The Coutts & Co Skyline Garden ballot is now open!

Coutts_c_PeterFiori
(c) Peter Fiori

With so many gardens to explore over Open Gardens Squares Weekend, you’ll want to plan your weekend in advance. Most importantly, now’s the time to browse our programme of exclusive guided walks and tours – these events must be booked in advance and places are limited, so don’t miss out!

We’re particularly excited to announce that the ballot to visit Coutts & Co’s roof top Skyline Garden is now open.


Specialist tours

The Coutts & Co Skyline Garden

This exclusive tour of the rooftop kitchen garden at Coutts & Co is a rare chance to explore a unique space, 30m above street level, and home to over 9,000 organic plants including vegetables, fruit, herbs and edible flowers.

The brainchild of executive chef Peter Fiori, the garden lies on each side of a narrow walkway around the roof of the building, lined with troughs and tubs in the bays between windows. There are excellent views over the Strand, St Martin-in-the-Fields, Nelson’s Column and Zimbabwe House.

Tour places are allocated via ballot – find out more and enter online now (the ballot closes on 17 May).

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Barbican Station Pop-up Garden

Visit the first community garden on the Underground, created on a 100m-long disused platform. DSC_0599 Find out more online then book from 8 May at 12 noon to 6 June at 12 noon, for a £3 charge on top of the standard ticket price.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Created to host the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, the Park was transformed from a brownfield site. Nearly 2 million tonnes of soil were decontaminated to make way for the largest wildflower meadow ever planted in the UK. Find out more online them book from 8 May at 12 noon to 6 June at 12 noon, for a £3 charge on top of the standard ticket price.

Guided walks

Over 50 specialist walks are on offer, with tickets available on a first-come-first-served basis. Walk highlights this year are now listed online, and include the following options, among many others.

A walk around Regent’s Park
Hear about the development of the park over the last 500 years, including how Henry VIII, Charles I, Oliver Cromwell and George IV all played a part in its story.

The Squares of Belgravia
These are some of the most desirable addresses in Westminster, and have been lived in by dukes, prime ministers, ambassadors, actors, poets and authors.

The Green Roofs of the City
Some of London’s most exciting green spaces are up in the sky! Visit three rooftop gardens and learn about planting for biodiversity high above the noise and traffic at street level.

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Inner Temple Garden

Copse and Robbers – Adventure in Caledonia
A journey through London’s edge lands taken over by nature.

Horticulture and the Law
Explore the gardens of four Inns of Court.

Blooms, Bombsites and Burial Grounds
Explore secret gardens and hidden green corners originating from the Great Fire of 1666, the bomb sites of the Blitz, and the Burial Act of 1855.

Queenhithe – the Rise of a Medieval Port
A riverside walk to include the 30-metre long Mosaic celebrating the Dock.

Cable Street and the Local Community
A walk celebrating community gardens in the East End.

Guest blog by Dr Emma Filtness: garden poems and how to write them

Emma Filtness, judge of our micro-poetry competition, discusses tiny poems and her favourite garden poets, as well as offering tips and exercises to help burgeoning writers craft their entries.


Poem2_Square
(c) Emma Filtness

As a writer and a London dweller passionate about nature, I was honoured to be asked to judge the inaugural micropoetry competition for Open Garden Squares Weekend 2018.

From Blake and Dickinson to Tennyson and Wordsworth, the poetry tradition has a long-standing love affair with the natural world, with gardens both formal and wild, and also with our historic and vast city. Having created two new micropoems for OGSW 2018 myself (pictured on this page), I wanted to share some of my favourite contemporary poems about gardens and green spaces with you, as well as offering some exercises and ideas to get you writing.

Let’s begin with a definition of micropoetry. For those unfamiliar with this relatively new term, it’s defined by The Micropoets Society as “a genre of poetic verse which is characterised by its extreme brevity.”

This brevity of form has long and established roots in traditions such as the Japanese haiku, yet is also having a bit of a moment of late, due to the fact that its brevity makes it perfectly suited for sharing on many social media platforms. As The Micropoets Society slogan states, it is “short enough for Twitter”.

OGSW_Poem_Square
(c) Emma Filtnes

The fact that these little poems are perfect for social media also means that many of the poems end up being visual poems, with platforms such as Instagram and Tumblr being image-driven. Many poems are either illustrated or otherwise presented in an aesthetically pleasing way that complements the subject of the poem, giving the writer yet another way to express his or her creativity. What I love about micropoetry (and its sister-form flash fiction) is that the fact that you have so few characters really forces you to focus on just one moment or image or feeling, and you compress the language in order to contain that. What you end up with is a highly pressurised poem, almost fit to burst.

I recently stumbled across a beautifully verdant little pamphlet entitled White Hills by Eric Gregory Award-winning poet Chloe Stopa-Hunt, published by Clinic in 2016, and it was love at first sight. The spaces of Stopa-Hunt’s poems are the titular white hills rather than our green spaces, but flowers permeate this strange and softly surreal landscape – tulips, cowslips, primrose and more – although the landscape is one of decay (flowers are, after all, transient). Charles Whalley for Sabotage Reviews notes that “[e]dible plants or flowers spring up from almost every page” and that Stopa-Hunt’s poems are “fiercely, precisely compressed into small, bright glimpses”.

A rain begins,
Of red
Morning flowers
And fresh,
Sufficient light.

–excerpt from Education by Chloe Stopa-Hunt

Another of my favourite nature poets is fellow Brunel University Creative Writing MA graduate Rebecca Hubbard. Her book-length work of prose poetry, fittingly titled The Garden of Shadow and Delight, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2014, and the publisher described the role of the garden as “a locus of art, rhythm, healing, vision and remembrance, moving between light and shadow, but always with the promise of ‘the scent of azaleas gusting in like honey’”.

On first entering the garden through the circle of the moon gate, you gasped. Didn’t you now, flowers are most beautiful by moonlight? 

XIV by Rebecca Hubbard

If these poets have inspired you to have a go at a micropoem, try the following exercises to help you get started.

Exercises

Four lines that rhyme:

Write four lines that rhyme about your favourite park or garden. Your rhyme scheme could be aabb, abab, or abca.

Write a haiku:

Pick a single image or moment from a park or garden and capture it in words. If you’d like your poem to be more along the traditional lines, include a season-word that indicates the time of year, and stick with three lines, the first 5 syllables, the second 7 syllables, the third and final line 5 syllables. Some ideas to get you started: a pigeon taking flight, a favourite flower blooming, a picnic rug unfurling…

Tips:

  • Try to keep your language fresh by steering clear of cliché
  • If the character count seems too restrictive, write long then trim it afterwards
  • Include sensory detail – sound, smell, touch and more – to really bring your poem to life
  • Try to include a simile or metaphor for an engaging way to capture your image or moment

Happy writing!

Find out all about the competition and enter on social media

Guest blog by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan: Squares – ‘the pride of London’s planning’

This week landscape designer and London Parks and Gardens Trust President Todd Longstaffe-Gowan writes about London’s unique and vital garden squares. 


Eccleston Square (c) Diana Jarvis
Eccleston Square (c) Diana Jarvis

As Anne Scott-James remarks in The Pleasure Garden (1977), ‘The communal garden of a residential square is a London speciality with no counterpart abroad. No group has ever understood comfort so well as the English middle class – certainly not the French, with their spindly furniture, nor the Americans, with their hazardous gadgets’. The square is, she concludes, ‘essentially an upper-middle-class perquisite… [and] one of the most comfortable garden ideas since the arbour with a turf seat’.

Gloucester Square (c) Candy Blackham
Gloucester Square (c) Candy Blackham

Most of us will know that squares are open spaces surrounded by houses, with enclosed central communal gardens. These gardens have historically been kept in perfect order at the expense of the inhabitants of the square, who alone have use of them.

We seldom, however, reflect on their origins, and the role they’ve played in the development of the metropolis. They’ve been desiderata of urban improvers since the early 17th century, have promoted novelty of design, elegance and spaciousness in the urban plan, and, through a combination of unique local circumstances have come to represent what has been described as ‘the special strain of civilisation which Britain has bequeathed to the world’.

Fassett Square
Fassett Square

The London square, moreover, has proved a resilient concept, one that has developed incrementally, imperceptibly and occasionally dramatically over the centuries. Thus, while surrounding buildings have been refaced or replaced, and while trees, shrubs, paths, lighting, garden buildings and railings have come and gone, squares almost invariably have stubbornly retained their spatial integrity.

My enduring fascination with squares has been sustained by a number factors, including their secure enclosure and the codes of behaviour that this has created to govern the use of these spaces.

Squares are to me much more than mere communal gardens – they are singular and well-developed social organisms which take on a kind of life dynamic: they are complex communities made up of interdependent individuals and groups more or less closely connected with one another, for whom their health is dependent on the harmonious interworking of the communities’ culture, politics and economics.

The square is above all an extraordinary microcosm of the metropolis – one that reflects a uniquely English response to the ordering and civilising of the vernacular landscape, and the development of urban open space.

Eaton Square (c) Gavin Gardiner
Eaton Square (c) Gavin Gardiner