Great Gardens of London

banner-side-Great-Gardens-of-LondonSometimes you see an author’s name on a book and you instantly know it is something you want to read. Add into the mix two renowned photographers who you know have been responsible for some brilliant illustrations in the past and you have the perfect mix for success.

Great Gardens of London‘ by Victoria Summerley with photography by Hugo Rittson Thomas and Marianne Majerus certainly lived up to my expectations. One would expect this to be a successful collaboration from both the textual context and the photographic, basically that’s a given, however, letting these three loose in one of the world’s most vibrant and verdant capitals proves to be an added bonus.side-Great-Gardens-of-London

It is all too easy to think of London and see merely the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s major cities – concrete and traffic – overlooking the very essence of the city – its landscape and gardens.

I think this book is a timely recognition of London’s gardening tradition and perfectly does justice to both gardens and design. It is aimed at both the resident and the visitor and will certainly appeal to all who are fascinated by London’s history.

The author has carefully chosen gardens which are both open to the public and those which are not, opening the gates to more than 25 traditional and quirky capital gardens, delightfully themed by chapter and all accompanied by stunning photography. Every imaginable style, shape and size has been included – gardens on rooftops, within palaces, surrounding churches, behind walls and even floating on or lapped by the River Thames.

Gardens are divided into sections covering Pomp and Circumstance, Wild in the City, Gardeners’ Worlds, High-Rise Retreats and Private Paradises. There is a useful map as well as a list of other gardens and events. As one might expect there are iconic gardens such as the Chelsea Physic Garden and Clarence House, however, I was pleased to see that gardens such as Bushy Park Allotments and Coutts Skyline Garden have been included as well as the new and exciting Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

One of the reasons I like Victoria Summerley’s work is that she has the ability to scratch beneath the surface to find interesting and unusual gardens, some unknown, others that we might overlook. The book takes us into the garden at 10 Downing Street, where the IRA bomb crater is now a Woodland Garden and where we discover how the garden has changed drastically over the last 50 years to provide more of a family garden, becoming in many ways “an archetypal British back garden.”


I found the chapter on Downings Roads Floating Gardens, Bermondsey fascinating and enjoyed my peek into the Ladbroke Square Gardens, Notting Hill, a private haven in the midst of bustle in the big city.

The photography throughout is superb, reawakening a desire to revisit those gardens I was familiar with and stimulating my interest in those I have yet to visit. I have a mental note to visit the Kensington Roof Gardens in the footsteps of such celebrities as Sir John Gielgud, Leslie Howard, Queen Mary and David Bowie and still fulfilling a role in helping to promote horticulture in London today.

Victoria Summerley is a national newspaper journalist who specializes in writing about gardens and gardening. She is executive editor of The Independent. In 2010 she won the prestigious Garden Media Guild Journalist of the Year Award.

Hugo Rittson Thomas is one of the UK’s leading portrait photographers. Hugo lives and has a studio in London. Marianne Majerus is a prestigious and prolific international photographer of gardens and winner of the Garden Media Guild Features Photographer of the Year Award in 2013. She is a contributor and sole photographer of many gardening books – her new title Highgrove: A Garden Celebrated, was a bestseller in 2014. Marianne also lives in London and has a studio there.

Great Gardens of London‘  by Victoria Summerley with photography by Hugo Rittson Thomas and Marianne Majerus is published in hardback by Frances Lincoln – at £30.00. It is also available as an eBook.