A Secret Garden in the Middle of Regent's Park in London by

Issue 22 · Outdoor Living · June 6, 2014

A Secret Garden in the Middle of Regent's Park in London

Issue 22 · Outdoor Living · June 6, 2014

Usually secrets don't stay secret for very long. That's why I was genuinely worried that my "secret garden" in central London would be gone, ruined, or not secret any more, when I went back after an absence of nine years.

Early one evening, I headed for the Inner Circle in Regent's Park, took a right at the Rose Garden, and followed the road as it curved past the Park Office. And there it was, an alley with one gate open and one gate closed. At the end of this wisteria-clad tunnel, my secret garden was looking more ravishing than ever.

Photographs by Kendra Wilson.

Villa at Regent's Park secret garden, London; Gardenista

Above: Like a country house park in the middle of town, the garden is overlooked by a large Regency villa. A line of potted shrubs separates the garden from the private house, which is owned by the Sultan of Brunei.

Villa in secret garden in middle of Regent's Park London; Gardenista

Above: Our business, however, is the garden, which has been open to the public since 1928. For 40 years before that it was a designed garden, intended by its owner, the Marquess of Bute, as a place for "quiet contemplation." Part of its secret charm may lie in the fact that it was a neglected corner for many years after becoming public. 

Fountain in secret garden in regent's park london; Gardenista

Above: It is still a place of quiet contemplation, partly because no one is around. It is also a glamorous garden, and the attention lavished on it by invisible gardeners (do they work through the night?) sets it apart from the other Royal Parks.

Espaliered tree in secret garden in regent's park london; Gardenista

Above: Pleached limes are used to enclose two smaller, even quieter gardens, satellites to the main pond area.

Regent's Park is a highly cultivated public playground, with impressive floral displays. In contrast, the St. John's Lodge Garden (for this is the name of my secret garden) is more personal than civic. The soil is richer and darker, and the plantings are not intended to withstand the hurly-burly of the general public.

Covered seat at the secret garden, Regent's Park. Gardenista

Above: A rustic arbor among the pleaching. Some very informal cow parsley stands waist high.

Tulips and urn at the secret garden, Regent's Park. Gardenista

Above: Tulips and a giant urn. Similar urns are much in evidence around the avenues of Regent's Park, but here in the secret garden they are put together in a different way.

Cardoons in the secret garden, Regent's Park. Gardenista

Above: Cardoons and delphiniums prepare to surge outward and upward in the formal borders. 

Lupines and woven willow support at the secret garden, Regent's Park. Gardenista

Above: The lupines are also ready to go. Woven willow structures, long associated with yurts and festivals, are now part of the vernacular of grand gardens. They can also be spotted in the highly formalized front gardens along Peto Place, one of the Regency terraces designed by John Nash in the early 1800s, adjacent to Regent's Park.

Hostas and white violets at secret garden, Regent's Park. Gardenista

Above: White violets, hostas, and euphorbia enjoy the moisture of an English dusk.

Steps leading to sunken garden at St John's Lodge Garden. Gardenista

Above: Free glamor for those who seek it, in London NW1.

For more of London's little-known gems, see An Under-the-Radar Food Market, Beneath London's Railway Arches.

This is an update of a post originally published May 15, 2013.

 



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