The Garden

Enjoy a tour of our garden if you’re unable to visit us! Sarah Davey, Head Gardener, filmed 2 tours in the spring/summer 2020. 

The botanic garden, hidden behind the Institute, has an atmosphere of green profusion. It is approached though a small conservatory which shelters tender plants in winter, and houses a collection of carnivorous plants. The latter double their grisly fascination – and beauty – when viewed though a microscope.

The garden can be visited whenever the Institute is open or for our special garden open days and evenings – see Visiting and Events

Densely planted, themed borders are formally laid out and separated by a grid of paved paths. The space is compact (24m x 16m), but the garden contains over 500 labelled species.

Medicinal Border

Plants used in both pharmaceutical and popular herbal remedies, including Artemisia annua, currently being developed as a new treatment against malaria. Valeriana officinalis (Valerian), Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet), Lobelia tupa, Scutellaria altissima (Somerset Skullcap), Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste tree) and Ephedera are also thriving.

Gerard’s Border

A selection of plants recorded by John Gerard of Holborn in his ‘Herball’ of 1596. Herbalists were the GPs of the day, prescribing these plants for a number of Tudor ailments, recommending the ingestion of the root of Angelica archangelica, ‘a singular remedie against poison, the plague and all infections taken by evill and corrupt aire’. The border also includes Cardamine pratensis (Lady’s Smock), Sanicula europaea (Sanicle), Stellaria holostea (Stitchwort), Stachys officinalis (Betony) and Anagallis arvensis (Scarlet Pimpernel).

Southern hemisphere area

Plants from Australasia and South Africa, including Muehlenbeckia astonii, an endangered coastal shrub from New Zealand, and Eucomis comosa (Pineapple flower) from the eastern Cape.

British natives, ferns, scented plants, drought tolerant plants, monocots and unusual vegetables are also represented.

Unusual trees create an ideal environment for shade loving plants. Sophora tetraptera (Kowhai) from New Zealand with yellow pea flowers, delicate foliage and bead-like seed pods thrives and Azara serrata, an evergreen from Chile, fills the April garden with vanilla perfume from its fluffy yellow flowers.

At the heart of the garden is the pond supporting native wetland plants and providing a home for frogs and newts. Sky blue Myosotis scorpioides (Water forget-me-not) flowers throughout the summer as well as Bogbean, Veronica beccabunga (Brooklime) and Stratiotes aloides (Water Soldier), which was popular in Victorian ponds.

Moss Trail

In March 2015 we opened London’s first Moss Trail, featuring 12 different sorts of moss. A leaflet and map detailing the mosses is available.

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One of the mosses on the Moss Trail, as featured in our Moss Photography workshop


In 2018 we were proud to obtain a grant from Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BCGI) to develop a partnership with the Botanic Garden of Rome. We visited their garden and others in the local area in April 2018 and they came here in June 2018. A lot was learnt on both sides. See the blog for more details.

Photo credits: Cath Pearson and Caroline Pankhurst, both of SLBI.