Have a seat with...

Alexandra Noble

Alexandra Noble is an award-winning landscape garden designer whose work has been featured on a variety of media platforms. From Gardener’s World and BBC Radio, to British Vogue and Washington Post to name just a few.

Alexandra has also exhibited show garden installations at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival and Chelsea in Bloom…and last autumn she designed an exotic catwalk installation at Paris Fashion Week. Take a seat…and have a read!

Alexandra Noble

Hi Alexandra, thanks for speaking with us today!

Before you moved into the world of garden design, you spent six years studying architecture at Bath University. Can you tell me about the journey which led you to take your creative talents outdoors?

The masters of Architecture course I was studying included urban design and landscape modules. An early project involved designing a hypothetical park on a site in the Lea Valley; whilst for the final year project, we had the freedom to set our own brief in a European city. I settled on designing a horticultural research centre sited within a neglected old fortification on the outskirts of Valetta.

I thought the site with its various levels and growing conditions would make for a fantastic botanic garden and the design included landscape elements such as citrus and nut groves, a shade house, greenhouse and arboretum. I enjoyed this focus on designing outdoor spaces so much, I decided to pursue working in landscape architecture immediately after graduating from the masters course.

How much do you think your architectural background has shaped your approach to garden design?  Did you quickly find a natural rhythm in your work which incorporated the two disciplines?

My architectural background has a strong influence on how I approach designing gardens today. The education gave a good grounding in how to lay out space from a practical perspective whilst also instilling the importance for every design element to be justified.

You’ve designed gardens all across the UK, but it’s in London where you’ve been most prolific. Is there something about designing gardens in a busy urban landscape, where you perhaps have to be more creative with the space, that inspires and informs your work?

In cities, there are often numerous site constraints due to boundaries, placement of neighbours' windows, levels, shortage of space and many more. I enjoy finding workarounds to these obstacles and transforming what can seem an impossible site into a garden that enchants.

Alexandra Noble garden with pond

"In cities, there are often numerous site constraints...I enjoy finding workarounds to these obstacles and transforming what can seem an impossible site into a garden that enchants."

You showcased your talent for turning small spaces into works of horticultural art at Chelsea Flower Show in 2021, with your wonderful Balcony Garden.  What advice would you give anyone looking to create a beautiful functional garden when space is perhaps at a premium?

When space is at a premium, keep it simple. Avoid filling the space with too many elements or materials as it will seem hectic and unrelaxing. Be sure to incorporate evergreen climbing plants such as Trachelospermum jasminoides which is wonderful for creating a verdant mood even in the depths of winter.

From understated minimalism to the extravagance of Paris Fashion Week! At the Zimmermann Spring/Summer fashion show last October, along with planting designer Nigel Dunnett, you were asked to create a garden inspired by the surrealist landscapes of a Henri Rousseau painting. Can you tell me about your experience creating the incredible installation at the Petit Palais’ Beaux Arts courtyard garden?

This project was very enjoyable albeit extremely fast-paced with just over a month from initial site visit to installation. The turnaround for design with Nigel and tagging plants with Hortus Loci was a matter of days!

The installation involved two night shifts to accommodate the museum’s public opening hours, and it was a real treat to have Landform installing alongside Sydney-based florists Grandiflora as well as many hands from the French production company.

In the same way someone might consider replicating an outfit they saw on a fashion show catwalk—but perhaps didn't feel confident enough—are there any exotic planting elements from your Paris Fashion Week garden that the average gardener could recreate at home?

For sure! Look for plants with large leaves to conjure the sense of the unusual such as Tetrapanax, Rodgersia, Brassaiopsis, Paulownia (coppiced) or Fatsia ‘Green Fingers.’ Just ensure you have the correct conditions and space for each plant to thrive.

Alexandra Noble garden

"When space is at a premium, keep it simple. Avoid filling the space with too many elements or materials as it will seem hectic and unrelaxing. "

With a busy working life, what does a day off look like for you? How do you like to unwind?

An ideal day off involves visiting a garden (a busman’s holiday I know!) or exhibition at a gallery. I also love pilates, walking and exploring new cities/landscapes.

What is your favourite garden in the world?

Extremely hard to choose just one but most recently I adored the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at the MOMA in NYC. Designed by Philip Johnson in the 1950s. The space feels serene as a result of its rigorous layout and minimal material palette.

Where does your next project take you, Alexandra?

I am just starting on the design of a project very locally to where I am based in North London (a mere 10-minute walk!) whilst another project I designed last year – a potager - was started on site in Wandsworth at the end of April.

Thanks, Alexandra. It's been a pleasure!

*Header photo credit: Eva Nemeth

The Sitting Spiritually 'Have a Seat With' series takes a look behind the scenes at how we switch off from the bustling modern-day lifestyle. We speak to people of all sorts of backgrounds and lifestyles around the country as we seek to explore the different ways of relaxing and just taking a moment.

Posted by Siobhan on June 28th 2023

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