Looking at the gracious and well-ordered facades of London ‘s Georgian and Victorian terraces, one might assume the spaces behind them to be equally predictable. So it comes as a welcome surprise to encounter the highly original and unexpected oases of greenery that landscape designer Alexis McNally has been creating in the capital ‘s back yards.
‘Making a successful garden in an urban environment poses a unique set of challenges’, he explains. ‘There may be a lack of sunlight due to tall surrounding buildings, for example, or windswept conditions on a roof terrace’. But he insists that even for the most difficult site there will be suitable plants.
Of course, horticultural know-how is only part of the story. Prior to landscape design, McNally studied at the Courtauld Institute, and his projects evidently bear the stamp of his art historical knowledge. ‘A proper understanding of proportion is key to creating a successful design’, he says, ‘and having the right framework will allow all the elements to fall into place.’
Commissioned to design gardens throughout Europe and beyond, Alexis admits he has been fortunate in being able to bring together his love of nature and passion for art. He stresses the role of constant observation in keeping his designs fresh. ‘I rarely, if ever, take inspiration from other gardens. I am much more interested in an isolated architectural detail, a textile, or a piece of Islamic calligraphy. Recently I returned from a trip to study the little-known monuments of the Deccan in India, and found an incredible wealth of resources there.’
Over the centuries, landscape design has always played an important part in art and architecture ‘ examples such as the parc of Versailles and the beautiful Japanese gardens prove to what an extent the human mastering of nature is part of our culture and civilisation. Alexis McNally has succeeded in bringing this craft to the modern day garden of the 21st century and in the highly competitive London property market his designs without doubt give a home the final touch of true luxury.