A Chelsea Rooftop Garden By The Florist To The Stars

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  • 13 December 2016
    A Chelsea Rooftop Garden By The Florist To The Stars
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13 December 2016

A Chelsea Rooftop Garden By The Florist To The Stars

By Zoe Dare Hall (The Telegraph)

He is the man that Joan Collins calls when she wants her Belgravia home spruced up for Christmas. Lady Gaga has him on speed dial – and, quite frequently, flights - when she’s after a show-stopping flower arrangement to send as a gift. And Donatella Versace’s homes and hotel suites in London and Milan wouldn’t be the same without a touch of his floral zing.
Neill Strain, owner of the Belgravia boutique Neill Strain Floral Couture, has countless A-listers, including Kanye and Victoria Beckham, among his clients - though the unerringly discreet 34-year-old from Northern Ireland would never reveal their names; it’s they who tweet euphorically about him. “You are in their innermost private space. They don’t want a flamboyant florist bursting through the door. They want you to be cool, calm and professional,” he says.
He also routinely flies around the world to tend to the floral needs of assorted billionaires. Among the hundreds of lavish Christmas wreaths he and his team are crafting for clients, he’s doing a festive makeover this week on the London home belonging to a Middle Eastern royal family.

Neill Strain Floral Couture

But now this florist to the super-rich has taken on a different challenge. Rather than recruit a conventional landscape gardener for their latest project, Hadley Property Group have signed up Strain to design the rooftop garden for residents at Chelsea Island, currently a hole in the ground that will blossom into a 11-storey tower overlooking Chelsea Harbour. The 89 apartments cost from £925,000 for a one-bedroom flat up to a shade under £12m for the huge penthouse with a 2,000 sq ft private terrace.
Strain occasionally tends to clients’ patio gardens and has collaborated with Hadley on some past projects “in a floral capacity, dressing show flats,” he says, but this is the first garden he has designed. “My interest in floristry began as a love of gardening when I was young,” he explains. “I also trained as an artist and set designer and have a real thirst for interiors. For me, art, design, architecture and garden design are all intertwined. They are all about feeling the connection between light, texture, colour and height.”

Hadley Chelsea Island Roof Garden

Due to the building’s staggered levels, the roof garden at Chelsea Island sits on the sixth floor, with views over Chelsea Creek in one direction and across Chelsea Harbour, and the historic red brick tower of Lots Road Power Station, in the other.
The garden – which will be ready by the time the residents move in, in 2018 - will include secluded pockets for reading or relaxation, a shaded grassy area for yoga, and the centrepiece: a modern water feature that provides the cathartic sound of running water and reflect the building’s glass façade.
“It’s a place for residents to have a break and find solace away from the hustle and bustle,” says Strain, who has gone for soft planting among sculptural trees and lots of “bee-friendly” plants. “People won’t feel on display here. They can just sit in quiet contemplation,” he says.

Neill Strain Christmas Wreath

The inspiration for the design came from classic garden squares of the sort that Strain knows well, having recently moved from his house overlooking Belgrave Square to a new home on Kensington’s leafy Cornwall Gardens. “Residents take huge pride in these impeccably maintained squares. To some extent they are social places, but for me they are about solitude more than anything,” he comments.
James Taylor of Hadley Property Group adds that the garden at Chelsea Island is a “modern interpretation” of the likes of Belgrave Square. “People in prime postcodes love the feeling of having the key to the garden square,” he says. “Like a garden square, our roof garden must be special to look at and to be within. It needs to have the right colours and smells and people need to interact with it. Someone who works with colour and the softer side of landscaping is precisely the influence you want in the middle of a development.”
And so rather than choose one of the big garden designers routinely linked to high-end new developments, they beat a path to Neill’s door. “There are lots of good landscape architects in London, but we wanted this garden to be original. We knew Neill had the capability, but we also knew he would do something different to anyone else,” says Taylor. “Everyone tries to make new developments as ‘big’ as possible in terms of the brand names they bring in. We wanted a luxury brand, but someone who understands the neighbourhood and who designs on a human level.”

Hadley Chelsea Island Roof Garden

Unlike the demographic for most new high-end projects in prime London, buyers at Chelsea Island are almost entirely London-based – and all intend to live there. “If the building is full of investors, they won’t be fascinated by a garden, only the rental yield. But these are all people who are going to make it their home,” says Taylor.
Some buyers are already familiar with Neill Strain. Others go away wanting to find out more, which invariably leads them to his shop. A win-win for everyone.  But it all leaves one question. What does a flower arrangement for Lady GaGa look like? Strain pauses. “I can’t be too indiscreet… It’s… very interesting. She wanted to do something with flowers that challenges the boundaries and has never been done before.”
The mind boggles, but Strain takes it all in his stride, though. Bouquets for billionaires; Christmas decorations for divas… It’s all in a day’s work.

Read the full article at: https://goo.gl/8wWy9q