“When a man is tired of London he is tired of life” so said Samuel Johnson to Boswell in 1777. Living in rural Worcestershire, I often travel to London to visit galleries, exhibitions, museums, markets, gardens, the Chelsea Flower show, for an injection of City life. Simply walking through the London streets and parks or looking at the architecture can provide food for thought or give me ideas for a new garden design project.
Last week I visited to catch the “Pre Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde” show at Tate Britain. The walk down from Westminster towards Millbank was chilly but the watery winter sunlight was glinting off the Shard and silhouetted the London Plane trees in Victoria Tower Gardens.
These huge grand old trees Platanus x hispanica are synonymous with the London street scene and according to Kew, account for as many as half of the trees planted in the Capital. A hybrid tree from south eastern Europe they first appeared in Britain around the middle of the 17th century.
Attractive self-shedding bark
Their ability to tolerate city pollution, compacted soil and regular pruning along with their ability to shed their bark makes them an ideal species to green our urban streets.
In wintertime their pom pom like seed balls resemble forgotten Christmas decorations, but come spring when the seeds and fluff from the new leaves is released hay fever sufferers beware!
The London Plane trees within the grounds of Chelsea Hospital every May give rise to the “Chelsea Cough” when many Flower Show visitors are heard coughing and sneezing their way around the show gardens!
Old Plane Trees at Chelsea overshadow a show garden’s living roof
Growing to height of more than 30 metres and having a long lifespan, some planted in the London squares are thought to be more than 200 years old, they are best planted in parkland settings; certainly not a species for a small back garden!
Stately Plane trees of Charterhouse Square.
Florin Court 1930’s moderne style apartments overlook the Square, fans of Poirot may recognise the facade as Whitehaven Mansions!
Cadogan Square Gardens
London clearly has its own unique microclimate and the Phoenix palm on the roundabout at Lambeth Bridge is living testament to this! This plant would be wrapped up in protective fleece if it was planted in my garden!
A Taste of the Tropics near Lambeth Bridge
Oh and the Pre Raphaelite exhibition was excellent!
On my way back to Pimlico tube station I was reminded of the statue of Millais appropriately seen against a background of London Plane trees. The picture below was taken last summer.
John Everett Millais a founder of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood