Tucked away behind the Geffrye Museum this aptly named garden is a hive of activity. A community garden-cum-horticultural project, St Mary’s takes a truly inclusive approach to gardening, aiming to provide a resource for the whole community. This includes the running of accredited horticultural courses for local residents, youth training and therapeutic gardening sessions for those with physical disabilities, terminal illness or mental health issues. Clients, students and volunteers all help to maintain the garden, which local key holders can use at weekends.
A series of interlinking garden areas have been created on the tardis-like 0.7 acre site and, as the whole space is managed on organic principles, it’s also something of a wildlife sanctuary as well. Birds, newts and hairy-footed flower bees have all made a home here. The woodland garden features wildlife-friendly drifts of cow parsley and jack-in-the-hedge, wood piles for mini-beasts, as well as a cluster of bee hives. The bees are managed by the Golden Company – a social enterprise teaching beekeeping skills to young people. A children’s bug trail winds through the woodland, and the branches of the trees above reverberate with bird song – a real tonic in this built-up part of London. Other senses are stimulated in the herb and sensory garden, whose raised areas and level paths have been constructed with accessibility in mind, and which bring delicious herbal aromas within sniffing distance. The garden’s bees make full use of the flowers here and in the herbaceous and shrub borders, in return producing honey that is sold at the Golden Company stall at Borough Market and is highly sought after.
Raised beds are also a feature of the veg growing area where neat metre square beds ensure easy access to crops for those with mobility difficulties. A new well-being zone is currently being developed; funded by Ecominds, the garden is being built with the participation of people with direct experience of mental distress, and will create a garden for the whole community to enjoy.
The large, fully accessibly greenhouse is the propagation hub of the garden, generating plants for the garden and supplying St Mary’s thriving plant sales area. This is a great place to source reasonably priced organically grown produce such as salads, tomatoes and beans as well as herbs (either freshly cut or in a pot), seasonal bedding plants and house plants. The shop also sells seeds gathered from the garden, own-made compost and comfrey plant food. The home-made preserves are also really popular and make it almost impossible to leave this place empty handed.
St Mary’s Secret Garden
50 Pearson Street, E2 8EL
T: 020 7739 2965
Open: Monday-Friday 09.00-17.00