Open Garden Squares Weekend winners to walk in footsteps of presidents

This year’s Open Garden Squares Weekend secret garden venue has been revealed as the US Embassy residence, Winfield House.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the residence in March
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the residence in March

On Sunday, 25 ticket holders who entered into the secret garden lottery will have the opportunity to go on a tour of the 5 hectare garden with head gardener Stephen Crisp and US ambassador Matthew Barzun.

As well as showing off the garden’s blooms and talking about the history of the site, Crisp will explain more about the garden’s ecological credentials as well as talking about its role as an important place for discussion and restful reflection.

During his time as head gardener he has welcomed five US Presidents into the garden, each of which has planted a tree.

The embassy and its garden have also been the venue for diplomatic discussions such as peace talks between Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness and the then Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley in the run up to the Good Friday Agreement. In 2007 the two were elected deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and First Minister of Northern Ireland at the head of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In March US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met to discuss de-escalating tensions in Ukraine.

Crisp said: "This is the largest private garden in central London but it’s a very hard-working house which serves at all levels. There are all sorts of meetings that are held here, the garden is a setting for the house and a sanctuary, an oasis for the family.

"It’s great that the embassy is participating in the scheme, it broadens our reach. I’m a great believer in London Open Garden Squares weekend."

The Open Garden Squares Weekend, organised by the London Parks and Gardens Trust in association with the National Trust starts tomorrow. Around 200 gardens will take part across 27 London boroughs.

Arsenal Football Club’s former pitch at Highbury Stadium redesigned by Christopher Bradley-Hole, a sustainable edible roof garden on The Nomura Building in the City and a former shoe-making college-turned community garden where local people grow flax and plants to make fabric dye are among the other gardens taking part.


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