If Kew Gardens is overwhelming in its scale, why not try lots of little gardens instead? This weekend, 173 gardens around town open their gates to the public. Many are not normally accessible unless you enjoy a name like Abramovich or Chumley-Warner. Some offer wine tasting, others put on fetes and festivals, and some remain quiet for you to enjoy the tranquility of artificial nature.
The list of sites participating in Open Garden Squares weekend is somewhat overwhelming. Fortunately, the organisers have built a couple of tools to help you plan your weekend. Self-guided walks offer focused routes around the most verdant parts of town, while the garden selector acts like an advanced search, allowing you to uncover gardens that match your 'interests' (which, alarmingly, include the option 'Gardens with toilets').
Our picks? Kensington Roof Gardens is always popular, but the SOAS garden on the roof of UCL is quieter and delightfully stoney. St Dunstan in the East is an unexpected treat in the middle of the City. Hardcore gardeneers can check out the Museum of Garden History in Lambeth, and couple the visit with a look at Lambeth Palace's lawns. We're almost bored of recommending the Hill Garden on Hampstead Heath—one of the true wonders of London. Then there's the floating herbaceous borders of the Garden Barge Square (near Bermondsey) and the bomb site turned shangri-la of Bonnington Square, Vauxhall.
Something for everyone (unless you suffer extreme hay fever), and at just £7.50 for the entire weekend it is considerably cheaper than Kew.