Hammersmith Reflections – Award Winning Secret Gardens Open Saturday 9 June
Hammersmith United Charities is thrilled to announce the charity has won two awards at the London Gardens Society Competition for each of its two sheltered housing schemes for older people. Sycamore House won third place for the large community gardens at the awards ceremony. However, community gardener Jackie Thompson was particularly pleased to receive first prize and the Challenge Cup for John Betts House in the small community gardens category.
You have a once in a year opportunity to visit both secret gardens as part of the Open Garden Squares Weekend on Saturday 9th June between 2pm and 5pm. Tickets at the door £4 or at www.opensquares.org for all gardens across London open at the weekend, children up to 11 go free.
After several years of second and third places, and facing stiff competition from rival Almshouses, the internal garden courtyard at John Betts House, achieved the accolade under the leadership of Jackie (and trusty helper, Tilly the dog!) “It feels brilliant, because it’s a lot of work. It’s judged on RHS guidelines, with points for immediate colour, points for tidiness and cleanliness, points for proper use of plants in the right place and sustainability,” Jackie said.
Jackie joined the charity in December 2003 and built the garden up with the help from volunteer garden residents. The secluded garden was used to dump rubble from building work when John Betts House was refurbished in 1998, so digging has proved to be very difficult.
Given the challenge the garden presents, Jackie explained one of the ways to improve it was to plant above soil level. This means the garden is filled with hanging baskets and raised beds, where residents can plant vegetables and fruits in the summer. The focal piece of the garden is the series of arches which are covered with plants and grasses and which Jackie changes every year.
Of course, the overall appearance of the garden is enhanced by the array of hanging baskets, pots and plants which are created by the residents and adorn the balconies surrounding the main courtyard garden. These balconies were recognised at the London Gardens Society awards, as residents James Geraghty (Sycamore House) and Clodagh Corcoran (John Betts House) won third place in the Balcony and Container displays category at the Almshouses Residents’ Garden Competition.
Clodagh, who has lived at John Betts House for more than four years, explained she loves looking out onto the garden and enjoying the peace it offers. “I love the garden here. I like looking at the colour, the peace in this garden, you could cut it, it’s so quiet and lovely. There are always tiny birds moving around, very early in the morning picking up insects, its lovely, there’s a whole world out there,” Clodagh said. “We wouldn’t have a garden if it wasn’t for Jackie, she built it from gravel up. Everybody loves the garden, people who come here, and it had never occurred to them to have a flower pot and she has encouraged them.”
Jackie said she is motivated by the fact she has created something beautiful for the residents to enjoy and residents who have never had an interest in gardening now relish spending time on their balcony displays, including Kate Macdonald who spends every day tending to her red geraniums. “I like that I have created in both places a very nice place to live, that makes people feel at home, that they feel secure and there’s stimulation in colour and texture and perfume,” Jackie added. “It’s all about creating a home for birds and insects as well, its wildlife. Especially in a city it’s really important…it’s like a little hidden paradise.”
John Betts House has added even more to its natural ‘wow’ factor given by the design that conceals its garden completely from garden view. The garden now contains newly painted benches, a new fountain and swing seat for residents to enjoy, bought with funds from one of the Open Garden Squares event held every year at the gardens.
The London Gardens Society awards come at a very special time for the charity as it celebrates its 400th anniversary in 2018. For this reason, the residents of Sycamore House and John Betts House would like to invite the local community to visit the secret, beautiful and award-winning gardens at the next Open Garden Squares event held on Saturday 9 June 2018 and encourage keen local gardeners to keep in touch in order to be updated on our very own gardeners question time in September.