Dr Fraser Leggate is a landscape gardener to the stars, royalty, oligarchs and private households. He is also a font of all knowledge when it comes to the world of horticulture. We caught up with Fraser after one of his morning missions to the world-famous New Covent Garden Flower Market. Fraser shares his seeds of wisdom as well as tips for Londoners looking to revamp their gardens.
Q: How did you get started?
A: It all started when I was asked to dress a church with seaweed and flowers in St James’s Piccadilly. I was studying my PhD in Marine Biophysics at the time, so decided to give it ago. More than 300 guests-attended and the occasion was a huge success. From there, the business started to grow, particularly when a leading Mayfair PR agency introduced me to several of their clients. That was some 30 years ago. Today, I garden for everyone from celebrities and royalty to oligarchs and private households. Last week, I celebrated my 57th birthday – it has been a long, varied and enjoyable career.
Q: What do you like about London?
A: I love the variety and excitement of London, where one minute it feels like a village surrounded by friends and neighbours and walking my Cockapoo dog Nalle (Swedish for Teddy Bear); then the next moment arranging flowers or creating a garden in The City.
Q:If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you take with you?
A. Firstly, I would take Nalle, plus an encyclopedia of trees, plants and flowers, so I could identify what to eat from my thatched hut on the beach. And lastly a very large bottle of Puligny Montrachet (with a cork screw).
Q: Three gardening tips for lazy gardeners?
A: Create a focal point using an oversize pot containing an equally large specimen shrub. This can be under planted seasonally with a restrained colour palette. Stick to one or two colours; less is more. Plants that would work well in the garden throughout the year: Viburnum, Iilex (Holly), Pieris or Pittosporum.
Q: And three tips for Londoners with small gardens?
A: Find a large feature specimen plant with an evergreen base, that would provide a focal point in the garden. The evergreen could be seasonally underplanted and be displayed in a beautiful pot.
Q: What inspires you in life?
A. I get inspired in the dark of winter or early in the morning, when driving across Chelsea Bridge to New Covent Garden Flower Market. I also enjoy glorious sunrises in the summer, thinking about flowers that I am going to use that day.
I visit the market every morning, buying everything bespoke. I have worked with many clients from 30 years ago and have had the opportunity to supply flowers for their weddings, children’s christenings and to decorate their homes. I know their taste, colour preferences and what works with their style.
Q: What one thing should everyone have in their garden?
A: Apart from a Cockapoo, aim for winter scent with a colour theme, and seasonal flowering plants. Then choose focal points carefully to draw the eye to different areas at different times of the year.
Q: What new projects are you working on?
A: We recently won Gold for Flowers in The City and are regularly asked to dress exclusive properties by the leading estate agents, such as a huge Mayfair mansion with a very large garden for Henry & James.
With the festive season approaching we will decorate homes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. One party will be a winter wonderland, where Narnia meets Santa’s grotto.
Q: Describe your dream home?
A: I currently spend the working week in London based in Embankment Gardens in Chelsea with its views overlooking The Thames and The London Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park. I also have free views of the Chelsea Flower Show from my apartment!
At the weekends, which I try to make longer, I currently spend my time in a chocolate box Medieval manor house in West Sussex. The house was built in 1425 and has a two-acre garden. Having lived here for almost 10 years, it is now time for a change, and I am actively hunting for a new and inspiring challenge in the Cotswolds. If you, or anyone you know, are looking to move to the country speak with my friend James Bailey at Henry & James!
Q: Any advice to grow beautiful roses in London?
A: Always use Mycorrhizal fungi when planting roses. And importantly never plant a rose in the same place, where a sick rose grew previously. And my favourite rose grower? It would have to be David Austin.
Q: Anything to look out for in the garden this winter?
A: I am replacing the structural evergreen Box planting in window boxes and topiary gardens with Yew or Ilex Crenata. Box Blight and the Box moth caterpillar have had a devastating effect, so beware as these can spread to neighbours’ plants and gardens.
Q: And finally, who would you like to create a garden for in London?
A: I would like to create a tranquil, truly inspiring English garden filled with scent, seasonal colour and indigenous planting for the late Baroness Thatcher, who put the Great into Britain.
- Dr Fraser Leggate is the founder of Leggate Brown Landscapes (firstname.lastname@example.org)