London can seem quite fast paced and too bustling for those who prefer the slower pace of the countryside, the company of plants over commuters and the feel of the grass under foot. So I thought I would put together a bit of a guide to visiting all of the leafy parts of London and where to stay if central London isn’t really your cup of tea.
Home Farm Glamping is a wonderful oasis on the outskirts of London in Elstree. The nearest train station is Stanmore or Canons Park which takes you onto the Jubilee Service. You get easy access to the city whilst enjoying the beauty of nature rather than the city lights.Home Farm Glamping provide you with everything you could possibly need and more. With a choice between a yurt or a bell tent, we opted for the bell tent and couldn’t have been happier with our choice. No sleeping bags needed on this camping trip, with a ridiculously comfortable double bed, wooden decking, deck chairs, bbq and campfire – we settled ourselves in and headed to the communal barn.
We happened to have booked to stay on a night when no-one else was booked in, so we actually had the run of the entire site which was wonderful. The beautiful barn has everything from a social area with sofas, to table tennis (the challenge was on), water, cutlery, fresh tea leaves for picking, lanterns, wood and wheelbarrows. We literally had to just bring warm clothing and our food (though they do offer a catering service too).
We enjoyed our stay so much, sitting back in the deck chairs, chatting curled up by the crackling camp fire with bellies full of BBQ and the place to ourselves – perfect!
Now that’s the accommodation sorted, so where to visit in the city?
Kew Gardens is a hop skip and tube away, and exploring it is a full day in itself. From opulent glasshouses, to treetop walkways and beautifully tended kitchen gardens, you will be spoilt for choice at where to head to first.There is so much to see at Kew but I will run through a few of my favourite areas in the vast gardens.
The Palm house was my favourite by far, I adored seeing banana leaves towering above me, monstera creeping around the stairways, and palm leaves hovering and bouncing as we passed. Set in an amazing victorian iron and glass structure, you can climb the curved staircases to get a view from the top. With tropical plants from Asia, Africa, America, Australasia and the Pacific Islands – it is very hot and humid in there but a fantastic spectacle for plant lovers!
Next is the Waterlily House. A much smaller glasshouse, dedicated to a huge circular pond full of waterlilies, ferns and hanging gourds. It felt like stepping into a monet painting!
Temperate House has just opened from its extensive five-year renovation and it was worth the wait. I stood in awe at the architecture and aesthetic and couldn’t get over the beautiful light reflecting onto the plants and curved stairways. Home to many rare and threatened plants, the Temperate House provides a safe space for nature and avoids extinction of these species.
Princess Diana Conservatory is an amazing modern energy conscious conservatory, with 10 different tropical and sub-tropical habitats. It felt endless walking through the different sections and climate zones.
The Treetop Walkway was great, but a little scary with its slightly see-through perforated metal flooring, and especially for my other half who has a phobia of heights! But if you are feeling brave, ascend the stairs and enjoy walking around the tops of the trees and take in the great view of the park.
The Shirley Sherwood Gallery holds a vast collection of botanical art, its free to enter and was fascinating to learn more about the history of botanical illustration and paintings.And lastly, The Orangery is a stunning building where you can grab a drink or some food for a break from all the walking!
Heading to the Kings Cross area, the Skip Garden is a sustainable urban garden and a must see. Everything has been built using recycled materials, and with a huge community of helpers – it has brought people together of all ages and backgrounds. There are gardens built into skips, tomatoes and chillies growing under polytunnels made from pipes and polythene, and unique spaces for the public to sit and enjoy this wonderful project.
Tucked away in the residential neighbourhood of Maida Vale, Little Venice is another inspiring place. Walk the stretch of the canal and glance by at the individual barge homes and walk the lengthy garden that has been converted by the permanent boat residents. It is a place of tranquillity and creativity and I came home wanting to make some quirky cosy corners in our own garden.When in London, I like to look out for any historic ‘Mews’ streets. My particular favourite being around the Notting Hill area. Beautiful homes along picturesque charming streets adorned with creepers and plant pots.
If you are in London on a Sunday, be sure to check the Barbican Conservatory website to check if it is open to the public (open selected Sundays each month and Bank Holidays). Free to enter, it is another escape from the city. With the Brutalist architecture, it’s a fascinating building, with greenery covering the grey balconies and huge monstera and cacti creeping against the windows, it is the definition of a concrete jungle!
Also on a Sunday and a few tube stops away from The Barbican, is the Columbia Road Flower Market. Now I will warn you, it gets extra busy so I wouldn’t advise it if you really don’t enjoy being jostled by crowds. But it is beautiful, set on a street with so many beautiful homeware stores with flower stalls covering the pavements. There are lots of plants and even olive trees sold here.
The Sky Garden is London’s highest garden, with fantastic views over the city – you can experience the view of London whilst being surrounded by nature. It is free to visit, but you need to book via their website to ensure entry.
Primrose Hill is a favourite among Londoners for some green space away from the city, with great views from the top – it’s a lovely place for a jog, walk, or just to get puppy envy from all the many dog walkers that go past!
Botanique Workshop on Exmouth Market, which is home to plants, flower workshops and will be a favourite among the green-fingered!Geo-Fleur sells all weird and wonderful house plants, and in particular cacti and succulents.Camden Garden Centre is a lovely place to walk round and has a great selection of indoor plants as well as outdoor.Unfortunately, I am yet to visit, but my friend recently visited Conservatory Archives and it is definitely a next on my leafy London list!Another on my radar, The Flower Warehouse, for hanging terrariums and selection of indoor plants.With a recent book release, Prick knows its cacti and succulents!Botany is an aesthetically pleasing store, selling our leafy friends alongside ceramics and other homewares.Instagram to follow: Green Rooms Market to find out the latest botanical markets around London and the A-Z to London’s leafy businesses.
Restaurants / Cafes
Step inside Blixen’s covered garden to enjoy a cocktail or a delicious dinner among the plants and cacti.We stumbled upon The Vincent one weekend when we tried to visit Palm Vaults in Hackney but there was a huge queue and we didn’t fancy the wait. We walked around the corner and were saved from our grumbling stomachs by The Vincent, with delicious cake and its impressive display of monstera, palms and banana leaf plants raised above the tables!Two places that are on my radar to eat at are Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings which I have seen doing the rounds on Instagram and look absolutely beautiful.Another is Petersham Nurseries, a plant emporium and garden restaurant combined.There are so many wonderful leafy wonders around London, places you can enjoy an oasis from the hustle and bustle and instead relax among our planty friends.I hope you enjoyed this first London guide of all places green and leafy!