Secret Gardens: Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon

To celebrate the start of the Wimbledon Championships, we’re exploring some of the beautiful #SecretGardens in SW19. Cannizaro Park is the oldest of all the parks in the area, with Grade II* listed status and home to an outstanding collection of rare trees and shrubs, still being added to the park today.

 Cannizaro Park WimbledonAbove: the park as seen on a Spring day in April

History of Cannizaro house and estate

Cannizaro Park was once the site of a grand estate owned by the Duke of Cannizzaro in the 19th century. The estate's mansion served as a home for various noble families over the years until it was eventually converted into a hotel.

Belvedere in Cannizaro Park WimbledonAbove: The Belvedere in Cannizaro Park, known as 'the Retreat' planted with species of pine, maple and cypress in the 1970s

The park’s unusual name is actually a misspelling of a typical Italian surname, Cannizzaro. Heiress and occupier of the existing house (then known as Warren House), Sophia Johnstone, married Sicilian Count, Francesco Plamonte, and together they entertained many historic figures such as the Duke of Wellington during their time there. The house’s reputation as a country retreat continued long after their occupancy of the house, which was enjoyed by many famous and royal guests – including King George III, Lord Tennyson, Oscar Wilde and Henry James.

The Count eventually left England (with his mistress) after he inherited the title of Duke of Cannizzaro in Sicily. Sophia kept the name of Cannizzaro until her death, and the house has been known as Cannizaro ever since.

What to see in Cannizaro Park

The park was opened to the public in 1949 and has since become one of the most popular green spaces in Wimbledon. Today, the park is managed by the London Borough of Merton and is known for its stunning gardens, picturesque lakes, and abundance of wildlife.

Maple trees in Maple avenue in Cannizaro Park

Above: the trees in Maple Avenue

One of the grandest highlights of Cannizaro Park is its incredible flora. The park is home to a wide variety of plants, many of which are rare or exotic. Many of these rare shrubs and trees were planted by past owners Kenneth and Adela Wilson, who lived in the house between 1920-1947 and brought back acid soil-loving plants from their travels around America and Asia.

Mountain Gum in Cannizaro Park Wimbledon Above: over 100 trees have been labelled with a QR code to allow visitors to find out more information about the tree, as part of the 'Trees Project'

The garden is divided into different areas with individual planting schemes, including a Herb Garden, Rose Garden, Italian Garden, Mediterranean Garden, Water Garden, and more! Visitors can expect to see everything from towering Giant Redwoods to delicate wildflowers, depending on the season.

The Rose garden in Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon Above: The Rose Garden was redesigned in 2022, with David Austin roses chosen for their fragrance, colour and bee-friendliness, in addition to insect-friendly perennial planting

Some of the most notable types of plants to see in the park include: 

Rhododendrons: Cannizaro Park is known for its stunning collection of rhododendrons, which bloom in the spring and early summer. These vibrant flowers come in a wide variety of colours from soft pinks and purples to bold reds and oranges.

Magnolias: The park is also home to several magnolia trees, which produce stunning pink and white blooms in the spring.

Japanese maples: These beautiful trees have delicate leaves that turn bright red and orange in the fall, making them a popular choice for landscapers and gardeners.

    Pink Cherry blossom in the rose garden in Cannizaro Park, WimbledonAbove: Pink cherry blossom in Cannizaro Park

    Interesting Facts about Cannizaro Park

    In the 1700s the house was once home to Lyde Brown, Director of the Bank of England. He was reported to have died of a “fit” in 1785 when he sold his large collection of Greek and Roman antiquities to Catherine the Great and subsequently told he would only receive half the money!

    The lake in Cannizaro ParkAbove: the lake in Cannizaro Park is home to many waterfowl

    Within the park, you can find remnants of its historical past, such as the statue of Diana and the Fawn, which was originally from a Sicilian villa and created in 1841, serving as a reminder of the park's rich heritage.

     Diana and the Fawn statue in Cannizaro Park, WimbledonAbove: the statue of Diana and the Fawn

    During the Victorian era, ice skating became a popular pastime in England and lakes were often used for recreational skating when the water froze over. Given its scenic landscape and the presence of lakes, it is plausible that Cannizaro Park's lakes were used for ice skating during this time – but today they're home to a variety of waterfowl, including ducks, geese, and swans!

     Azaleas in Cannizaro Park, WimbledonAbove: Vivid azaleas in the garden start to bloom in April/May

    Cannizaro Park is a true gem within Wimbledon’s public green spaces, offering visitors an opportunity to explore beautiful flora from around the world. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or simply appreciate the beauty of nature, this park is a must-visit for all.

    Cannizaro HotelAbove: the spectacular formally planted borders in the sunken garden, next to the hotel in Cannizaro Park

    Getting to Cannizaro Park

    Cannizaro Park is located in Wimbledon, in the southwest of London. The park is easily accessible by public transport, with the closest station being Wimbledon on the District line and National Rail, around a 20-minute journey from London Waterloo Station. From there, it's a short walk or bus journey up to Wimbledon Village to the park's entrance inside Wimbledon Common.

    Cannizaro Park
    35 High Street,
    Wimbledon SW19 4UE