing organisation. It holds numerous talks, temporary exhibitions and events and has been awarded a £3.2m Lottery grant, which it is in the process of match funding to develop Phase 2 of the Museum. This will involve converting the church to show more of the collection, which will be good - it would have been nice to see more.

Their vegetarian cafe also does a tasty lunch, as I discovered, which you can eat out by the knot garden - a rare quiet spot for central London.

Only one thing spoiled my visit. Outside the front of the church was a spectacular Echium pininana, with a 3m tower of flowers. Despite all my best efforts, the Echium in my Somerset garden hasn't even begun to flower.

Sigh! It's always a few degrees warmer in London, and a few degrees can make all that difference.

Comments (3)

  1. Grower

    Garden Museum

    Thanks Jeremy! So glad you enjoyed your visit and yes, we're looking forward to being able to show off a lot more of our collection through the development due in 2015. We will also have new spaces for education, a fantastic new Cafe and shop and will be recreating the Tradescant Ark - the 17th Century Cabinet of Curiosities.
    The development extends to the gardens too and we will be home to the country's first archive dedicated to garden design.
    And in the mean time, everyone can enjoy our fab veggie Cafe, permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. (And this week the garden has been a real sun trap)
    Plant lists to come! (Although get here quick if you want to see our Dracunculus vulgaris - it won't be out for long and looks spectacular)

  2. Grower

    Jeremy Wright

    That's great ... and here is a photo of the Dracunculus in the churchyard. An extraordinary plant - is it as foul smelling as the plant records make out?

    Something else I just learned is that in the photo behind the Tradescant tomb (one of the first prominent churchyard monuments in the country), is the later tomb of Captain Bligh of 'Mutiny on the Bounty'. He, if you recall, was bound for Tahiti to collect Breadfruit trees when his crew turned on him. Interesting!

    • Have you been to the Garden Museum?
    • Have you been to the Garden Museum?
  3. Grower

    Sean Clow

    How funny, I drive past the Museum every day and have never been in. Must take a look.

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