If you’ve ever wandered past one of Chelsea’s lush gated gardens and longed to be on the other side of the fence, you’re in for a treat with this year’s Open Garden Squares Weekend, which promises an insider look at the neighbourhood’s stunning gardens with a live sets from a jazz trio and snacks from Jumeirah Carlton Tower at Cadogan Place Gardens topping the weekend’s highlights.
The Jonny Mansfield Trio, the vibes trio based in London, will be playing four sets on both Saturday and Sunday, with Jonny Mansfield on vibraphone, Will Sachon bass and Luca Caruso drums. They recently performed their debut gig at the Vortex Jazz Club and are currently working on material for their debut release and European tour in Spring 2019. Between the trio they have played with legends such as Chris Potter, Geoff Simkins and Joe Sanders.
Set in the middle of Sloane Street,Cadogan Place Gardens was laid out and developed by Henry Holland from 1777, and today the gardens are oases of green amidst the bustling luxury retail stores and historic architecture. They are usually reserved for the use of the very lucky key-holding residents, which previously included slave trade abolitionist William Wilberforce (1759-1833), who lived at 44 Cadogan Place.
The north garden was originally created by Humphry Repton in 1806, the garden was an important military site in WW2, when the railings were removed to donate to the war effort. In 1939, part of the garden was requisitioned by the Air Ministry for a barrage balloon. In May 1942 it was wholly taken over by the War Office and the ground was used to dig in tanks, station anti-aircraft guns and as a camp for troops.
In the 1970s the garden was re-landscaped and an underground car park was built beneath it, making it one of London’s most exclusive roof gardens.
The south garden was originally known as the London Botanic Gardens. The mulberry trees on the lawn are said to be around 300 years old and thought perhaps to have been grown for the silk trade. They are however black mulberry, which is less preferred by the silkworm. Nevertheless, the fruit is delicious and the trees beautiful.
On the east side, a walk running the length of the garden has been developed for spring interest, along with a fern garden and mini-stumpery.
On the east side, a walk running the length of the garden is being developed for spring interest, along with a fern garden and mini-stumpery. Near the tennis courts, a water garden is screened by black bamboo and willows, while to the centre of the garden is the award-winning Hans Sloane Garden, adapted from a design for the 2003 Chelsea Flower Show to celebrate the life of physician and collector Sir Hans Sloane.
There are several other notable gardens in the neighbourhood worth exploring, our pick of these is below (with a handy map viewable here), while a complete list of all the London gardens open on the weekend is available on the Open Garden Squares Weekend list. To buy tickets for the event please click here.
Cadogan Place – North Garden
OPEN: Saturday: 10:00-17:00; Sunday: 10:00-17:00
Set in the middle of Sloane Street, which was laid out and developed by Henry Holland from 1777 onwards, this ‘north’ garden was created by Humphry Repton in 1806. Repton excavated soil to create hollows and hillocks and laid out gently winding paths to guide the visitor around the landscape.
Cadogan Place – South Garden
OPEN: Saturday: 10:00-17:00; Sunday: 10:00-17:00
Originally known as the London Botanic Gardens, expect 300-year-old mulberry trees, a variety of ornamental trees, a water garden, a fern garden, mini-stumpery and a walk with spring interest.
OPEN: Saturday: 10:00-16:00
Situated in the creative quarter of Old Chelsea, the Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle and his wife Jane lived at 24 Cheyne Row for nearly 50 years. Laid out when Chelsea was still a riverside village, the walled garden at Cheyne Row was a typical town garden, with an oblong patch surrounded by high brick walls to the east of the house.
From the back door, three steps led to a yard paved with flagstones, from which one step led up to a gravel path, bordered with box. The path branched to the left between the flowerbeds, and led to the earth closet, a square brick building almost hidden in summer by lilac bushes and fruit trees.
OPEN: Sunday: 14:00-17:00
Award-winning garden first laid out in the mid-19th Century and redesigned after WW2. It was judged the finest square garden in Chelsea in 2006, 2007, 2013 and 2015. The building of the original square was begun in 1836 on the site of the old orchard of Box Farm, owned by the Markham family, which had had common rights since the ‘29th year of Elizabeth’.
In 1935 the garden was laid out as a cherry orchard, in celebration of the Silver Jubilee of George V. After WW2, the square was redesigned in the style of a private country garden by the head gardener at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
OPEN: Saturday: 12:00-17:00
This pleasant Georgian square was built in the 1830s on the site of an old market garden on land previously owned by Sir Thomas More and Sir John Danvers. The square was named after Paultons in Hampshire, the country seat of George Stanley, who was the son-in-law of Sir Hans Sloane. Sir Hans was Lord of the Manor of Chelsea in the 18th Century and gave his name to Sloane Square, Sloane Street, Sloane Avenue and various places starting with ‘Hans’.
OPEN: Sunday: 10:00-17:00
This classic Victorian garden, named after John Thurloe, Oliver Cromwell’s Secretary of State, has mature trees, winding paths, lawns, borders, flowerbeds and children’s play area, was developed in the 1840s to designs by George Basevi and ushered in a new era of Italianate townhouse design in London. Visit on Sunday afternoon for a live a cappella performance by singing group Treblemakers at 2pm.