By Deirdre Frost
An unusual walled garden in London can be found overlooking a prominent corner on Piccadilly that is directly across from Green Park and near Buckingham Palace. The Athenaeum Hotel is the only commercial property in England that has an extraordinary vertical structure of live plants that towers ten stories high. A special process allows the greenery to grow without soil on an irrigated vertical surface.
In contrast to the many walled gardens in the city, The Athenaeum’s living wall is distinctive by its sheer size and its location on one of the busiest city streets. From the ground to the rooftop, visitors can view The Athenaeum’s high walled garden that covers more than 2,799 square feet. The living wall features more than 260 plant types, mostly rare species from all over the world, including plants from both temperate and tropical climates. The walled garden also includes plants that are native to Britain and serves as a shelter for attracting bees, birds, and butterflies.
This walled garden is the masterpiece of French architectural botanist, Patrick Blanc, who has created an outdoor living collage that represents a fusion of the hotel with its Royal Park surroundings. The walled garden has wrapped around the hotel’s façade and in the process, creates a bond between the urban and natural worlds. The living wall for Blanc is “a breath of wilderness in the midst of a city,” representing not only as a touch of aesthetics, but bringing attention to the ecological benefits and the connection to nature.
Those who enjoy the great outdoors can view this giant tapestry in its magnificent setting and enjoy the beauty of the living wall that enhances the hotel’s architecture.
Interest in the garden motif is pervasive as we gaze at the walled garden from the Garden Room. Here we had a chance to relax, sip afternoon tea and enjoy the views of the walled garden outside. In this peaceful hideaway, we almost forgot that we were in the heart of the capital and instead, feel that we were in the presence of a beautiful, exotic garden.
The Athenaeum’s garden is changed every season to reflect the variety of living plants that thrive throughout the year. For additional information or for reservations, please refer to the website.
Chelsea Physic GardenOne of the places to learn about medicinal herbs is at the Chelsea Physic Garden that is not well known in London. When visiting the capital, we found this delightful haven that represents one of the oldest botanic garden in England that is home to a rare collection of medicinal plants for the last 300 years. Here botanists research and identify medicinal herbs and plants that include over 5,000 species. The medicinal plants are particularly noted for its “physic” or healing qualities and are conserved for plant introductions. The garden’s ideal location near the Thames River has a warmer micro-climate that helps plants to survive.
The four-acre walled garden is the site for rare and tender plants and also includes many non-natives plants that are housed in several glasshouses on the property. The Chelsea Physic Garden is noted for possessing the largest fruit bearing olive tree grown outside and the oldest rock garden in Europe made from stones from the Tower of London.
The Chelsea Physic Garden is a forum for educating the public about the environment and offers guidance on conserving medicinal herbs for cultivation. The Garden is open from midday on Sundays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Bank Holidays from April 1st until October 30th. For further details, refer to the website.
Also see: VisitLondon.com and VisitBritain.com.