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Garden Visit: A London Pocket Park with a Famous Neighbor


Garden Visit: A London Pocket Park with a Famous Neighbor

November 8, 2022

Designers talk often about the “borrowed landscape,” but it’s not just about distant hills or making the most of your neighbor’s mature planting. It can apply just as much to capturing architectural details. Or, in the case of Tom Stuart Smith’s new Reflection Garden, which opened this summer, the entire dome of Sir Christopher Wren’s awe-inspiring St Paul’s Cathedral.

The garden’s central oval pool, which replaced the lawn that used to be here, provides a bold mirror image of St Paul’s, as well as the sky and the surrounding trees, which were kept in place. It was designed by Andrew Ewing, whose design practice, Studio Ewing, has worked on many other notable water features (including the curvaceous reflective pool outside Mayfair’s Connaught Hotel) and some of the Chelsea Flower Show’s most memorable gardens (like  the geometric tiered pool that starred in Luciano Giubbilei’s Best in Show garden of 2014).

Photography by Beatrice Ross.

Above: This public space at 25 Cannon Street, in the heart of the City of London (a bustling financial and business district), isn’t just about jaw-dropping reflections; it’s also designed to cool the air at the height of summer. And as well as lots of plants for pollinators, other wildlife is actively encouraged, too, with bird and bat boxes and insect hotels to boost the pocket park’s biodiversity.
Above: Stunning mature trees, including London Plane trees and lush magnolias, were retained, and the surrounding shrubs (osmanthus, philadelphus and Elaeagnus x ebbingei) were boosted with a collection of evergreen performers like the glaucous Euphorbia x pasteurii and Mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternata), which will be smothered in white flowers that the bees love in spring and autumn.
Above: The planting has to perform year round, from spring bulbs, including Narcissus pseudonarcissus and the short and pale creamy yellow Narcissus ‘Toto’, to swathes of Anemone nemorosa and alliums. Shrubs like Hydrangea quercifolia and Cornus kousa add a backdrop of late season color, while lower down hardworking perennials like hardy geraniums, catmint, Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ and Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ provide color from summer right into autumn. Here, a hardy geranium is still flowering well in the first week of November.
Above: The support acts in the garden to provide a foil to seasonal blooms—Alchemilla mollis, Euphorbia robbiae, Helleborus argutifolius and Erigeron karvinskianus all soften the borders and look good almost year round in London’s mild conditions. Long oak benches with pleasingly curved backs sit harmoniously in the space. The winding paths, edged with steel, were created with pale and free draining gravel that provides a soft and neutral contrast to the plantings.
Above: Some seed heads are left in situ to provide year round structure: long after its pretty yellow flowers have gone Phlomis russeliana provides interesting structure through autumn and winter.
Above: St Paul’s dome reflected in the darkened pool.

For more garden visits, see:

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