The Garden Museum can be found near Lambeth Palace, a place where the history of gardens can be explored. I’m no gardener, but I was interested in visiting, especially after seeing a play in the grounds earlier this year. The Museum was originally founded in 1977 in order to save the church of St Mary’s from demolition; this church is the burial place of John Tradescant (c.1570-1638), the first great gardener and plant-hunter in British history. The garden of the museum, at the back of the church, contains plants from the seventeenth century, such as the scarlet runner bean, red maple and tulip tree, which originally grew in Tradescant’s garden. His tomb can also be found here. The knot garden was designed by the Museum’s President, The Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury.
In 2008, the interior of the church was converted into a centre for exhibitions and events. Three exhibitions and over 30 talks and interviews each year explore figures from garden history; there is also a permanent display of items relating to gardening.
When I first entered the museum, I headed towards the temporary exhibition, Gnome & Away: Secrets of the Collection. This is the last chance to see many of the weird and wonderful items from the Garden Museum’s rich collections, including gardening tools, a desk, toy greenhouses, numerous garden gnomes, and even a 1950s flamingo ornament.
After this, I went up the stairs to the permanent collection. This was an eclectic range of gardening-related items, including works of art, photographs and gardening tools and accessories. Despite not being a gardener myself I found this interesting: my favourite items were the old-fashioned lawnmowers, the adult version being displayed alongside a miniature model for children.
Outside, the knot garden is a lovely relaxing oasis where you can sit and enjoy the flowers. If you are interested in gardening, this would be a lovely place to examine all the different species of flowers and plants they have.
Finally I stopped off in the cafe for a cup of tea and a piece of cake, which was delicious.
The Museum is due to close on 30 October for a major refurbishment project, and is not due to reopen until early 2017. You only have a couple of months, therefore, to visit. It’s a really nice place to visit even without a strong interest in gardening, so I do recommend it.
Address: Lambeth Palace Road, London, SE1 7LB
Opening Hours: 10.30am-5pm (4pm on Saturdays)
Prices: £7.50 adults, £6.50 concessions, £3 students and Art Fund, children free