The Phoenix Garden is a community garden and registered charity, managed by volunteers, created to provide a green retreat from the stresses of London's West End and a vital habitat for urban wildlife. Though, compared to other gardens we are comparably small (only a third of an acre) we receive an estimated 65,000 visits a year!
We welcome all visitors who respect our garden, gardeners, visitors and volunteers.
We are currently open to members of the public between the hours of
10am - 6pm on Monday to Friday
Opening hours can be subject to change, so please double check to avoid disappointment. If you are planning to visit the garden please do contact us to see if we can accommodate you.
We are reliant on a team of volunteers to open and operate the garden. If you are interested in volunteering in any capacity, be it opening the garden, assisting in administration or digging in and getting your hands dirty, please do contact us.
NOTICE TO VISITORS
The Phoenix Garden is a privately managed space open to the public and we hope you enjoy our garden. We do expect garden visitors to be considerate of others and of the garden so please use your common sense and do not pick plants, walk in flower beds, dump rubbish or cause damage.
NO DRUGS * NO ALCOHOL * NO DOGS * NO BICYCLES
We reserve the right of admission. Anti-social and threatening behaviour will result in your ejection from the garden. We will involve the police where necessary.
PARENTS AND GUARDIANS
The garden has open ponds and other hazards. Please keep an eye on your children.
A GARDEN FOR PEOPLE & A GARDEN FOR WILDLIFE
We work to put on an ornamental wildlife garden, to be a retreat from the stress of the city for local residents, workers and other visitors – and to provide an experience of nature in the centre of the city available nowhere else locally –it is often described by visitors as an OASIS.
Being on a former bombsite, the garden sits on top of rubble filled cellars, and has only very thin rubble-filled soil. Being in the centre of London does mean the garden benefits from an urban heat island effect – it is sheltered and warm and it is unusual to get many days of hard frost in winter. In the South-East of England our average annual rainfall is under 60cm and going months without proper rain is not uncommon. The garden is maintained using sustainable techniques and an innovative approach to wildlife gardening. We use plants that grow reliably in dry conditions, that look good all year round and that will be of maximum benefit to wildlife. We create many different habitats to encourage as many species as we can - we are home to the West End's only frogs! And we work to showcase sustainable gardening techniques.
We are often asked how we get the garden to grow so well and are often told how much hard work it must be. In truth, our approach is rooted in a belief that gardens should be naturally low maintenance and worry-free, and we always keep in mind that...
PLANTS WANT TO GROW!
We manage the garden, keeping in mind that:
- THERE IS NO WASTE
Keeping this in mind, we have made a natural garden that needs minimal interventions through the year.
Established in 1984, The Phoenix Garden is Located in St Giles behind the Phoenix Theatre, within the London Borough of Camden, nestled between the busy Soho and Covent Garden areas. The Garden is located just off St Giles Passage and Stacey Street, north of Shaftesbury Avenue and east of Charing Cross Road.
The Phoenix Garden is the last of the Covent Garden Community Gardens - there were originally seven, created by the local community on vacant lots in the 1970's. There was a Japanese Garden, a Water Garden and a Chess Garden among them. The last of these closed for development in the 1980's.
The Garden was set up on a carpark site in the 1980s, which had itself been established on a World War II bombsite (the site was bombed in 1940) and opened to the public in June 1984. Prior to this the Garden was the site of many houses, including a pub. The Phoenix Garden has survived various challenges, including a major industrial fly-tipping incident soon after its foundation.
We are a registered charity (number 287502), and used to be known as the Covent Garden Open Spaces Association (CGOSA). The Garden has won first prize for Best Environmental Garden in the Camden in Bloom competition six times - 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010.
For 30 years the charity was housed in and run out of a simple concrete block ‘shed’. Expected to be replaced after 5 years, it had started to fall down after 25 . It had no proper facilities; no toilets, no drainage, water was from an improvised hose-pipe strapped to the water main, and it was infested with mice. Ten years ago, as plans for a new local development were presented; the Lorenzo Piano designed Central St Giles building, it became clear there was an opportunity for us to access large scale funding. We applied for funds to improve the gardens infrastructure, to construct a new garden building, and were awarded £300,000 towards this project. At the same time we began negotiations for a new lease for the garden. It took us nine years to negotiate a new lease, and delays with this held up our building plans for 3 years. Rumours grew that the garden was to be sold off, like so many other assets have been in London. It was a great relief to eventually sign a new 20 year lease in 2015 and this allowed the building work to move ahead.
Architect, Gurmeet Sian, was appointed with the brief to use the existing footprint of the original building and to provide a multi-purpose space for community events, to house the charity and to generate income. To create a building that was part of the garden, and not a building in the garden. Work finally began on construction in October 2015 and completed in October 2016. In total we had to raise just over half a million pounds for the project – looking back it is amazing how well we did with attracting funding. The building provides us the space we need for running the charity, for community events, volunteer workdays, workshops and education, it has two toilets (one accessible), a small kitchen and a tool store. It is super-insulated and heated with an air-source heat pump. It has a biodiverse brown roof, a rooftop propagation area and rainwater catchment – if ever we do need to water the garden.
With the building construction complete, we were left with a construction site to re-landscape - a rather daunting task with one gardener and a group of weekend volunteers. Work began in October 2016 with digging out rubble and adjusting the levels. Tons of brick and concrete rubble were dug out and saved, tons and tons of compacted rubble and earth were moved by hand to prepare the area. We were keen to use all the materials onsite; building waste removal is incredibly expensive and sustainability is at the core of how we run and manage the garden and shapes it's aesthetic and character. All the rubble was passed through a mini-crusher by volunteers – over 25 tons – and this material was used to construct raised beds and new, wheelchair and pram friendly paths.
For more information and images about our lovely new building, please see our 'Hire Us' section.