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Garden Visit: A Parking Space Transformed Into a Sublime Garden


Garden Visit: A Parking Space Transformed Into a Sublime Garden

February 23, 2023

We have long admired the elegant and thoughtful gardens created by London-based landscape designer Alexandra Noble, but we are especially charmed by her recent project in Camden, North London, in which a former parking spot has been transformed into a serene and pretty space. We got the lowdown on this miniature landscape that could inspire any city yard.

Photography by Eva Nemeth

Above: An aerial view of the parking-space sized plot.

The entrance to the Camden mews is on the side of the house and accessed through the garden so the brief was to create a practical area, to be used daily, that would also provide views out from the owner’s music studio. The owner also wanted a minimal and contemplative design. With some clever landscaping tricks and a dense succession of spring bulbs and blossom through to summer flowering perennials, biennials, and shrubs, Noble has been able to create a transportative garden that provides year-round interest.

Above: The beautiful blossom of Prunus ‘Shirotae’. As the tree grows it will be pruned to ensure it doesn’t spread too far.

Central to the scheme is a beautiful multi-stem cherry —Prunus ‘Shirotae’—which echoes a neighbor’s cherry tree, but also works well with the garden’s original and arresting monochrome scheme. The white flowers have just a hint of pink that softens the overall effect.

Above: Architectural plants including the pale grey green cardoon bring structure and year-round color to the space.

More architectural plants including echium, euphorbia, and rosemary bring structure as well as year-round color. “It is my hope that year on year the planting will shift and everchange,” says Noble. “I like the idea of certain plants such as the Echium popping up unexpectedly across the space and adding to the sense of surreality with their tall proportions.”

Above: Rosa sericea subsp. omeiensis f. pteracantha has delicate white blooms in summer and fiersome red thorns that will add color in the winter too.
Above: The monochromatic scheme seen in April.

An existing extension in black timber provided a starting point for the clever and arresting landscaping elements here. The boundary wall is clad in very large format porcelain tiles, creating a stunning backdrop to the plants and a perfect counterpoint to the building. The client is a fan of Donald Judd and the coursing of the wall tiles were a nod to the artist’s minimalist compositions. “Each tile is 1.6 x 0.8 m,” says the designer. “And I love the interplay of the tile’s large scale in the compact space.”
The path, in a fine limestone gravel, echoes the wall while beds are edged with curved powder-coated steel.

Above: White blossom with a hint of blush.
Above: A sheltered terrace above the garden.

On an existing terrace, a series of powder coated steel vessels around the edges were all planted with a hedge of Fargesia murielae, providing the client with privacy. In the future when budget allows, the paving outside the music studio will be replaced with charred timber setts to tie in with the black and white scheme.

Above: The tulip’s moment.

In spring, bulbs bring a dazzling display in shades of white and black—Narcissus ‘Thalia’, Tulips ‘Purissima’, ‘Mount Tacoma’, and ‘Snow Parrot’ contrast beautifully with ‘Queen of the Night’, all of which synchronize with the cherry blossom. In their wake come waves of biennials and perennials with plenty of breezy umbellifers in the mix including Valeriana officinalis, Selinum wallichianum, Thalictrum ‘Elin’ and Centranthus ruber ‘Albus’ followed by Gaura lindheimeri later on in the season. Self-seeders are actively encouraged here too, including Erigeron karvinskianus which will eventually pop up all over the space.

Above: ‘Snow White’ parrot tulips curve over the top of Mexican fleabane daisies that, over time, will self seed into the path and borders.

For more city gardens, see:

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