Now we have some well-conceived, naturalistic gardens that enhance our lives, as well as helping to reduce pollution, absorb rainwater, prevent flooding and lessen urban heat.
Instead of the same old evergreens, there is a rich diversity of trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs selected not just for their looks, but for their ability to adapt to climate change and attract and nurture wildlife.
TAKE A TOUR: NEW HOMES WITH AERIAL ALLOTMENTS, ROOF TERRACES AND SKY-HIGH POOLS
London's latest new homes with designer green spaces
London's latest new homes with designer green spaces
1/9 The Lido Line
A swimmable commuter route from Little Venice to Limehouse Basin? From Little Venice to the Limehouse Basin, the proposal would see Regent’s Canal made a clean, safe place to swim by carving out swimmable commuter routes using a breathable, multi-layered membrane that filters detritus and bacteria.
2/9 Earl's Court, SW5
At Lillie Square in Earl's Court, garden designer Andy Sturgeon was briefed to make the landscape more meaningful. "Now, wherever you are in the development, you’re in and among the plants.”
3/9 Earl's Court, SW5
The Lillie Square development, a former 7.5-acre car park, has one of the largest garden squares in west London that will sit in the heart of the development. More than 50 per cent of the site is devoted as green space a commendable first.
4/9 Hackney, E8
The Warehaus apartment scheme in Hackney has a centrepiece atrium showcasing a heated glass-bottomed swimming pool that also combines as the roof for the development. Visit uniondevelopments/warehaus.
5/9 Battersea, SW11
At Battersea Power Station, residents can enjoy gardens as well as allotments at ground level and on the rooftop.
6/9 Battersea Power Station, SW11
"The new way of landscaping London is not about creating jaw-dropping vistas on a panoramic scale, but about making sustainable green spaces that will benefit both residents and the passing public, as well as the broader environment," says Pattie Barron
7/9 Canary Wharf, E14
From £395,000: flats at Wardian London in Canary Wharf will have private outdoor spaces with sweeping views, plus sky gardens, an open-air swimming pool and an observatory. Call 0800 404 8855.
8/9 Poplar, E14
From £299,000: flats at Aberfeldy Village will benefit from a London Wildlife Trust biodiversity strategy. A green corridor will run throughout the scheme and liquidambar trees - which produce magnificent autumn colours - are being cultivated off-site so they are mature when planted. Call 020 3217 1000.
9/9 Aldgate, E1
£735,000: Goodman's Fields is an "urban retreat" of 920 homes grouped around squares, landscaped courtyards and aquatic gardens. Call 020 3217 1000.
“Historically, it was landscape architects who were called in for the big developments,” says Matthew Wilson, an award-winning garden designer who recently completed the landscaping for new development Cloudesley House in Islington.
“Now there’s a definite move to employ garden designers,” he says. “Developers and contractors aren’t always aware of the differences, but they are huge. A landscape architect will specify the balustrades on the building and the lighting in the car park, but it’s not a required component of landscape training to know about plants.
“Garden designers like Andy Sturgeon, Dan Pearson and myself are increasingly asked to work on schemes, and speaking for myself, I don’t know about balustrades, but I just need to know a man who does. The result is that we work with landscape architects, collaboratively.”
Instead of fitting the landscape afterwards into an allotted space, the greenery is part of the whole concept from the start. Wilson says: “Cloudesley House is a Victorian school building, and in the middle of the building was an old gym. Initially, a developer would think, ‘I can get five flats in there’, but this time, the developer said, ‘Let’s take the roof off and make a contemporary courtyard’. It’s very encouraging.”
“In the past, it was about landscaping the spaces left over — now, the building is arranged around the landscaping,” says Andy Sturgeon, referring to Earls Court’s Lillie Square development, a former 7.5-acre car park.
He has designed one of the largest garden squares in west London, to sit in the heart of the development. More than 50 per cent of the site is devoted to green space — a commendable first.
“We were briefed to make the landscape more meaningful. Now, wherever you are in the development, you’re in and among the plants.”
In the past, landscaping had nothing more to do than form a green vista. Now, says Sturgeon: “The challenge is to make something more garden-esque and flowing, but that can still be easily maintained. There are still the evergreen shrubs, but we’re making more imaginative choices than the usual hebes and phormiums.”
READ MORE: London's new city flats with aquatic gardens and designer courtyards
What’s in the pipeline is making gardens as well as allotments, both on high as well as at ground level, where residents can flex their green fingers.
“And you can’t underestimate the value of play space for children,” says Sturgeon, who created the rooftop gardens at Battersea Power Station, where there are also allotments for residents.
“At Lillie Square, there’s not only a designated playground, but the whole landscape is ‘playable’ throughout.”
The new way of landscaping London is not about creating jaw-dropping vistas on a panoramic scale, but about making sustainable green spaces that will benefit both residents and the passing public, as well as the broader environment.
Sturgeon sums it up neatly: “Five years ago, when we’d go into a meeting, developers didn’t even have the vocabulary, but now they have.
“Finally, city landscaping is more about the horticulture than the paving.”