Search

Tour around the Gardens of St James Park

Last week I went on an interesting guided tour of St James Park Gardens. Learning about all the interesting plants and meeting the Head Gardener, Verity Joyner. More tours will be done in the autumn. This is their first time running the tours, and it should be a regular event.

St James Park sits in the centre of London, England, and is one of the eight Royal Parks of the city. It covers an area of about 57 acres and is bordered by Buckingham Palace to the west, The Mall and St. James’s Palace to the north, Horse Guards Parade to the east, and Birdcage Walk to the south. The park is well known for its picturesque views, lush greenery, and diverse wildlife, particularly its famous pelicans.

I have been photographing the gardens for years and took this opportunity to take a guided tour which was more focused on the plants. Here are some interesting plants we saw and spoke about on tour.

Some of the interesting plants and trees include the Medlar tree (Mespilus germanica), where you can only eat the fruit after it is rotten. This is the same tree that was mentioned in Romeo & Juliet.

Another attractive tree is the Strawberry tree which sits in the flower borders near Horse Guards Road. Laiden with fruit in the early summer.

Next on our tour was the Maidenhair tree, also known as Ginkgo biloba. It is one of the oldest tree species in the world and is sometimes called the fossil tree. The fruit of the Maidenhair tree is a delicacy in China and is called the ‘silver apricot’.

There are lots of Babylon weeping willow trees around the park. Also known as Salix babylonica. Slender catkins are produced alongside the new leaves in spring.

The Rose Walk garden has Tibetan Cherry trees with their distinctive bark. Also, known as Prunus serrula, they are native to China and an ornamental tree in many parts of the world for their striking coppery-red bark.

Below you can also see the photographs I took.

Head Gardener

The chartity that runs the Royal Parks appointed five head Gardeners in January 2023. To lead and inspire horticultural teams across the 5000 acres of the historic parkland in London. They will also oversea an expansion of the horticultural volunteer programme and mentoring with apprentices. They will also look after the seasonal planting and the design, layout and care.
 
For St James Park which also includes Green Park,  the head gardener is Verity Joyner.
 
“We are delighted to bring the Head Gardener roles in-house. The passion and drive that these Head Gardeners bring to the role are an asset to the parks and to the horticultural teams that they manage. Seeing many of them start as The Royal Parks apprentices and work their way up to the role of Head Gardener is incredibly rewarding. It also demonstrates how worthwhile our apprenticeship programme is.”
Tom Jarvis, Director of Parks at the Royal Parks

History of the Park

The history of St. James’s Park dates back to the 16th century when King Henry VIII acquired the previously marshy area and transformed it into a deer park for hunting. The name “St. James” comes from a leper hospital dedicated to St. James the Less that was situated on the site during the medieval period.

In 1603, King James I further developed the park by draining the marshland and creating a collection of exotic animals, including crocodiles and camels, and an aviary for exotic birds.

During the reign of King Charles II (1660-1685), the park underwent a significant transformation. Inspired by the gardens he had seen during his exile in France, Charles II redesigned St. James’s Park, introducing a more formal landscape with a central avenue of trees and a long, straight canal. The park also became a popular venue for courtiers and fashionable society, where they could stroll and mingle. Charles II opened the park to the general public, making it one of the earliest public parks in London.

In the early 19th century, the park underwent another major redesign under the direction of John Nash, a leading architect and city planner. Nash created a more natural landscape, replacing the formal avenues and straight canals with sinuous paths, a serpentine lake, and irregularly shaped lawns. He also added many of the park’s most iconic features, such as the Blue Bridge, which provides a scenic viewpoint over the lake.

Throughout its history, St. James’s Park has been a favourite destination for locals and visitors alike. It has also hosted various historical events, including celebrations, protests, and even military displays. Today, the park continues to be a beloved green space in the heart of London, offering a tranquil escape from the bustling city and various activities and events for people of all ages.

How to get to St James Park?

The nearest tube station is St James Park, or you can come from Westminister or Charing Cross, which is a short 10min walk.
 
The plants are replaced in the borders in the middle of spring and autumn. They are recycled into compost or go in the nursery. For the King’s Coronation, the plants will be replaced with plants in pots. Though the pots are below the surface, these will be on display for a couple of weeks before the summer bedding plants return.
 
Many thanks for reading and looking at my photographs; sign up for my newsletter, where you can learn about many more events in London that I share with you.

Photos were taken on the tour

More photos can be found on my links below.

Recommended

Refik Anadol: Echoes of the Earth

Refik Anadol: Echoes of the Earth

Refik Anadol: Echoes of the Earth: Living Archive exhibition is at the Serpentine North Gallery until 7th April 2024. Dive into the heart of nature reimagined through the lens of machine intelligence at Refik Anadol’s groundbreaking exhibition, Echoes of the Earth: Living Archive.

April Events 2024

From the whimsical dance of cherry blossoms to the proud stance of tulips and the delicate carpet of bluebells, our surroundings are bursting into a kaleidoscope of colours. Whether you’re a photography enthusiast eager to capture the ephemeral beauty of spring or simply someone who delights in the joy of meandering through floral marvels, this season promises an enchanting palette of experiences.

March Events 2024

Spring has arrived, and the days are getting longer, so there is more time to enjoy events around London. There is plenty to see and immerse yourself in.

Advertising

  • Sale! Digital Downloads

    Digital Download

    £5.50

    Digital Download

    £5.50

    Digital download of one of my photographs.

    Quick View
  • Cassiobury Park Fireworks

    Cassiobury Park Fireworks 2017

    £14.99£95.99

    Cassiobury Park Fireworks 2017

    £14.99£95.99

    The stunning display of fireworks this year would make an ideal gift from Watford.

    Quick View
  • Lord Mayor Show Fireworks

    Lord Mayors Fireworks Show

    £14.99£95.99

    Lord Mayors Fireworks Show

    £14.99£95.99

    Looking towards St Paul’s Cathedral along the Thames when the Lord Mayors Show Fireworks took place.

    Quick View
  • London Eye with love

    London Eye with love

    £14.99£95.99

    London Eye with love

    £14.99£95.99

    An iconic feature of the London skyline it especially looks good when the colour changes as it does during valentines week.

    Quick View
  • Rose drop

    Rose drop

    £14.99£95.99

    Rose drop

    £14.99£95.99

    Rain drops on roses

    Quick View
  • Crocuses

    Crocuses circle the Bandstand

    £14.99£95.99

    Crocuses circle the Bandstand

    £14.99£95.99

    The band stand back in its original location in Cassiobury park in 2016, the spring crocuses looked beautiful against the back drop.

    Quick View