sustainable landscape design
for people, nature and climate

Providence Row Homeless Charity


Providence Row is a homelessness charity in central London that tackles the root causes of homelessness to help people get off and stay off the streets. They approached Elaine to help them to develop their outside courtyard and roof terrace into a thriving green space for their clients, staff and visitors to enjoy, feel safe and experience nature.  The organisation also wanted it to be a garden for their clients to gain horticultural skills as part of an ongoing gardening project and trainee scheme. All in all a fantastic and valuable project be be able to work on.

The existing space was spacious by inner London standards and clearly valued by the clients and staff alike but it was rather grey, urban and tatty with a  jumble of dated and clashing materials .  Elaine prepared a survey drawing  to indicate current uses, context and opportunities and constraints  for the many stakeholders and potential funders who may have been interested in the site’s background.

The pre existing site
Site Survey drawing

Elaine spent some time consulting with the staff and clients to discuss their aspirations and ideas about how the outside space could look and function before working this up to a final proposed Masterplan design with supporting detail sketches and sectional drawings.

Masterplan Design
Section sketch to explain wall trellis
Section sketch to explain trellis fence
Sketch to show the space

The landscape aims to provide something for everybody and inspire it’s users to engage with the world around them. Planting with plenty of seasonal interest creates permanence and the soothing experience of natural processes. The different patterns, textures and form of the hard materials creates changing views, have elements of surprise and encourage new horizons – literally and metaphorically.  The proposed moveable features (seating/planters/screens) create a playful, changeable and creative space for its users with social, workshop and creative areas and private gentle spaces within the scheme. The increased planting provides habitat and absorbs Co2 and diverts rain fall from the drains.

One of several detailed planting plans
One of several detailed planting plans
One of several detailed planting plans

The brief for the planting was to create a high maintenance horticultural project, which is unusual as often a client does not want their planting to involve much maintenance.  Elaine also had to think about creating as wide a range of planting scenarios to broaden the training opportunities for the project whilst maintaining an aesthetic continuity across the site.  She specified herbaceous borders with some evergreen shrub and grass interest across the cascading beds, a woodland themed area underneath the tree, meadows with climbers and wall shrubs in wall-side planters and a mix of annuals, herbs and veg and acid loving plantings in the moveable planters.   There should be plenty there to keep the project workers busy!

Landscape being built
Soil arriving
Plants arriving
Planting by corporate volunteers, staff and clients
Elaine demonstrating planting techniques
The finished garden
The finished garden
Seating planters on mobility casters
A raised bed with incorporated seating
Elaine planting up the beds

The garden has had a transformative effect on residents, staff and visitors alike who are enjoying the new seating areas, colour, greenery and peaceful contact with nature. The Providence Row garden project has an officer in post to guide the project to help the residents manage the gardens and learn new horticultural skills.

See the project on the Providence Row website too –


“Providence Row is a charity working with homeless people, particularly those who are sleeping rough, with substance misuse and mental health problems.  Our large, paved courtyard was a blank canvass.  It provided an opportunity to create a welcoming, inclusive and beautiful space in stark contrast to the usual experience for our clients.  Elaine understood the transformative nature of the garden for our charity.  Put simply, by valuing our own space we were signalling to our clients that we valued them and their contribution to making and keeping the garden.  Elaine provided a very appropriate design for the site, picking up on existing themes in the buildings and working within the constraints placed upon us.  She was very flexible, approachable and friendly when consulting with clients (some of whom can exhibit quite challenging behaviour at times).  She created opportunities for clients to become involved in growing plants, including things we could eat, without overwhelming them.  Elaine also provided ideas, contacts and further concept plans for other parts of the garden so that we can take forward our next steps in creating a kitchen garden on our roof.”

Pam Orchard, CEO Providence Row