THANK YOU to everyone who supported our Plant Sale and Community Day on May 21st at Charlton House. Whether you donated plants or bought them, you are all heroes! Your generosity will help the Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice, the Walled Gardens and our speaker programme, with many thanks!
Set up started early, we had sooo many plants to get out to the Back Lawn, and all the tables to position according to Mandy’s Grand Plan.
11 am rolled around quickly and the selling started..
We shared the day with lots of community groups as well as stalls from the Producers Market and everyone had a great time networking and selling their wares.
The City of London is a wonderful place to explore and is full of hidden- away gardens for us to access. We came upon this garden in early spring when we were meandering (slightly lost, really) towards the Barbican to visit the Conservatory.
A group of CABAHS members enjoyed a visit to Petersham House recently, open for one day under the National Garden Scheme. It was a bit of a challenge that the day chosen was that of the London Marathon, but everyone made it on time to meet at Cannon Street station. The crowds were mostly going the other way and very friendly!
The 17th century house near Richmond was bought by the Boglione family in 1997, and turned into a family home next to their renowned Petersham Nurseries. The gardens have a long walk, large borders set into yew hedging against the walls, topiary and a kitchen garden. The tulip displays were beautiful! Despite the drizzly weather, members had a great time wandering around before decamping to the tea rooms at the Nursery.
Our annual plant sale takes place on the back lawn at Charlton House on Sunday May 21st and this year it promises to be our biggest (and best?) yet. We are being joined by Blackheath & Greenwich WI as usual, with their scrumptious cakes and savouries. The following groups will be there, and perhaps a few more!
The Charlton Society, Charlton Community Gardens, Charlton Toy Library, Blackheath Flower Arranging Club, Friends of Charlton Park, Friends of Greenwich Park, St George’s Garrison Church Woolwich, Charlton Central Residents Association and Neighbourhood Watch, Charlton Neighbourhood Forum, Repurpose Silvertown Tunnel and Charlton House Beekeepers
Well, as we now know from a trawl through the CABAHS archive, our first Spring Show took place in April 1978, when the entries were recorded as “good considering the wintry conditions”. 45 years later, in 2023, our display has once again risen above the challenging weather and looked frankly fabulous!
Thank you to everyone who carried their exhibits into St Thomas’ Church hall, we had more entries than in the past few years, 73 in total, and everyone seemed to have a great evening. Our judge Mrs Norma Leslie said she had a hard time choosing the winners, listed below. Best in Show was awarded to Sharon’s “Perfect Pot of Pipits”, well deserved, and it was good to see so many entries in this class. The Wild Card class generated a lot of conversations around the range of entries, so that will be a fixture from now on. The short talk about past shows sparked some good ideas for future classes, such as one for Primroses and Auriculas and perhaps we can revive a “Domestic” class to add a baking angle to the evening (followed by some munching probably).
Here is an update on what Jason and the Gardenauts have been getting up to in the gardens since my last post. Apologies it’s rather long, we’ve been doing lots!
December turned the gardens into a winter wonderland, and caused us to miss a few days volunteering, but gave some great photo opportunities. The prolonged cold period hit a few of the more tender shrubs quite hard and we lost some big favourites like the Teucrium.
January was about cutting back, the ivy in particular. The old walls cannot take the weight of the ivy so we are taking it off in stages and being careful of wildlife. Our efforts revealed the top of the doorway for the first time in some years!
We have removed the palms from the front lawn beds and the beds will be re-designed this summer. The Palms were planted as part of an annual bedding scheme years ago and never envisaged to get as tall as they have. The Tete-a Tete daffodils have all been lifted and will go in the woodland glade next year. The Summerhouse has had a good weed and tidy-up, as has the Mulberry. Snowdrops and Hellebores popped up in the OPG woodland side.
In February, we discovered our regular feline visitor is called Casper and he lives in Canberra Road but clearly considers the gardens his playground.
The Barbican Conservatory is a tropical and sub-tropical botanical glass-roofed garden located on the third floor of the Barbican. It’s an ideal place to visit during the winter months (and all-year round) but on 16th March we hit the jackpot and were thrilled to see Clivia plants in full flower – perfect timing, as it is this month’s Plant of the Month!
This is the second largest conservatory in London (Kew gardens’ Temperate House being the largest). Opened in 1984, the walkways and terraces have been designed to encourage visitors to wander the pathways and along the walkways in order to explore and experience an urban jungle and to observe the characteristic form of every plant. Amongst the tropical planting, various exotic palms stand out and the handsome foliage of Monstera deliciosa (swiss cheese house-plant as we know it) is there to be admired. The majestically tall weeping fig tree emphasises the height of the conservatory and frames everything around it. Wide, arching stems of the handsome tree fern and the striking tree, Araucaria heterophylla (which we rested under), plus unusual climbers and shrubs including yuccas and cordylines, are amongst the 1500 plant species on show for the public to appreciate.
Just before Christmas I posed a question for everyone, asking what you think make Charlton House Gardens unique. I had a good number of replies, and I’m pleased to report that most of you DO think they are unique! But I have had a real challenge trying to consolidate them into a single idea.
Here are just a few extracts from your replies:
“The gardens are rooted in their sense of time and place, where you can imagine them as Jacobean gardens but where you can also see modern day planting. There is a passion and desire to keep these gardens relevant for future generations.”
“The House is an architectural gem, whose early inhabitants played a significant role in the revolutions of the seventeenth century; today, the gardens are an oasis of beauty and peace in the midst of the urban sprawl of London.”
“The gardens are small but contain as diverse and exciting planting as you might expect from a much larger space.”
“The gardens are public but very community focused, beloved of local gardeners creating fabulous displays and running special events.”
“Not unique, but certainly rare, in that they still have the atmosphere of the Jacobean age. Planting with a “nod” to the Jacobean era.”
“An unexpected historic oasis in a desert of modern housing”
“They play to a sense of history and yet have a contemporary design adapted to change of climate.”
“Unique because they are community-run but following professional design principles.”
So, at then end of all that, let’s go with:
Charlton House Gardens: an historic oasis of beauty and peace in the midst of the urban sprawl of London, where local volunteer gardeners work together to ensure the gardens stay beloved and relevant for future generations.
As a Garden Volunteer at Charlton House Gardens, I was recently asked to explain what makes the walled gardens and estate “unique”. The question was born of a genuine desire to understand and perhaps help the gardens become better known. Of course, it’s one of those questions that you go away and carry on thinking about.. and wonder what you should have said.
I asked our regular Volunteers what they thought (they keep on coming back, so they must love it for some reason!)
Lots of great ideas came up around biodiversity and pollinators and sustainability. But you could argue that every garden is unique – what makes this particular combination of place and plants so special? We kept coming back to community spirit – particularly as the gardens have had only a tiny amount of external funding – the majority of their transformation has come from community fund raising and effort, and crucially, the use of a professional garden designer.
A good point was made that if you compare Charlton House Gardens with, say, Greenwich Royal Park, Charlton attracts mostly local people and not your average tourist – so there is an great feeling of ownership and responsibility. They may attract the discerning tourist in future (we certainly hope they do) but for now they are in “our” Trust.
We often call the Old Pond Garden the “Secret Garden”, after Frances Hodgson Burnett’s childrens story, but one Volunteer suggested the Lost Gardens of Charlton (Heligan) might be a better comparison now, as we re-discover and re-imagine the original spaces.
What do YOU think? Send in your ideas of why Charlton House Gardens are unique, we would love to hear from you (anyone, not just members) to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will encapsulate your ideas into one “unique” statement in the New Year – and hopefully answer that question.