‘Green Escapes: The Guide to Secret Urban Gardens’ (£16.95, Phaidon) is an encyclopaedia of gardens that are open to the public, but not (yet) famous. Entries stretch from Kyoto to Tangiers to Antwerp, but it’s the gates to grassy plots in the British isl
BARBICAN ESTATE’S BEECH GARDEN, LONDON It’s the contrast of concrete and rampant wildflowers that delights visitors to these gardens set among London’s famous Brutalist buildings. Following a 2012 update, the book tells us that ‘the monochrome geometry of the architecture is now softened and cheered by colourful, naturalistic plantings by Nigel Dunnett’ (cityoflondon.gov.uk).
BISHOP’S PALACE, WELLS, SOMERSET The Bishop of Bath and Wells’ home, a palace built in 1206, has seven spectacular gardens through which we are all welcome to wander. The book describes the East Gardens as ‘a plantsman’s paradise, featuring a ‘‘hot border” with fiery flowers and exotic foliage’. This leads to the Wells Garden, where the city’s natural springs fill shady pools surrounded by damp-loving irises and candelabra primulas ( bishopspalace.org.uk).
THE HIDDEN GARDENS, GLASGOW Scotland’s first ‘sanctuary garden’ was funded by a non-profit organisation and purpose-built in 2003 as a peace-making plot of land in the city’s multicultural Pollokshields neighbourhood. A rill now runs through borders of medicinal herbs, such as flowering comfrey and catmint, and the planting elsewhere echoes a mix of culture and religions, with bamboos, ginkgo, hazel and winter-flowering plum trees (thehiddengardens.org.uk).
ST DUNSTAN- IN- THE- EAST, LONDON Built in 1100, the church that originally stood here was burned down by the Great Fire of London, then restored, only to be bombed in the Blitz. Its shell is now a public garden. We love how the Gothic architecture, including Christopher Wren’s 17th-century steeple, is softened by roaming vines, trees and curving cobbled paths (cityoflondon.gov.uk).
Bishop’s Palace, Wells, Somerset