Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Caribbean Dreaming

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Caribbean Dreaming

Article excerpt


Landscape architect John Murdoch's design for this year's Chelsea Flower Show was inspired by his native Barbados. He reveals to Pattie Barron how Londoners can create an island paradise of their own

THERE are two schools of thought on the urban - and suburban - back garden. Some believe that it must blend in tastefully with the surrounding landscape. Others say that the confines of the garden fence present an unmissable opportunity to indulge your ultimate flights of fantasy. Such a place is the delectable Chattel House Garden, which, if you subscribe to the latter theory, could be neatly dropped into your plot in Muswell Hill or Tooting and make you smile with delight every time you looked out of the kitchen window to see the little candy-coloured house and a miniglade of banana trees.

The garden was designed for last month's Chelsea Flower Show by landscape architect John Murdoch, who is based in Sevenoaks but has clearly left his heart in Barbados, where he spent his formative years. If you cannot have sunshine on tap, then create it through plants and landscape, is John's persuasive message.

The key factor, at the far end of the garden, is the fully functioning facsimile of the Bajan chattel house, which evolved in the 18th century when workers were shunted from sugar plantation to plantation and needed a home they could take apart and rebuild. The luscious sugar almond shades in which it is painted would dispel the gloomiest day. "These same people who built the grand plantation homes in Georgian Palladian style miniaturised a lot of the detailing into their chattel houses," says John. "The windows have jalouse shutters that give the house stability during hurricanes, and the internal walls are louvred, so the trade winds can blow through." More practically for modern London chattel

houses, the corrugated iron roof is powdercoated so it will never rust, plus there is a pod that bolts on to the back of the house to store the lawnmower and bikes. The house is on legs, which are wound up individually, like a car jack, and the decked veranda bolts onto the front; when you move, you can take your little chattel house with you.

Horizontal boards of driftwood interspersed with bands of crushed limestone make a simple, pleasing path and flooring; the crushed limestone, says John, is the equivalent of the coral dust that is widely used in Barbados, and will eventually compact underfoot.

The rectangular water lily pond, bordered by lawn, is cleverly tapered to make it appear longer than it is in reality.

A garden seat to idly swing on is essential to every leisurely Bajan, and seems a good wheeze for Londoners, too. John's Caribbean hammock was derived from the colourful "bumboats" that are raced in Grenada every Saturday, and are invitingly lined with cushions. …

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