Words by Jessica Peace
Formerly the church of gardener and collector John Tradescant (big plant head, buried in the garden here), in 1972 this disused, medieval church in Lambeth chucked out it’s pews to make room for gardening history.
Now light from stained glass windows washes over potting sheds, antique mowers, pressed flowers from the rubble of the Blitz, art exhibitions, design archives, a Dan Pearson garden and a Tony Blair gnome (to name a few).
The first floor holds a permanent art collection with pieces that range from 18th century botanical illustrations by James Sowerby (also buried in the garden), Peter Fryer’s snaps of Geordie blokes on allotments to Katie Spragg’s porcelain ‘Meadow Enclosure’. Downstairs there is currently the ‘The National Garden Scheme Photography Competition 2017’ which finishes on Sunday.
There is also ‘The Ark’ which has a number of articles from Tradescant’s original ‘Ark’; the museum Tradescant opened in his own Lambeth home and the first public museum; Tradescant was for the people! Items donated (back) from the Ashmolean and Oxford Natural History Museums, include a cast of a Dodo Head (!!!) and the ‘Vegetable Lamb’ – just go see it.
This is a design heavy museum, from doll house lawns to initial sketches of the Eden Project. The Garden Design Archive will be opening soon and is open to ALL as long as you book.
The Garden Museum’s Garden. When the Museum was recently re-suited and booted Dan Pearson was chosen to re-design the garden. You might know his 2015 ‘Chatsworth’ garden at Chelsea? Anyway he has chops on the gardening scene. Planting includes Meyer’s Lemon, Sacred Bamboo, Japanese Horsetail, Rice-paper plant, Honey Bush and a ground cover of Ferns and Australian Violet.
The Medieval Tower. 131 steps up a narrow staircase is longer than I expected but short enough to breathe through my claustrophobia. It is bracing up there! But wonderful to be above it all and have a nosey into Lambeth Palace Gardens.
My fave part is a garden bench cinema on the first floor. Choose your short film from a line-up of gardening rock stars including John Brookes, Russel Page, Beth Chatto and Pearson.
This is a real treat, get yourself along and spend at least a morning/afternoon here. They also put on talks with subjects and speakers ranging from leading designers to homing pigeons. Tonight opens the John Brookes exhibition, he’s the man who brought the inside into the outside.
Not too bad.
Around a tenner or a fiver for most concessions
WHEN CAN I GO?
(Closed First Monday each month)
Vauxhall/Lambeth North/ Westminster/Waterloo
About 10 minutes’ walk from Big Ben.