The Garden Museum-Lambeth

Finally, I made it to The Garden Museum.  I’ve tried on previous visits to London, but something always conspired to keep me away.  When it was first opened, it was only open for certain months of the year and I always went at the wrong time.  The museum is located on the south bank of the Thames, next to Lambeth Palace and opposite Tate Britain.  It’s about a half mile from The Imperial War Museum, so we walked.  We needed this after the utter horror and sadness of, not only all of the war machines of death, but the Holocaust exhibition there.

The garden is my therapy and it’s where I find myself after any very emotional state that I may find myself in, so I suggested this at the end of our visit to the war museum.  It’s a small museum and there is a fee here, £5.00 for adults and well worth the price if this is where your interests lie.

I will quote The Garden Museum’s website to tell you how the museum came about, “The Museum was set up in 1977 in order to rescue from demolition the abandoned ancient church of St Mary’s which is the burial place of John Tradescant (c1570 – 1638), the first great gardener and plant-hunter in British history. His magnificent and enigmatic tomb is the centrepiece of a knot garden planted with the flowers which grew in his London garden four centuries ago.”

It’s really a lovely church and when you first walk in you get the feeling that this is a very special place.  Compared to so many other museums I’ve visited in London, this is on a smaller scale, but it doesn’t feel small at all.  It’s light and airy and the displays are attractive and easy to see.  There is gorgeous artwork and drawings of garden design and old garden tools.  My favorite display was the actual antique garden tools.  They are hung in lighted cases that make it easy to see them, and there are many drawings and paintings  of the tools being used.

It has about 6000 objects covering about 400 years of British gardening.  It’s kind of amazing that this has been amassed only the last three decades and continues to grow.  I had to ask Neil why, in our vacation photos,  we have at least 20  from the war museum and none from the garden museum.  The answer to that is because he had possession of the camera!

There is also a great gift shop here and I got my friend a really nice pair of secuteurs for her upcoming birthday.  I bought myself a wooden dibble and a little device to make seedling pots from newpaper.  Very useful.  There were so many beautiful arty postcards that I bought about eight of them to either frame or give as gifts.

The Garden Cafe looked very good with lots of fresh produce and soups.  There is a lovely place to eat in the knot garden and the sign says freshly baked cakes and seasonal tarts.  We didn’t eat at the cafe because of timing, but on our next trip I will plan the better part of a day for the museum and of course lunch.

We both loved the garden and walked around in wonder at some of the plants on display there.  The climate is similar to ours here in the Pacific Northwest, yet they had blooming Oleanders!  This is a plant that is everywhere is Southern California, but I’ve never seen it up north.   This a churchyard after all and besides the tomb of John Tradescant, Captain Bligh, depicted in the famous film “Mutiny on the Bounty” is buried here.  Most American’s only know him from the movie and Charles Laughton’s version of a rather horrible ship’s captain.   His actual history is very different from what is portrayed in film.  Here is the text from his tomb:

It’s worth reading the history of this hero of the English navy.  Neil and I were sympathetic when we read not only his epitaph, but his wife, Elizabeth who died in 1812,  as well as their twin sons, William and Henry, aged one day.  Also, an inscription to William Bligh Barker, a grandson, who died in 1805.

Wandering through the church yard and garden you see a lot of normal signs of garden work.  There are volunteers here working to keep the garden in shape.

We noticed a layered device with a spout on it with the label “the wormery”.    Of course I had to know how it works.  The volunteer was very helpful and opened it up to show us the layers, where they put kitchen waste and the end result as the worms turn it into compost and liquid fertilizer to use in the garden.  My own composting process works pretty well, so I don’t think I will be buying one for my garden.  It’s a great idea and one that can be made many different ways to benefit your own garden.

This is what a museum should be: attractive, interesting, educating, historical, and this is exactly what The Garden Museum does.

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