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Ham Yard Hotel: A Roof Garden Oasis in Central London

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Ham Yard Hotel: A Roof Garden Oasis in Central London

July 31, 2017

Scale the height of any tall building in London and you start to realize how there are inviting green spaces spread out across the city’s skyline. At Kit Kemp’s Ham Yard Hotel the rooftop garden is more scenic than most, with herbaceous borders, reclaimed furniture and a productive potager that’s both beautiful and bountiful. We went up on the roof to take a closer look:

Photography courtesy of Ham Yard Hotel.

 Despite being right in the middle of Soho and a stone’s throw from bustling Piccadilly Circus up on the roof it’s all calm and cool breezes, a feeling amplified by the incredible reclaimed French stone fountain that sits in the center of the space.
Above: Despite being right in the middle of Soho and a stone’s throw from bustling Piccadilly Circus up on the roof it’s all calm and cool breezes, a feeling amplified by the incredible reclaimed French stone fountain that sits in the center of the space.

The outer boundary of the garden is planted with espalier fruit trees and woven between them is a lustrous Trachelospermum jasminoides, or Star Jasmine, hedge providing shelter from city noise and winds but also scenting the air of the whole terrace.

 The garden provides ingredients for the adjoining bar’s mixologist, Eoin Kenny, who uses the plants here including jasmine and borage to make syrups and flavorings for cocktails.
Above: The garden provides ingredients for the adjoining bar’s mixologist, Eoin Kenny, who uses the plants here including jasmine and borage to make syrups and flavorings for cocktails.

It also produces fresh vegetables for the hotel kitchens, but primarily the potager needs to look beautiful for hotel guests who can come up to the roof for a drink.

 The bucolic feeling is emphasized with a low picket fence and gravel paths and clouds of Erigeron karvinskianthus, or Mexican fleabane, that self-seed around.
Above: The bucolic feeling is emphasized with a low picket fence and gravel paths and clouds of Erigeron karvinskianthus, or Mexican fleabane, that self-seed around.
 The main area of the vegetable garden is organized around four deep raised beds made from chunky wooden sleepers. Because of the density of the planting, there’s a rigorous feeding regime through the growing season as well as inbuilt irrigation. The soil is mixed with a lightweight volcanic growing medium, which reduces the overall weight on the roof.
Above: The main area of the vegetable garden is organized around four deep raised beds made from chunky wooden sleepers. Because of the density of the planting, there’s a rigorous feeding regime through the growing season as well as inbuilt irrigation. The soil is mixed with a lightweight volcanic growing medium, which reduces the overall weight on the roof.
 Yet despite the small space there are plenty of monster plants: artichokes and climbing beans grown up wigwams providing vertical interest and squash, including Pattypans and Tromboncino, happily mingle with the lower espalier fruit trees.
Above: Yet despite the small space there are plenty of monster plants: artichokes and climbing beans grown up wigwams providing vertical interest and squash, including Pattypans and Tromboncino, happily mingle with the lower espalier fruit trees.
 “Because of the space we can’t plant in long uniform rows, we have to be opportunistic and plant things through and in between other plants,” says Clive Goodman, the man responsible for maintaining the gardens.
Above: “Because of the space we can’t plant in long uniform rows, we have to be opportunistic and plant things through and in between other plants,” says Clive Goodman, the man responsible for maintaining the gardens.

Strawberries (shown above) grow along the fronts of the beds with rows of vegetables including beetroot and sweetcorn behind and heirloom tomatoes are grown as cordons up strong pea sticks sunk into the beds. Summer crops are then interplanted in the gaps.

In the center of the beds there are two multi-stem Arbutus unedo trees (or Strawberry trees) which provide evergreen foliage year round but also shade out some of the sun-loving plants like chillis in the summer which, says Clive, is the one weak spot in the garden plan here.

 In two bee hives there are 80,000 resident bees (looked after by beekeeper Camilla Goddard) who make good use of the wild flower meadow strip at the back of the garden, which is packed with bee magnets such as ox-eye daisies and teasels and the pretty herb garden—a long bed with marjoram, salvias, sage, dill, mint, and miniature topiarized bay. Honey, an ingredient used in cocktails for the hotel, was first produced here in \20\15.
Above: In two bee hives there are 80,000 resident bees (looked after by beekeeper Camilla Goddard) who make good use of the wild flower meadow strip at the back of the garden, which is packed with bee magnets such as ox-eye daisies and teasels and the pretty herb garden—a long bed with marjoram, salvias, sage, dill, mint, and miniature topiarized bay. Honey, an ingredient used in cocktails for the hotel, was first produced here in 2015.
 Despite the closed-in microclimate, there are very few issues with pests. Some plants are attacked by black aphids, which are removed with a jet spray of water (the garden is organic so no pesticides are used) and despite being four stories up there are still slug problems in the raised beds.
Above: Despite the closed-in microclimate, there are very few issues with pests. Some plants are attacked by black aphids, which are removed with a jet spray of water (the garden is organic so no pesticides are used) and despite being four stories up there are still slug problems in the raised beds.
 Herbaceous raised beds, edged in a low boxwood hedge are packed with hostas, perovskia, Geranium ‘Rozanne’ and hydrangeas and provide color and scent closer to the bar area. In the center of each is a gnarly ancient olive tree providing year-round interest. And in spring a sea of colorful tulips appears.
Above: Herbaceous raised beds, edged in a low boxwood hedge are packed with hostas, perovskia, Geranium ‘Rozanne’ and hydrangeas and provide color and scent closer to the bar area. In the center of each is a gnarly ancient olive tree providing year-round interest. And in spring a sea of colorful tulips appears.

N.B.: For more hidden gardens in central London, see:

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