On the car ride home from a recent night out, I passed a beautiful old church which housed The Garden Museum. Intrigued, I found their website (http://www.gardenmuseum.org.uk) and learned that St. Mary’s at Lambeth is indeed an ancient church whose origins date back to medieval times but was deconsecrated and almost demolished in the late 1970s. Saved from this fate by a philanthropist who then turned the building into an exhibition space, the Museum celebrates this country’s love of gardens.
The most interesting aspect came later though with the refurbishment of the centuries old burial ground which includes the tomb of John Tradescant (c1570 – 1638), the first great gardener and plant-hunter in British history. Along with these tombs, fascinating bits of architecture in themselves (read more here: http://www.gardenmuseum.org.uk/page/the-tradescant-tomb), a 17th century style “knot garden” opened in 1983 (by the Queen Mother) housing several species of flowers introduced to the UK by Tradescant himself. Like the Chelsea Physic Garden, the team of horticulturists are dedicated to growing plants and flowers not native to this country which is a feat in itself given the sometimes unforgiving climate!
I strongly advise a visit to this Museum as the permanent collection houses some fascinating pieces related to the history of gardening. For me, however, the real appeal lies in the tranquil gardens where I enjoyed a lovely homemade cake while taking in the summer blooms!