Plantsman's garden hidden behind C18 house (not open). Great variety of unusual plants, many propagated for sale. Ponds, waterfall, frogs, toads, newts. Many topiary shapes formed from self sown yew trees. New sculpture carved from three trunks of a massive conifer which became unstable in a storm. Hard working greenhouse! Only one open day this year so visits by appointment especially welcome. Featured in First Ladies of Gardening by Heidi Howcroft and Marianne Majerus.
Toffee hunt for children. Secret Life Sax Quartet will perform in the garden from 2.30pm.
How to find us
Southwood Lodge, 33 Kingsley Place, Highgate, London, N6 5EA
Tube: Highgate then 6 mins uphill walk along Southwood Lane. 4 min walk from Highgate Village along Southwood Lane. Buses: 143, 210, 214, 271.
More about Southwood Lodge
Southwood Lodge was built in the late 18th century and the garden was many acres larger than it is now. It has been a private house, a school and from 1920 to 1963 a rest home for women and girls.
In 1963 the land was purchased for development and the award-winning Kingsley Place houses were built. Southwood Lodge and a squared off plot of land surrounding it, approximately a third of an acre in all, were sold to an architect Malcolm Andrews who converted it back into a private house for himself and his family. After completing the house he built the garage and adjoining dwelling which together form the wall on the right-hand side of the terrace. He also laid out the formal terrace using York stone paving surrounding two large rectangular beds, and the steps leading away from it on two sides. He planted the beech hedge which is an excellent design feature as it gives a feeling of enclosure to an otherwise windy and exposed site.
The land falls away steeply, and to the east there is a dramatic view towards Epping Forest, sadly no famous landmarks visible. It is, however, at 400 feet, the highest point between here and the Urals.
In 1963 the rest of the garden was totally overgrown and derelict. Italianate gardens, water gardens and a tennis court were camouflaged by brambles and nettles. As late as 1959 a hermit was said to live in a shed in the garden, but a story in the Ham and High suggests that this was a lady of the road taking up temporary residence. Large conifers still remain from this time. A major storm on the night of 14th February 2014 rocked the grandest of these causing wide fissures in the ground around its base, and leaving the tree leaning at an uncomfortable angle. No longer safe, it sadly had to be felled to a height of about four metres. These three tall trunks have been carved by sculptor Ed Elliott into a dramatic sculpture titled The Splash.
The three linked ponds date, we think, from the early 20th century and are built from Westmoreland stone. It is thought that they were originally spring fed as there are many springs in the area, but now the waterfall is pumped electrically.
We moved here in 1978 and the garden at that time was the same lay-out as today, although we had to replace the winding grass paths through the centre of the garden with granite setts. The terrace was more formal with three rows of roses, red, white and pink, in each large bed. A spectacular rose, Mme. Gregoire Staechelin, covered the south side of the house but this died in the 90's probably from honey fungus which has also claimed other victims.
We inherited a large aluminium greenhouse which had been built on the footprint of an earlier Victorian/Edwardian one. By 2012 this was a leaky eyesore and, again on the same footprint, was replaced by a magnificent new white one. Old photos show the original Victorian one looking identical to the new one. Maybe it too stored all the roof water in tanks under the staging, but it certainly would not have had an electric pump or automatically opening windows.
Unusual plants are of special interest to us but only if they perform well. A self-sown dahlia seedling was found in the garden in 2014 and proved to be an exceptional plant with very dark foliage and a strikingly vivid cerise flower. Only two dahlias were growing in the garden, D. 'Bishop of Auckland' and D. 'Dark Desire', and these must therefore have been the parents of this chance seedling. It has now been registered with the Royal Horticultural Society as Dahlia 'Bishop's Desire'. Plants will be available for sale on the open day.
We have been opening the garden for the NGS every year since 1989. During this time we have raised over £60,000 for the charities supported by the NGS.