The father and son who planted an obsession

The British obsession with gardening owes much to the intrepid plant-hunters who searched the world for rare and exotic blooms. Two of the most successful, the John Tradescants, father and son, are the inspiration for The Museum of Garden History, hidden away a few feet from the Thames and across the river from the Houses of Parliament. The discovery of an ornate tomb in the churchyard of the deconsecrated St Mary-at-Lambeth led the founders to rescue the church and to create around the tomb an 18th-century-style garden.

Something for children

Follow the tulip trail, then design a tulip and enter your picture for a prize. Activity sheets send youngsters in search of curios such as the glass cucumber straightener. There is also the tomb of Captain Bligh of mutiny on the Bounty fame.

Something for adults

Take a whistlestop tour through the history of gardening and you'll appreciate how much we owe to the Romans, who created gardens for the villas they built in Britain. The next two millennia of gardening fashions are vividly recreated. There are also exhibits on tulipomania and on the influence of the Grand Tour on landscaping. The garden itself has plants brought by the Tradescants, a knot garden, and a reassuring number of weeds.

Refreshments

The outstanding vegetarian lunches must be one of London's best-kept secrets. Main courses at around £4.

Souvenirs

A £1 packet of mystery seeds makes for an interesting sprouting session.

Admission and access

Open daily, 10.30am to 5pm. Voluntary admission charge £3 (£2.50 concessions). Entry to shop or café only is free. Ramps and a toilet for wheelchair-users. Braille and scented plants for the visually impaired.

How to get there

Museum of Garden History, Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7LB ( 020 7401 8865; www.museum gardenhistory.org).

By car. No car park. By public transport: mainline services to Waterloo or Victoria, then bus 507. Other buses: 77 (week days), C10, 3, and 344.

Comments