Each month, Londonist chooses a small museum to explore, sharing some surprises and a bit of behind-the-scenes info.
The Garden Museum experience is beautiful. Simply walking through the front yard and lingering amongst the half hidden gravestones, mooching around reading the nuggets of garden wisdom planted in amongst the wild patches is delightful. Pay to go in and you're plunged into the cool, calm sanctuary of the hollowed out St-Mary-at-Lambeth. If you can walk straight past the cafe with its deliciously tempting array of cakes you'll find yourself in the Tradescant Garden, home to a meticulously planted knot garden and a profusion of other plants selected for their relevance to the age of the Tradescants with scant regard for what would grow best where. That it looks amazing, even to the untrained eye is testament to the dedication of Museum staff and the fleet of volunteer gardeners who tend it year round. There's a number of seating places in the garden, from plain bench to fancy pergola and plenty of room to enjoy that cake al fresco, should weather permit. The growl of traffic on Lambeth Palace Road is muted here, and the tinkle of the water fountain and chirp of the birds is hypnotically soothing on a sunny, Spring morning.
The Museum has an eclectic permanent collection relating to garden history, ranging from paintings to garden implements through the ages, seed packages to pony lawn mower boots. One of the first things you see, is a wonderful Wenceslaus Holler engraving, 'The Prospect of London and Westminster' with St-Mary-at-Lambeth at its dead centre. Dating from 1647 it shows the landscape of rural Lambeth in the days before the bridges changed everything and the tomb of the Tradescants can be clearly seen, as it can in the churchyard garden today.
Next weekend is one of the finest times to pick to visit the Garden Museum as it will be full of roses - even the cafe will be serving rose inspired food. Riot of Roses runs on 7, 8 and 9 May between 10.30am and 5.30pm.
The Garden Museum is at St Mary at Lambeth, Lambeth Palace Road SE1 7LB a short walk from Waterloo, Lambeth North and right next door to Lambeth Palace. Normal admission £6/5/3, children free. We'll be bringing you more of the Museum throughout the month.