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Monday, 23 March 2015

London's new Sky Garden

The capital's newest and highest public space, The Sky Garden, at the top of the Walkie Talkie (aka 20 Fenchurch St), is now open and thriving. The first visitors back in February were rather underwhelmed with the planting, but the better weather and longer daylight hours means the plants are starting to feel at home under the glass dome.
When I was there last week, new shoots were emerging on the tree ferns and an iris was in full bloom.
The atmosphere is tropical, with plants mostly from Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand and the Mediterranean – look for the Aeonium (below) African Lily (Agapanthus), Red Hot Poker  (Kniphofia) and Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae).
 Interspersed are fragrant herbs including French Lavender and Rosemary.
The gardens run down terraces on either side of the venue, with restaurants in the centre and observation decks at the front and back. There’s also an open-air terrace facing south, looking towards the Thames, Tower Bridge and the Shard.
 The Sky Garden is on the 35th floor, so the 360’ views are spectacular – and they’re free, though you must book in advance. You can return time after time just to enjoy the changing panorama, or to meet friends for a coffee or a bite. (The restaurants offer everything from a coffee and croissant to a meal with a range of prices: Venison Pie, £18 and Tuna Nicoise £13 at the Darwin Brasserie; Dressed Crab £22 and Whole Dover Sole £42 at the Seafood Bar and Grill.)
The atmosphere is relaxed. There are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the surroundings and because of the booking system it’s not too crowded. My only gripe was that there was no information about what you can see – either the view or the plants. Perhaps that will come later, as it would be interesting to know the background to the building and the planting. In the meantime, perhaps have a map handy to orientate yourself.

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