There are a lot of Did you knows? in this post. Did you know that wisteria comes in white as well as purple? And grows as trees as well as climbing? Did you know there’s a hidden garden right in the middle of Regent’s Park where you can see white wisteria trees in flower now? If the answer is no, then read on.
The discreetly hidden entrance to St John’s Lodge Garden is on the Inner Circle of Regent’s Park, just a couple of dozen yards from the Chester Gate into Queen Mary’s Garden. But while the crowds flow into Queen Mary’s Garden for the roses, only a select few know enough to take a detour to St John’s Lodge.
St John’s Lodge is a private villa. It was built in 1818 by John Raffield and was the second villa in the park to be occupied. In the nineteenth century it passed through various hands: in 1847 it belonged to the Goldsmid brothers and was greatly enlarged by Charles Barry. In 1889 the lease was acquired by the 3rd Marquess of Bute, who commissioned Robert Weir Schultz to improve the garden layout.
In the twentieth century it was used by a succession of institutions – as a hospital for disabled officers during the First World War, as the Headquarters of St. Dunstan’s from 1921 to 1937 and to house the Institute of Archaeology from 1937 to 1958. It is now a private residence again but with public access to the gardens.
Shultz designed the garden as a series of compartments ornamented with sculpture and stonework. It was intended to be ‘fit for meditation’, and has a special tranquility about it even today.
The statue in the centre of the main garden is Hylas and the Nymph statue by Henry Pengram.
Wisteria doesn’t naturally grow in a tree shape. It has to be specially staked in an upright position and pruned by cutting off the top when it has reached four to five feet. Then side shoots are allowed to develop on the upper part, but are continually removed from the lower stem. And there you have your tree.
White wisteria trees mark the corners of each of the green lawn paths leading to the central statue. Their long trailing flowers wave gracefully in the breeze.
I took these pictures last Wednesday, and you can see the wisteria blooms are still partly in bud, so if you’re thinking of going to see it for yourself, it should be in full flower by now, along with some lovely purple iris.