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Sub-Tropical Gardens of Battersea

Plants at the Sub-Tropical Gardens, Battersea Park
Sub-Tropical Gardens, Battersea Park

In 2004 Battersea Park's Sub-Tropical Gardens were restored to their original plans dating back to 1863.

Wandsworth Council, with assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund, restored the gardens during a huge renovation programme of Battersea Park.

The gardens needed much improvement. During World War II many of the gardeners went to war and much of the park became allotments to help feed local people.

Today, you can see plants and trees flourishing including species from the Mediterranean, Asia and the Americas.

They include Bamboo, Giant Reeds, Banana Trees, Maidenhair Trees and Dwarf Palms.

John Gibson

The story of Battersea Park's Sub-Tropical Gardens begins with John Gibson.

The Sub-Tropical Gardens illustrated circa. 1864
The Sub-Tropical Gardens illustrated circa. 1864

Gibson was born in Cheshire in 1815 and was an apprentice to Joseph Paxton, head gardener to the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth.

In 1835 Gibson was sent to India by the Duke of Devonshire hunting for orchids.

The journey took him through Madeira and South Africa and provided inspiration for his work back in England.

He brought both plants and ideas back and in 1863, as Battersea Park's first Superintendent, created a mixture of exotic plants and colourful "carpet" bedding at Battersea Park that started a fashion that swept across England.

They were the first public Sub-Tropical Gardens in the country and attracted immediate attention for their bright colours, giant leaves and unusual plants.

Plants at the Sub-Tropical Gardens, Battersea Park
Battersea Park is a large (83 hectares/200 acres) Victorian park, built between 1854 and 1870.
It was formally opened in 1858 by Queen Victoria.
During the Festival of Britain in 1952 the Pleasure Gardens were added.
The Sub-Tropical Gardens at Battersea were the first in England.
The sub-tropical plants stay out all winter but the more tender species are given winter protection of fleece and straw.

Gibson created a mild micro-climate for the tender plants in the garden, making a dense shelter belt of earth and trees from the wind.

He moulded the planting beds on top of brick rubble to help drainage and absorb the heat of the sun during the day and act as storage heaters for the plants during the cooler nights.

Battersea Park

Official opening times for Battersea Park are from 8am until dusk. However some gates are normally open earlier and stay open later to allow access to facilities in the park (e.g. sports activities or exhibitions).

Fountains display

Main display: 10am to 4pm

Crystal display: on the hour every hour for 15 minutes

Closed from late November to early March.

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