How to turn a harsh urban space into a languid jungle

But it’s not a hodgepodge. The beauty of this courtyard comes from the thoughtful way in which everything is laid out. Plants are grouped in eclectic leafy layers to highlight changes in texture, shape and color. They hang from the ceiling and encroach on the floor. They’re staggered at every level thanks to the platforms McLean built from recycled roof trusses, Besser blocks and whatever else was handy.

Weathered walls and variegated leavesCredit:Annabelle Reid

While Marcou, McLean and a rotating crew of visiting musicians, sound engineers and technicians have all helped tend the plants over the years, visual artists have also been employed at various times to provide care. more consistent.

But two months ago, Marcou and McLean hired their first full-fledged horticulturist. Jo Franklin, who works in the yard about five hours a week, is also a musician who has rehearsed at these studios since their early days and has similar ideas to Marcou and McLean about how the garden should feel.

“We don’t want it to feel like corporate technology,” says Marcou.

McLean says they wanted to create the vibe of a jungle “so that after being in a studio rehearsing for six hours, you come back to nature”.

“We also want to enjoy going to work. People say, ‘why do you spend so much time on a building that you don’t own?’ But more than 20 years later, if we hadn’t invested in it, we wouldn’t have found all this passion.

Plants are staggered at all levels

Plants are staggered at all levelsCredit:Annabelle Reid

Franklin, who runs her own horticultural business, says as soon as Marcou and McLean approached her to take over the yard, she was up for it.

“I’ve always loved this place, Franklin says. “I’ve seen the garden take shape and I’ve also seen how everyone reacts to it.”

Increasingly, musicians are using plants as backdrops for band photos, film clips and social media posts.

Franklin started by filling the potting mix into each container and adding a slow-release organic fertilizer. She moved some of the plants around to make sure they get adequate sunlight – while most of the yard gets good light, some areas get even more shade than others – and she tweaked the sun regimes. watering.


Too much water can be just as damaging as too little, and not all plants in this garden have the same water needs. Franklin adjusts watering not only based on the plant but also its location because anything in a hanging basket dries faster than if it were in a large pot on the ground. She says plants growing on an upstairs walkway also need extra irrigation due to their exposure to wind.

Finally, Franklin pruned and modified, including cutting some plants, Attenuated Agave, for example, that she thought had been overused. While she opened up some spaces, she added new layers in others, such as tying tillandsias (taken from her own garden) to strelizia stems.

But the most alluring thing about this space is that you don’t immediately feel the work involved. Everything there is almost incidentally wonderful and isn’t that what we all expect from our gardens?

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