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The birds and the bees, from Soho to South Kensington: London’s secret gardens

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In a thriving metropolis where green space comes at a premium, news of secret gardens tucked away in the heart of London is enough to bring out the green thumb in even the most disillusioned city-slicker.
Design Hotels™’ members Ham Yard Hotel and Number Sixteen are leading the charge in the urban garden revolution with beehives, wild meadows, modern art and vegetable patches merging to form two of London’s best hidden idylls.
The Good Life meets Soho
The latest addition to Firmdale Hotels, Ham Yard Hotel’s fourth floor Roof Terrace has already become a byword for urban horticulture at its best. Accessed by a private elevator, the terrace comprises a lounge area scattered with Whitman benches, upholstered seating and a bar, alongside a wild meadow, and kitchen garden. Watched over by two ancient olive trees and surrounded by a living fence of apple and pear trees, the garden blooms all year-round with seasonal plants sourced from the world-renowned Chelsea Flower Show. Fruit, vegetables and herbs grown on the terrace provide the bar and kitchens of the 91-room Ham Yard Hotel with fresh, organic ingredients.
Two beehives were introduced to the garden in early 2015 and are tended to by the hotel’s resident beekeeper, Camilla Goddard. Reflecting the hotel’s impressive program of sustainability and environmental awareness, an eco-friendly approach is taken to bee management and hive maintenance. Proving the proverb correct, the 600 bees have indeed been busy. The first batch of honey was harvested in August 2015, and can be found sweetening a tipple or two in the Ham Yard Bar. www.designhotels.com/ham-yard
South Kensington’s Secret Garden
Forming part of a mid-Victorian white-stucco terrace in the heart of South Kensington, Number Sixteen is a firm favorite among those in the know. Defined by Firmdale Hotels’ Design Director Kit Kemp’s signature eclectic style, the townhouse hotel offers an elegant drawing room and library alongside 41 luxuriously appointed guestrooms. However, the hotel’s pièce de résistance is undoubtedly the secluded, tree-lined garden, which has provided guests with a unique outdoor living space since the hotel’s opening in 2000. Key to Kemp’s design ethos is the belief that hotels are living things that need to grow and evolve in order to remain relevant. This is certainly true of Number Sixteen’s garden, which has just undergone an elegant transformation.
A lesson in urban escapism, a chic wooden gazebo forms the centerpiece of the garden’s new design, providing the ideal escape among lush greenery. An ornamental lily pond and striking slate sculpture by celebrated British sculptor, Tom Stogdon, further promote the aura of tranquility and contemplation. Scattered wicker furniture and metal bistro tables are perfectly placed for long lunches and romantic dinners, while the light and bright orangery caters for London’s slightly damper days. www.designhotels.com/number-sixteen

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