500 YEARS OF COVENT GARDEN

DESIGNER Lee Bestall SPONSOR Capital and Counties Properties Plc CONTRACTOR Bestall & Co Landscape design

"OUR GARDEN IS sponsored by Capco, which owns all the property at Covent Garden. We’re doing it for the Simon Milton Foundation – the charity of choice for Westminster Borough Council, which focuses on bridging the gap between young and old to solve the problem of elderly isolation in London.
“To celebrate this iconic London landmark on its 500th anniversary, we decided to reflect some of its history. Long before it became a market it was ‘Convent’ Garden – an orchard where monks and nuns would grow fruit for Westminster Abbey.  
“For our design we’ve chosen three gnarly old apple trees to represent the orchard. They’re retired trees from Belgium, about 40-60 years old. After Chelsea we’re giving them a new retirement home, in planters at Covent Garden. In the background are two steel arches painted to match those at Covent Garden – a blue-green colour. These provide a backdrop for the planting.
“Other elements include the four beautiful verdigris copper planters and York stone paving – most of Covent Garden is paved with York stone. And we’ll have reclaimed cobble paths there too, all leading into the centre of the garden just as the roads around Covent Garden lead into the market square. We also have beautiful benches made from oak inspired by old apple crates.
“The planting is soft, representing a feeling of freedom, using grasses and orchard plants in all the colours of apple blossom – whites and soft pinks. I’ll be using plants such as soft pink peonies, foxglove ‘Dalmatian White’ and lupins.
“The biggest challenge will be bringing over the old root-balled apple trees from Belgium. The ones I originally chose were about 4m wide – too wide for safe transport on a British motorway, even with an escort. With old apple tree branches you can't just tie them in like you would with birch or hornbeam. We’d never have got them through the gates at Chelsea! The new ones are just 2m wide – the widest you can get on an articulated lorry."