10 unusual parks or gardens in London…8. Barbican Conservatory…

PICTURE: Matt Brown (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Located in the heart of the post-war Brutalist Barbican development is the second largest conservatory in London.

Designed by the complex’s architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, the 23,000 square foot steel and glass conservatory – only bested in size by the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens – was planted in the early 1980s and opened in 1984.

It now houses some 1,500 species of plants and trees from areas as diverse as the bushland of South Africa to the Brazilian coast.

Among the species on show are the tree fern and date palm as well as the Swiss cheese plant and coffee and ginger plants.

The conservatory also features pools containing koi, ghost, and grass carp from Japan and America, as well as other cold water fish such as roach, rudd, and tench and terrapins. An Arid House attached to the east of the conservatory features a collection of cacti, succulents and cymbidiums (cool house orchids).

The conservatory is just one of several distinct gardens at the Barbican complex. These include water gardens located in the midst of lake which feature a range of plants growing in the water itself as well as in a series of sunken pods which are reached by sunken walkways.

Since 1990 the estate has also been home to a wildlife garden which, boasting ponds, a meadow and orchard, is home to more than 300 species including the Lesser Stag Beetle and House Sparrow.

WHERE: The Barbican Conservatory, Barbican Centre, Silk Street (nearest Tube stations are Barbican, Farringdon and Liverpool Street; WHEN: Selected days, from 12pm (check website to book tickets); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2022/event/visit-the-conservatory.