Call us Mary Lennox, but ever since childhood we’ve been enchanted by the prospect of a secret garden. A place that blossoms with flora and fauna in the springtime; a hidden grove where sunlight filters through the leaves, and newborn lambs frolic beside fox cubs; it’s all we’ve ever dreamed of. Here’s our guide to the prettiest secret gardens in London, the bustling capital of the U.K., so you can slip away discreetly and discover a world all your own.
A pretty name for a pretty garden, the Isabella Plantation is a little-known sanctuary hidden inside Richmond Park in southwest London. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into the opening scenes of “Bambi,” as a dense blanket of flowers envelops every inch of this woodland garden. There’s even a tranquil reflection pool – just be careful you don’t end up like Narcissus.
Those who preferred the aesthetics of “Sleeping Beauty” in their childhood should make a beeline for St. Dunstan in the East. Here you’ll find the majestic ruins of an early 12th century church that was severely damaged in the Great Fire of London, and again during the Blitz. Miraculously, the tower and steeple additions by Sir Christopher Wren have survived, while the remaining ruins are wreathed in ornamental vines, seasonal foliage and bright exotic flowers.
Hill Garden and Pergola
Everyone knows about Hampstead Heath in North London, although few have discovered the secret Hill Garden and Pergola, located above West Heath. The pergola itself is a stately Georgian red brick building, topped with an impressive colonnade that overlooks the summer houses and flowerbeds of the garden below. During the late spring and summer months, the pagoda trellises are overrun with beautiful roses and wisteria, while jasmine, honeysuckle and lavender blossoms grow through the paving cracks.
Holland Park locals swear by the restorative effects of Kyoto Garden: a peaceful Japanese sanctuary just moments from one of London’s busiest thoroughfares. Donated by Kyoto’s Chamber of Commerce as a token of friendship in 1991, this beautiful ornamental garden is replete with authentic stone lanterns, tiered waterfalls and plenty of koi carp. Stroll among the peacocks and practice harnessing your inner Zen — it shouldn’t be too difficult here.
It’s a good idea to have a contingency plan for rain in London, and the Barbican Conservatory provides just that. A secret most visitors would prefer to keep to themselves, this exotic conservatory is the second largest in London after Kew, and boasts more than 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees. The only downside is that this enchanted greenhouse is only open to the public on select Sundays, so time your trip wisely.