Mr Hudson on the wonderful world of hidden urban gardens
The ethereal Audrey Hepburn once said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” True enough, but unless your chosen profession allows you to work in close proximity with nature, the closest contact city folk tend to have is the occasional frolic in a neighbourhood park. Or… is there another way? Here is a small sampling of enchanting gardens found in the most unexpected urban spaces.
The Gardens at St Luke in the Fields, New York, U.S.
Built in 1821 behind a church, this lovely oasis of flora and fauna is located in a surprisingly quiet corner of NYC’s bustling West Village. Over the years, the gardens have expanded to include six distinct areas on two city acres. A stroll from the Hudson Street entrance leads visitors through a kaleidoscope of flowers, paths and lush, green lawns. Trees of all stripes are found throughout; maples, cherry and a rare Kentucky yellowwood have all been carefully selected to attract the 100’s of migrating birds and butterflies that complete this slice of paradise.
Jing’An Sculpture Park, Shanghai, China
Created for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, this minimalist green space sits regally – but largely forgotten – beneath a sea of mammoth residential skyscrapers. This secret bucolic scene is a welcome sight for the curious interloper; at any given time, at least 25 creative sculptures, ranging in style from ornamental to bizarre, are strewn throughout. Over the years, statues representing cows at rest, wooden fish, zaftig ladies in polka-dot swimwear as well as animated inanimate artwork like giant stacked apples and buckets of suspended silver water have graced this location.
La Petite Ceinture Railway, Paris, France
During the1850’s, La Petite Ceinture (The Little Belt) in Paris was used primarily to transport local steam engines and occasionally, passengers. But when the metro was constructed in 1900, the railway suffered a steady decline until it was finally abandoned in 1934. Sixty years on, a local conservationist association planted vegetation and flowers in the area closest to the 18th district, forever changing the decaying railway into a peaceful haven for discreet promenades and small wildlife. And although the future of the railway is uncertain, a landscaped forest in the middle of an urban metropolis remains a man-made wonder to behold.
Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu Gardens, Barcelona, Spain
Trendy but forever bearing the seedy remnants of its troubled past, El Raval is probably the last Barcelona neighbourhood where you’d expect to find a spot of utter tranquillity and natural beauty. But the gardens of the once mighty Santa Creu Hospital offer precisely that. From the street, the shabby medieval façade provides no clue of the lovely gardens, full of exotic trees, sandy pathways and a gently trickling fountain, just beyond the entrance. Locals come here to relax and enjoy the soothing scenery but unlike other divine hidden spots, adjacent public buildings and a cosy terrace bar remind visitors that the city is just moments away.
Whiteley’s Garden, Sydney, Australia
Precious and inviting, this gorgeous garden boasts awe-inspiring views of Sydney’s camera-ready Harbour Bridge. Dedicated to her late husband Brett, Wendy Whiteley’s secret garden was built on a site of an old railway turned unsightly dump area. She began her meticulous labour of love in 1992 and has since created plant, floral and metal spaces so lovely that thousands from all around the country make a pilgrimage just to soak up a small slice of nature at its finest.
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St Lukes in the Field Garden, New York City | Photo: Garett Ziegler
Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu, Barcelona
La Petite Ceinture, Paris | Photo: Antoine Beauvillain
Whiteleys Secret Garden, Sydney | Photo: Yvonne Perkins
Jing'An Sculpture Park, Shanghai | Photo: Drew Bates