The lawyers’ gardens of the Inner Temple usually keep a low profile. According to Shakespeare the Wars of the Roses started there in 1455. The RHS held flower shows here in Edwardian days, then a reprise nine years ago. Otherwise they remain a spacious and serene place by the Thames where lawyers go to (I imagine) cogitate, discuss their briefs or have a picnic under the exceptionally tall planes. Until Bazalgette built the Embankment, the Temple Gardens, like the Chelsea Physick Garden , went down to the tide. There must have been lots more gardens along the banks of Westminster and the Strand that originally stretched down to the water, too.
I happened to be walking by the other day, through the Inns of Court, past my father’s old chambers in Kings Bench Walk, when I saw that the garden gate was open. It usually is, I gather, from 12.30 to 3.00. What’s more the head gardener , Andrea Brunsdorfer, was just inside, examining here great herbaceous borders with a critical eye. They are masterful; bold, jolly and original. Original? Who else plants little pines in the front row, then prunes them low to display their tufts among the flowers? The beautiful soft green and blue Pinus parviflora is a more inspiring plant to have at your feet than catmint. But all her choices keep up a chromatic and textural eyeful.
How wonderful, I thought, that London still has places like this (though not many) at its heart. Then I remembered the threat of the ‘garden’ bridge, and its promoters saying the Embankment was rather quiet in this stretch and could do with some tourist activity. I pictured the scene on Westminster Bridge, which you can hardly negotiate for the crowds taking selfies in front of Big Ben. Someone wants to visit this bedlam on the Temple?
There may if course be lawyers who would like a short cut to the National Theatre. I suspect they are outnumbered by those who value the historic tranquillity of their college. I have yet to meet a gardener (though Dan Pearson must be one) who likes the idea, or believes that a good garden can be maintained, in perpetuity, in the most exposed conditions you could devise. You would think the intellect and the influence of a thousand lawyers would be up to quashing the whim of a smiley actress. Why, I wonder, don’t they?