Preview: Open Gardens Day

The Pagoda, Pagoda Gardens, SE3
28, Granville Park SE13
12, Eliot Vale, SE3

15th June 6.00pm – 9.00pm

I’m sure that many people will know about this already, but I thought I’d give the rest of you a heads-up on one of the great opportunities-to-be-nosey of the year. Part of the National Gardens Scheme, three of the best private gardens in Blackheath are open for one evening only for the public to enjoy, the proceeds going to various good causes. It’s an evening that I normally would not miss, though sadly I can’t make it this year.

The great thing about these particular gardens is that the owners have got together and made them open on the same evening at the same time, so that, in a very civilised move, you can wander between the three of them, enjoying a glass of wine at each as the sun sets. So very civilised…

The Pagoda is probably the most famous of the three. I will come to the house itself another day – it warrants an entry on its own – but the garden is wonderful – totally in keeping with the house’s history. An English interpretation of an oriental fantasy, the half-acre includes shady walks, a water garden with a suitably red lattice pergola and some truly lovely country-style planting. There is some fabulous old stonework, and a great mix of jungly/tropical and old English plants.

28 Granville Park is a long, narrow garden with separate ‘rooms’ – right next to the house there is a sunken area with giant ferns and palms. My overwhelming memory is of a splendid circular lawn and intense planting. There’s a pond and, right at the far end, a dry garden. Plenty of shady nooks and interesting corners.

12 Eliot Vale is completely different. Designed for access (presumably there’s someone with disabilities in the family) the paths are long, wide and winding, and the planting is low. The pond is raised – I assume to avoid accidents, and there’s an enchanting little summerhouse in the centre. It’s an odd shape – just when you think you’ve got to the end, it turns a corner in an extra bit that they presumably bought off the neighbours. Lovely and shady. This garden seems younger than the others to me – an extra year on, it may well have established much more. The sculptures that are dotted around may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s certainly a bold idea and they add interest, mingling in with the plants.

On the surface, it’s not a ‘cheap’ evening. Each garden costs £ 3.50 entrance fee, which notches up if you have a family, but if memory serves, this includes a glass of wine, and, let’s face it, it’s all for charity and it’s a lovely evening. Somewhere in my mind it costs less if you go to all three. My suggestion would be to give up on the savings front and book a nice restaurant in Blackheath Village afterwards.

Enjoy – let me know what you think if you go.

BTW, I’ll be coming onto the other Open Gardens – for Bexley Cottage Hospice, and in the centre of Greenwich for GreenwichAlive another day…

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