There comes a time every year where I get an overwhelming urge to start growing a herb garden. Each time I get packets and packets of seeds, pots and some earth in order to make the perfect window-sill herb garden. Each year, well, lets just say instead of a lush, fecund mini-garden I end up with a plant graveyard.
I fear it is only a matter of time before the Peace Lily that sits on my desk at work succumbs to a similar fate…
In order to spare the poor Peace Lily from an untimely end I decided to explore the Garden Museum in deepest darkest Lambeth. You might not realise, but this part of London has a strong botanical connection. The Tradescants were famous seventeenth century Plant Hunters as well as museum pioneers whose collection formed a founding part of the Ashmolean Museum.
The Garden Museum (previously known as The Museum of Garden History) aims to capture ‘the garden zeitgeist’ according to the Director, Christopher Woodward. Now there is an aptronym!
The museum has existed since 1977, but in 2008 it reopened like a perennial coming back into bloom. You can find it on the site of St Mary of Lambeth Church. And why here? Well, readers, it is here because this is where John and Rosemary Nicholson discovered the tomb of the Tradescants.
Isn’t it astonishing? Apparently, the female dragon represents Hester Tradescant, John Sr’s wife. The museum chooses to interpret this in the most positive of ways “Dragons are the watchful keepers of of Treasures” which they say “symbolises Hester’s determination to act as the watchful keeper of her husband’s famous collection of Rarities.”
The greeting I received from the lady at the front desk was perhaps the warmest, friendliest, most welcoming greeting I’ve ever received. She was so enthusiastic and did the ever-so-charming thing of asking if I was a student (there is a discount for the student-y types you see) before double checking I wasn’t a Friend of the Museum or a member of the Horticultural Society and all the other permutations that result in a discount. It was really quite lovely!
And I got a sticker. I do love a good sticker.
The collection itself is very interesting, and includes this book which links it back to the Tradescants’ Musaeum Tradescantianum; the first public museum in Britain.
I know what you’re thinking now, readers; “It’s a Garden Museum. Where are all the plants? WHERE IS THE GARDEN?”
Patience, Readers. The Gardens are at the back of the museum. They are, quite simply, stunning.