Landscaping Urban Outdoor Spaces

Creating gorgeous gardens for city-dwellers is a specialty of Neill Strain Floral Couture. Neill explains how he designs everything from roof-gardens to patios to window-boxes for his discerning clients, and shares ideas on how to make the most of your outdoor living spaces. 

One of the many services we offer at our Belgravia boutique is landscaping the urban outdoor living spaces of our clients.  Whether this is just a window box to decorate the facade of a Belgravian terraced house, a patio for relaxing outdoors or the large roof garden of a modern block of luxury apartments, we create an urban oasis of peace and beauty, working with trees and plants for their colour and texture, following similar principles of design as for our opulent floral arrangements. 

We design patio installations with different forms, colours and textures as shown here with French Lavender, Heuchera Villosa and Festuca Glauca grasses.

Festuca Glauca grass with Choisya "White Dazzler"

Heuchera Villosa with Calamagrostis Acutiflora

When I style interiors, I use my floral designs to enhance the natural characteristics of the venue and often the personality of its owner.  Designing garden and outdoor living spaces requires the same approach.  I take into consideration the architecture, the space, the "mood," the surroundings and of course the personal taste of the client.  It is also essential to consider the growing conditions and needs of each tree, plant and flower.  For a patio or terrace, the outdoor space should be an expansion of the inside rooms.  The design, furniture and plantings must reflect a similar style, materials and colours of the interiors.  With a comfortable seating area, the outdoor space becomes a refuge for relaxing in the fresh air, but most importantly, it must be attractive to look at all year long given the British climate and varied seasonal weather conditions.

I was recently asked to design a “sky garden” for a new property construction of luxury apartments in Chelsea, called Chelsea Island. This residential building has been constructed to offer its city-dwellers a feeling of open space and light, a refuge from the busy city life of central London.  Therefore, the design and atmosphere of the garden focuses primarily on a feeling of peace and tranquility, with a contemporary look, light and spacious, in harmony with the building.  As the building will take 2 years to construct, my first step was to create a plan and drawings.

There are several features in the "sky garden" that are both beautiful and with a specific function.  The central pond makes an attractive focal point to the garden, reflects the glass structure of the building and while it creates an area of peace in contrast to the busy flower beds, the sound of water softens any distant urban traffic noises.  The shaded grass area near the pond is intended for yoga.  Trees are important for their linear structure and shade.

Due to my environmental concern about protecting the bees, I have also designed an area to include a “bee hotel” - along with an underlying bee theme to the garden.  We will incorporate hexagonal shapes inspired by the bee’s honeycomb and will plant bee friendly trees, shrubs and plants for the spring, summer and autumn seasons when the worker bees are searching for nectar and pollen.  

As for the plants and flowers, the beds will be densely packed with a tapestry of texture and colour.  I have chosen a mix of structural trees with informal plantings. Lush green, blue and pale pastel colours from some of the bee’s favourite flowers such as Alliums, Lavender and Buddleia, flowering shrubs such as Choisya, Vibernum and Ribes, herbs like Rosemary and Thyme, to name a few.  All designed to work together like a floral design, with complementary colours and textures.

Creating any garden that will live and grow for many years requires a specific selection of botanicals suitable to the climate and area.  Some clients prefer only evergreens for all-year-long greenery and low maintenance, while others mix evergreens with some perennials, bulbs and annuals for added colour.  Trees provide height and structure to a design as well as privacy and shade.  Climbers such as Hedera (Ivy) and Jasmin grow up screens for additional privacy.  Irrigation is obviously of vital importance for the summer and dry periods.  I like the economy and efficiency of self-watering systems such as Mona Plantsava Irrigation tanks, whereby water is hidden in a plastic container at the base of the container below the soil; plants draw up the water through their roots as needed and the water level needs filling only once a week, even in dry periods.

Whether you are looking for a simple window box, advice on an existing patio or garden, or wish to design a completely new outdoor space, give us a call on 020 7235 6469 or pop into the store and let's start a new project together creating your own personalized urban paradise.

Florally yours,

Neill x