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Gardener’s notebook: inside the secret garden and greenhouse in the middle of Hyde Park

The Hyde Park greenhouse’s assistant manager, Martin Hojka. Nearly half a million plants are grown there every year (Matt Writtle)
The Hyde Park greenhouse’s assistant manager, Martin Hojka. Nearly half a million plants are grown there every year (Matt Writtle)

Behind a bank of trees in the middle of Hyde Park is one of London’s bestkept gardening secrets.

Most people remain completely unaware of the 80,000sq ft greenhouse lurking there as you look north across the Serpentine. This greenhouse grows 98 per cent of the plants used each year across the Royal Parks — about 450,000 in total. It’s also where staff propagate and care for all park plants.

“There isn’t another glasshouse like this in the UK, but very few people know we exist,” says assistant manager Martin Hojka. “We have 12 different zones, each can be controlled independently so we can give the plants exactly what they need.”

The roof, he adds, is “much like the roof of Wimbledon’s centre court and is able to fold almost completely open, helping control temperatures and get plants ready for being planted outside without having to move them”.

Most famous are the red geraniums found in the bedding displays at Buckingham Palace. “We grow 12,000 each year, 1,000 of which are grown to over a metre tall,” says Hojka.

More than 800 displays in Royal Parks are about to be switched from summer to winter (Matt Writtle)
More than 800 displays in Royal Parks are about to be switched from summer to winter (Matt Writtle)

Right now, Hojka tells me, “we are preparing to swap out the summer display at Buckingham Palace for 50,000 tulips and 30,000 winter bedding plants”.

It’s all hands on deck for the 14 staff and 100 volunteers, as well as the Royal Parks gardeners, as more than 800 displays are switched from their summer displays to winter ones. Returning to the nursery for the winter are many of the tender plants that make up the tropical borders in St James’s Park and Regent’s Park.

The nursery is completely peat-free, organic and uses seaweed extract as and when the plants require it. The greenhouse also reduces flower miles since the plants don’t have to travel far to get to where they need to be.

At present it is not possible to visit the nursery, but you can sign up to volunteer via the Royal Parks website. Visit royalparks.org.uk/support/volunteer-with-us.