Open gardens and front gardens across north London

Parking Space Gardening, with permission, in N7

Parking Space Gardening, with permission, in N7 - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Our gardening correspondent praises examples of floriferous front gardens or even those which take over station platforms and parking spaces

After months without any garden openings, some are beginning to happen through the National Gardens Scheme (NGS)

NGS supports nursing charities. During the lockdown it has had to be inventive, with virtual visits and donation requests, to try to keep funds coming in.

For a real-life visit, you need to book a timed slot through the website ( and then hope for good weather. To the disappointment of many, there will be no tea and cakes.

The pretty front gardens of the railway cottages in Dorset Road, Alexandra Palace, were open for the NGS last Sunday. But if you happen to be passing lavender, roses, honeysuckle, daisies, a mature mulberry tree and other delights await you.

It’s an unusual treat to see a run of front gardens looking loved and cared for. And nearby the musician Michael Solomon Williams has been beguiling some of his enforced leisure by gardening around Alexandra Palace Station. This continues the existing project of The Friends of Ally Pally Station, but there has been a new emphasis on precipice gardening. Michael carries water from his flat, so those rocketing June temperatures must have been a challenge.

Returning to front gardens, what a joy it is to notice and be nourished by those that are full of plants, as opposed to paving or rubbish. My lockdown walks have included happy moments in front of a house in the next street. I have only once encountered the gardener, last year. She is elderly, but she must be out watering everyday, because a lot of her plants are in pots. Starting in March with daffodils, the garden soon turned into a mass of tulips, camellias, wallflowers, bergenia, then peonies, clematis, campanula, now an outburst of hydrangea, hollyhock, fuchsia, geranium, pinks, with Japanese anemones to come. This is not a “designer garden”, but is the expression of a great and communicative love of flowers.

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In another local street I saw a parked van with a name suggesting that front gardening was its concern. For a moment I was hopeful, but then a man started unloading paving slabs … so, a firm specifically devoted to turning front gardens into deserts. Attractive, neat deserts I will admit, having looked at the relevant website, but with plants, if allowed at all, looking frightened to put a leaf out of place. How much more sympathetic, good for invertebrates and absorbent of floodwater is the contrary trend of gardening out in the street. A neighbour has made a big flowerbed of pallets on what was a parking space, but is now bursting with salvia, fennel, cosmos, snapdragons, marigolds, ivy, etc. This move, anticipating a car-free, floriferous London, is not universally welcomed, but is a lot more positive than “slabbing”.

The garden of 24, Twyford Avenue, N2, will be open on July 12.