Case Study: Alexandra Noble’s dazzling Chelsea Garden
Apr 21, 2022
The time has come. Temperatures are rising, evenings getting longer, and gardens, patios, and terraces are crying out for attention. If you’re seeking inspiration for your outdoor area – particularly if it’s a compact space – look no further than the incredibly charming balcony garden created by Alexandra Noble for last year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Cleverly designed and packed with personality, Alexandra’s garden proves you really don’t need tons of room to make a big impression. In fact, it could be one of the most perfect examples of ‘less is more’ that we’ve seen.
We love this special space so much we asked Alexandra to share all the design details here (and yes, one or two of our tiles are involved…).
Full name: Alexandra Noble
Occupation: Garden and Landscape Designer
How long have you been designing gardens? I moved into landscape design from architecture in 2014 and have been designing outdoor spaces ever since.
How many times have you shown at Chelsea? Once.
Please tell us about your Chelsea 2021 garden…
I was invited by the RHS to design a balcony garden for a new category at Chelsea Flower Show 2021. My proposal aimed to demonstrate that small spaces can be practical, productive, andenchanting. Two trees provided a sense of enclosure, whilst a continuous green edge was planted with long-flowering perennials for pollinators, edible herbs, and ornamental grasses.
Which Bert & May products did you use?
Why did you choose them
I chose the tiles as I felt their darker colourway would complement the Crittall-style double doors as well as being a great way of introducing a decorative element to the scheme
What do you think they add to the space?
The tiles bring a sense of playful informality to the modern balcony aesthetic. I also love how their matt finish references the smooth rendered surface of the walls
What led you to use Bert & May?
I first came across the company on Pinterest and have loved the soft and muted elegance of the products ever since.
We caught up with garden guru Alexandra in 2023 and asked her some more questions about garden design...
What inspired you to pursue a career in garden design?
From a young age I knew I wanted a creative career and opted to study Architecture at University. Towards the end of the course, I decided I wanted to move into Landscape Architecture which I pursued after leaving university and this then led me to an opportunity working as a garden designer. The role suits me as I am a visual / spatial thinker and love problem solving!
The background in architecture was invaluable as after six years studying, I had a good understanding of design as well as the software the job requires. I adore being outdoors though nowadays I am not outside quite as much as I’d like due to much of my time spent designing at my desk and working on client presentations!
What has been one of your favourite or most rewarding projects to work on in 2023 so far?
I have just moved to a new flat with a terrace and balcony so a little biased but am I allowed to say my own spaces being my favourite project of this year so far?! I am currently in the design stage but hoping to be planting/sowing in May
What plants will you be growing on your new terrace?
I plan to grow mostly herbs and edible plants and as it is a terrace, all plants will be grown in containers. The space is partially shaded so there will be chives, mint, lovage, nasturtium strawberries, blueberries, parsley and perennial kale (if I am able to get my hands on a cutting!)
What is your favourite plant to either grow or design with?
Euphorbias are a staple in many of the gardens I design. I particularly love Euphorbia characias subsp. Wulfenii which has brilliant chartreuse blooms and distinctive evergreen foliage. Another stalwart is Euphorbia mellifera whose flowers have a delectable honey scent! Just be careful when pruning as the sap inside the stem of Euphorbias is an irritant
Since your exhibition at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021, have you seen a movement in the design of small balcony spaces
It was timely that the RHS created both the Balcony Gardens and Container Gardens categories back in 2021 following Covid-19 and the lockdowns that came with it and it is brilliant to see that the categories have continued into the 2022 show as well as the upcoming 2023 show. The varying approaches by each designer prove how many options those with small outdoor spaces have at their fingertips.
How do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends andinnovations in garden design?
Instagram (of course!) as well as attending trade fairs/industry events and leafing through magazines
I like to keep abreast of new developments with regards to the legislation around peat-based composts. Unbelievably, members of the public will still be able to buy peat-based composts which are incredibly harmful to our environment until the end of 2024, while professional growers will be able to continue using peat until 2030.
There is also a huge amount of plastic waste in our industry due to black plastic pots which sometimes will just be used once. Fortunately, there are a greater number of alternatives as time goes on such as those made from bamboo, plant fibre or coir. There are also certain nurseries that will recycle black plastic pots or seed trays and when buying plants look for those in taupe plastic pots which are made from recycled polypropylene and can be recycled at home
Can you share any tips or advice for homeowners looking to improve their own outdoor spaces?
Of course! Firstly, consider your boundaries. Unless your fence is a high quality timber or similar consider painting it or planting a hedge in front.
Also think about the colours and materials used inside your property and whether these could be echoed outside for continuity whether through flowers, cushion colours or the hard materials. Bert & May have many tile options which can be used both internally and externally for example
If you’re interested in transforming your outdoor space, get in touch with Alexandra via her website, alexandranoble.com
Instagram - @alexandra.noble
Twitter - @_alexandranoble
Pinterest - @alexandranoble