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.
We were back in the Old Library for an interesting and entertaining talk given by Steve Edney on his work as head gardener at Salutation and subsequent development of his own private garden and nursery. He is also a RHS volunteer trial judge involved in the Nepeta AGM.
Salutation House and garden is located in Sandwich by the River Stour. Designed by Edward Lutyens in 1912 as a weekend retreat for the three London-based Farrer brothers. Noted for the outstanding design symmetry between house and garden. Sold in 1945 when the brothers died, the magnificent gardens became somewhat overgrown and neglected over time. In the 1970’s Portland Stone was smashed up and laid as crazy paving!
Steve was appointed head gardener in 2005 to oversee the restoration. The owners by then were Steph and Dom of Gogglebox fame. With little interest in the garden apart from being a party space, they allowed him a somewhat free hand.
An initial task was stripping back an avenue of 50’ Holm trees to almost sticks. Our own Old Pond Garden volunteers were very interested in his idea of topiary using Holm Oaks, given how many we have at Charlton House!
2013 saw the garden devastated by salt water flooding and 1,500 plants, 9 mature trees and hedging were lost. 5 million litres of water became trapped in the lower third of the garden and had to be pumped out. Steve and his team overcame this and in 2019 they went on to win Gold at Chelsea for a winter border, which only cost £157! He followed with his Plant Hunter’s Jungle Camp taking best exhibit in the Floral Marquee at Hampton Court.