Concrete jungle: Discover a bucolic vision in an unlikely setting

Concrete? I'll have you know that reinforced concrete was invented by a gardener. The gardener in question was a Frenchman, Joseph Monier, who was trying to make the best-ever plant pot. (This isn't the kind of thing that gardeners just happen to know: I read it in a book about inventions I got at the Science Museum.) Gazing at Marseille's Unité, a block of apartments by Le Corbusier, it occurs to me that we have all been labouring under the misapprehension that gardening and concrete don't exactly go together. The truth is that the most brutal building always looks better with a lawn of verdant green. And some palm trees.

Even where a concrete building has no permanent garden, there is always the opportunity to make something more fleeting. This year, more temporary gardens than ever before have been created in London's concretiest districts, with a particularly good concentration around the South Bank. Celebrating 50 years since the 1951 Festival of Britain, the site has already been decked in bunting, beach huts and conceptual bandstands. Now just mix in some aeoniums and whoosh: you've got a garden party.

First, directly in front of the Royal Festival Hall, there is a tribute to Southend, Essex's legendary beach resort. Springing out of the paving next to the vintage ice-cream van selling exorbitantly priced Roskilly's, there is a proper seaside gardening border: wavy ribbon edges, palms, bottlebrush and a cockler's hut, all in boastful good health. It's true that the South Bank does like to get a bit beach holiday-ish even in a normal summer, but the Southend bed is a glorious celebration of the kind of municipal horticulture you usually get only by the seaside.

Next, climb the yellow staircase to the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall to find an entire vegetable garden ready to eat. This garden is the brainchild of designers at the Eden Project, in co-operation with a team from the housing charity Providence Row. Raised beds have been created, there's a greenhouse, but there's also a sort of little wild, wooded grassland area edged with logs on end, which is a delight. Add in a view over to the Savoy and Somerset House, and you've got almost the perfect English garden. (Also, there is a bar, which helps.)

Finally, if you have the energy, take a walk inland from the river to Union Street, not far from Tate Modern, and you'll find yourself in the Urban Physic Garden, constructed by the same team who last year created a blissful pop-up orchard on the same site. Showing off a huge range of medicinal plants and herbs, there are talks, workshops, film screenings and other events, in a surprisingly fragrant setting.

Gardens at the South Bank is open until 4 September. The Physic Garden is open until 15 August ( physicgarden.org.uk)

Get the look

1. Concrete planters

Kensuke's square concrete planter can be ordered in plain cool shades, or pigmented in colours from green to marigold. £50 untinted from thethirdnature.co.uk

2. Concrete herb wheel

Six sections to keep rampaging herbs in their place, in stylish grey. £70 from ingarden.co.uk

3. Concrete bench

Urbis makes a sleek "shell bench" with shades of Barbara Hepworth in concrete grey with ash legs (right). Very Cornwall, very 1950s, and very beautiful. For prices, contact urbisdesign.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Tester

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Software Tester is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Developer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: The Company sells mobile video advertising sol...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have a vacancy within our ra...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - 1st Line Helpdesk - West London - £25,000

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - 1st Line Helpde...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project