Two unassuming Islington gardens

A week or so ago I went to a conference in London, related to my (non-gardening) day job. My cheap hotel was near Old Street roundabout; the conference was at City University London. This meant that, for three mornings in a row, I passed by two* unassuming urban-Islington gardens.

The first garden proper was King’s Square Gardens. This was quite a utilitarian space, with a playground, locked-down community centre and somewhat trodden turf.


But the mossy hard landscaping formed a good structure for some really nice planting, even in early March. This mixture of euphorbia, skimmia (?) and maybe photinia burgeoned out from the beds as if it were green July growth:


Birch, willow and other trees were a good foil for the occasional high-rises nearby:


Closer up, the beds were filling with muscari:


(which always slightly weird me out, like waterlily seed heads.)

The second garden, in front of and surrounded by City University’s buildings, was Northampton Square Gardens. Again—probably thanks to students!—the turf had suffered over the winter, but it was still a pleasant space:


The beds were overflowing with white daffodils, which always seem slightly classier than their twittish yellow cousins:


A water fountain—now sadly in slight neglect and not working as far as I could tell—still explains that Charles Clement Walker laid out these gardens for the public:


More background about Northampton Square here. On one of the spur roads leading to the (rounded) square was this amazing plant:


Flowering its heart out:


If anyone knows what it is, then do say! [Edit: it could be a Sophora chrysophylla?]

Neither of these gardens were RHS Chelsea showstoppers, but they each of them brightened up the neighbourhood, and provided important, greened, planted public space. A little lung, a little place to sit, a little oasis of calm. I suppose the moral is that, wherever you are in London, then while you’re often not anywhere very green, you’re never too far from it. And we should look after these spaces; because once they’re gone, they’re gone.

(*Two and a half, if you include the triangle of—private?—green between Lever St and Mora St, and the occasional planters containing, among other things, these tiny narcissus, no more than 20cm high:)


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