Hyde Park Estate gardens are usually only seen by residents but on Saturday 11 June 2022 five completely unseen and untouched gardens will be opened to the public as part of The National Garden Scheme, Open Garden.
The National Garden Scheme has a rich history – with humble beginnings in the early 1900s when they first started supporting district nurses, to donating millions of pounds to nursing and health charities over 90 years later. The National Garden Scheme now gives visitors unique access to over 3,500 exceptional private gardens in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Guernsey, and donated over £3 million to its beneficiary charities last year.
The gardens on the Hyde Park Estate are owned and managed by the Church Commissioners for England and play a key part in the environmental and ecological strategy on the Hyde Park Estate. The Estate covers 90 acres of which 12½% is ‘green’, not only with the garden spaces but by installing planters on unused paved areas, green roofs on new developments and olive trees throughout Connaught Village.
The Gardens open on 11 June include Coniston, Devonport, Quadrangle, Reflection 2020, and the award-winning modernist garden, The Water Gardens.
The Water Gardens
This hidden treasure is suspended over a podium deck and features mature trees and lush vegetation interacting with brutalist design elements, threaded through 1500sqm of large shallow ponds with aquatic vegetation and freshwater fish. Hidden corners allow the visitor to sit and enjoy a variety of views.
The Water Gardens Designed Landscape (i.e. the gardens and ponds) are now Grade II listed following Historic England’s project to identify post-war landscapes that were underrepresented on the National Heritage List for England.
The original ‘brutalist’ garden was implemented in 1966 and widely refurbished in 2018 with all planting and paving lifted and replaced. The gardens were sympathetically redesigned by Refolo Landscape Architects, on behalf of the Church Commissioners for England, introducing new design features that complement the existing brutalist architecture.
The large planters of the suspended podium deck have been retained and are directly connected to the pond allowing for the planting of new mature trees. A SUDS system beneath the paving collects rain water for irrigation and new planting of over 130 different species meet the high sustainability credentials of the Church Commissioners.
In July 2020, the Reflection Garden was created as a welcome area of green space for reflection and seclusion for the residents at 25 Porchester Place. The theme of the new garden is one of tranquillity and reflection particularly given the events we were all living through in 2020. This has been translated through a carefully selected planting palette of perennial species, fragrant white flowers and aromatic foliage.
Three mature Olive trees with beautiful gnarled bark and silver sheen, positioned on York stone paving in bespoke planters provide a sense of instant maturity and are the main visual anchor points in the design. Through the canopy of these specimen olive trees white and cream highly scented climbing and rambling Rose ‘snowflake ‘and the incredibly floriferous, ‘rambling Rector’ have been hand tied in to the branches giving the courtyard garden a romantic timeless feel. Beyond wellbeing and social engagement, promoting and enhancing biodiversity was integral to the installation’s brief.
The focal point in the garden is a spherical black slate orb. This water feature, whilst visually arresting, also acts as an important cooling water source, alongside with the bird baths, provide important water sources for the local birds and wildlife. Species were selected to ensure that the garden would be attractive to wildlife, particularly birds and bees and the particular species were all selected for their pollination qualities.
Most of the plants, such as early flowering bittersweet, Daphne, Buddleia and thyme, were specifically selected in order to provide valuable nectar for bees throughout the year.
Devonport is a quiet oasis in Central London featuring a small, residential inner courtyard with dense mixed planting, a woodland garden with a raised woodland bed, as well as a Victorian Style greenhouse with a mixed plant collection of tropical plants along with temperate plants.
Devonport also houses the cold frame and nursery area for young plants. The Church Commissioners are actively involved in educating garden visitors with bird and insect signs and supporting initiatives at local community events to promote awareness of local wildlife and wildflower gardening.
The Quadrangle Large inner courtyard of residential block are subdivided into a variety of planting zones including:
- Herbaceous borders
- Island beds with architectural plants
- Thematic borders in lower garden
- Walk through annual and perennial display
- Two raised wildflower meadows
Coniston Court garden was designed by Tony Heywood and Alison Condie. In such a densely populated urban setting, the need for a rich biodiverse habitat is paramount. The landscape provides both a visually arresting design and an interesting and captivating garden experience for its users, who can stroll through and immerse themselves within the garden’s rich mix of planting styles.
The ground plan is bold and graphic, containing distinct planting zones to provide contrasting vegetation patterns and textures. The organic, fluid design and undulating pathways are suggestive of a dry river bed and take the visitor through a variety of planting styles. These range from Mediterranean olive grove, through flowering grassland pasture to a more formal structure of magnificent topiary yew hedging, cut into a series of perennial garden rooms which surround a floating wild flower meadow.
A pivotal feature is the polygonal glass Solar Dome, a nod to the site’s history when it was once called Polygon Mews. This futuristic dome contains a dazzling collection of specimen cacti and succulents. The cacti provide an other-worldly feel, and at night when illuminated they suggest almost alien-like form.
At Coniston Garden there are over 135 different species of plant divided into zones within the garden including a wildflower hill with yew spires, birch woodland glade, Mediterranean planting, and a floating wildflower meadow.