Dressed To Kill

Secateurs, wire-cutters, dust sheet, dirty clothes, trowel and spade  - not quite the usual accessories in an evening bag for an soiree at the opera.  As I got out of the London taxi at the gates of Holland Park the driver couldn't resist eyeing the handle of my spade sticking out of the bag:  'Going to bury a body are we love?'

Yesterday's client was a site more associated with models than mud, where cuttings mean fabric samples and shoots involve cameras and elegant girls. For my favourite planting assistant the most pressing question for the day was not just what to take, but 'what to wear'?

The space was tight, a fourth floor courtyard on Bond Street, surrounded on all sides by the floor to ceiling glass of directors' offices - having a meeting going on four feet away from us in the afternoon felt like gardening on stage.  I'm not sure it's going to make it as a spectator sport, but my lovely assistant does raise the tone when it comes to builder's derriere.

It's a small plot so everyone gets involved in the final detail - from moving planters to shovelling soil and washing pebbles. There is a Japanese theme to this garden with its reflection pool, bonsai Ilex crenata and shoji screen. I wanted to introduce a place of calm and stillness into the whirling world of high class women's wear - the evergreen plants, forms and layout were chosen to represent continuity and communication, for this is business that has survived and thrived as a family firm through turbulent times.

The final build goes well thanks to Chris and his tireless team who have been on site over the past few weeks.  After a long day only the lighting remains to be checked, but it won't be dark until ten and my other life calls. There's no time to go back to Kent to change, so I duck into the sumptuous powder room in my muddy smock, and duck out a few seconds later as corporate wife.

The opera was fabulous, the evening as sultry as the girls outside the cigarette factory. Carmen bewitched us all, but in the final scene the taxi driver was right, and there was murder in Holland Park.

(Thanks to Chris for his camera-phone photos)


  1. mmm, gosh, posh! being surrounded by country gardens all the time, i adore the sleek lines of an urban garden...looks good!

  2. Dear Marian, Oh, this garden is so exactly right - clearly defined, purposeful, calm, restrained, elegant, I could go on. And, it would seem, relatively low maintenance - so important in a situation where it should look as stylish as is possible for all of the time and where, most likely, those to whom it belongs know very little about gardening and even less about looking after one. If a garden has to look like the perfect little black dress, then this is it!

  3. It's absolutely beautiful. It's just like zen garden somewhere in Kyoto, Japan. I wish I could have garden like this in my backyard.

  4. Thank you for your kind words. It is so lovely to hear that you like it! It is quite different to my 'country' work, and for that reason a very satisfying project. Lovely clients too, what joy that brings, for the personality of the place is 90% of any design.

  5. An interesting setting where space is placed top priority.... ~bangchik

  6. What a beautiful urban garden! I laughed at your description of your double life. I'm glad you enjoyed the opera!


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