Television Centre, White City, Soho House by Charlie Noton

Early February 2018 Charlie Noton, Director of Tree Research, received an email from Soho House regarding a very exciting project at The BBC Television Centre, Shepherds Bush.


The Client brief was simple; ‘Produce a roof top garden and relaxation area across two floors to compliment the retro design of White City House. However, we have one month to complete before the launch date’ GULP!

After several emails too-ing and frow-ing, the design brief was set and we had the green light to start the design process.

Due to the incredibly tight time line on this project the budget needed to be approved, the pots and troughs sourced as well as the plants sourced, delivered and planted – this was a mammoth task!

We initially started with contacting some amazing pot and trough companies across the UK and Europe to discuss if a 4 week turn around was possible. All suppliers came back saying it was a tough ask but something that could be achievable if we moved fast. However, with several days of emails and budget changes this deadline was creeping ever closer. We finally had the budget accepted with 2 weeks to go before completion was due. So the process of buying the troughs, pots, compost etc had begun. We learned very quickly that the lead time for the pots we originally required to be made was physically impossible so we had to rethink. We contacted the same suppliers and went through their stock lists and had a slight redesign. A move that proved to be vital as well as perfect for the space.


The plants were actually the easiest part to all of this process. Plant enthusiasts, Charlie, Michael Buck, Our General Manager and Piers Beeching, a long term friend of Charlie’s and top plantsman, sat down in a bar not far from White City House to discuss the plants well into the evening. A late finish that proved to be the norm for this project.

Once the pots and troughs had been arranged with a 5 day turnaround for delivery, a trip to Covent Garden Flower Market for inspiration was in order. Charlie and Michael met Piers, bleary eyed at 6.30am for a spot of shopping. Well worth the 4am alarm call!

Inducted, we started on site. A site which had plenty of challenges and obstacles for us. On the 9th floor paving slabs were not set, with painters painting the slabs in readiness for securing. We had Chris and his marvellous and very helpful team from Flybird Installations who were tasked with the job of erecting a retractable pergola over our heads.


If this wasn’t enough to slow us down, we shared one lift with all the other trades, including the team who were installing all the furniture on the Soho Floors with wait times on the lift of up to 1 hour. A situation that even a Saint would have had their patience tested.

It took us 4 days to deliver the pots, troughs, compost and Leca to the 9th and 10th floors. A monumental effort by our team with all sorts of obstacles and slight set backs along the way.


With everything delivered onto the 9th we could begin the process of filling the troughs and pots in readiness for planting. This process required team work not just with in the Tree Research gang but with Chris and his team, also. Working at height they skilfully installed a fantastic pergola around us and in return we had to be flexible with our trough and planter positioning to enable them to secure around us. The 10th floor upon arrival wasn’t tiled, so we concentrated our efforts on the 9th.

By this stage, our plants were on site and ready for planting – the most exciting part of any job we do. All the furniture was in its final positions so the lift was much easier to use.

The Tree Research team expertly and carefully navigated multistem trees of up to 300kg through the maze of furniture and bars to their final resting position. Once planted, the scheme really started to take shape and gain even more momentum.

3 full days of planting, including a double shift long meant we were planting long into the night on a roof top with the London Skyline lit up in the background – a job we are sure our team will not forget in a hurry.

Fast forward two weeks later and more plants and planters are required and some more finishing touches about to take place.

It has been an absolute pleasure working with Soho House on their White City House project and one we are very proud of.

Here are a few figures about the job:

·      398 Man Hours
·      3320 miles covered from Base to Site (A Distance equivalent to London to Boston, Massachusetts, USA )
·      9,308 litres of compost
·      2,500 litres of Hydroleca
·      3,500 kgs of Plant Material

Royal Crescent Tree Planting Project - Bath by Charlie Noton

We worked with Johnny Wake from Landmark Gardens who came up with the overall scheme on this project. The work is comprised of an upper terrrace of box framing Osmanthus multi stem umbrellas; sometimes we have to work around the constraints of the site and The Royal Crescent, Bath is one such example, with the trees being brought in from above as the video shows! The lower section hosts white flowering plants and long borders framed with Box, with Pyrus Chanticleer trees under planted with Hydrangea. The upper terrace and lower terrace are separated by instant ready clipped Yew hedging. 

A special day where my daughter came on site - a future Project Manager in the making!

A special day where my daughter came on site - a future Project Manager in the making!

Getting started on the project - perfect alignment is the key

Getting started on the project - perfect alignment is the key

Great to add the finishing touches to this fantastic design on the Royal Crescent in Bath. Pyrus ‘Chanticleer’ and Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ providing some loose forms to contrast the formality of the Buxus and Taxus lines. 

Great to add the finishing touches to this fantastic design on the Royal Crescent in Bath. Pyrus ‘Chanticleer’ and Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ providing some loose forms to contrast the formality of the Buxus and Taxus lines. 

Old Alresford Tree Planting Project by Charlie Noton

We began work in these extensive gardens in the Spring and it has been a real favourite of ours as we have returned and added to the garden over the year. We added two massive beech topiaries to the front of the property to act as Sentinels framing the staircase leading to the front door. We also created an outdoor dining area with a 12m long table lined with Mop Head Catalpa with walls of Hornbeam. We hope the photos do it justice!

Charlie Noton, Lead Consultant, Tree Research

Mop Head Catalpa trees with walls of Hornbeam

Mop Head Catalpa trees with walls of Hornbeam

Planting a mature Prunus ‘Ukon’ by Charlie Noton

The Tree Research team were pleased to manage the planting of a mature Prunus ‘Ukon’ in a fantastic private garden in Norfolk for Arne Maynard. The best part is watching the tree canopy being opened with gradual care.
‘Ukon’ tolerates most soils and is one of several Japanese cherries with yellow or green flowers. It is commonly base grafted to reduce the risk of the trunk of top grafted trees being overpowered by the weight of the spreading, arching branches as the tree matures. A fantastic specimen!

Carl McClean, Project Manager, Tree Research

The time lapse video below shows the planting of the tree.

Tree Planting: Preparing and Planting a Scots Pine Tree by Charlie Noton

Our client asked us to screen a neighbouring new build which overlooked their summerhouse and pool. We needed a tree with significant spread that would fit with the general design of the garden and provide all year round screening. We found the perfect tree, a Scots Pine, in Belgium. This tree had added appeal for our client due to her Scots heritage! 6m-7m tall and 7m-8m wide, the width dimensions of the tree presented transport challenges and our 'convoy exceptionale' was escorted, front and rear, by the police. As you can see below, the tree does a successful job of screening the new build and our client can now enjoy the privacy of her garden with the added bonus of a shaded dining area.

Charlie Noton, Lead Consultant, Tree Research




The pine tree at the nursery before the move

The pine tree at the nursery before the move

Here is the tree at the nursery in Belgium. The tree was last transplanted two years ago. On arrival, we started the excavation to prepare the rootball of the pine tree. We then raised the pine tree, wire wrapped the rootball with wire and hessian and transported the tree to Oxfordshire for replanting. 

The time lapse video below shows the stages involved in moving and preparing the tree.

“I know a guy who knows a guy…” by Charlie Noton

We’ve been talking in the office recently about the Platipus guying systems for underground tree staking. Developed in 1983, their system has had a foothold in the market ever since..and with good reason. Greenleaf brought in Arborguy with a ratchet system and a more recycled option. Contractors love a purpose-built package that is easy to price for clients and has a good reputation. Plus high costs mean a higher mark up on supply and install. 

In many cases, it is the best system to use, however we have a few hang ups: The kit costs  a lot of money, including the driving bar to force the barbs in along with the other specialised kit that is normally required… an investment if you need to plant a few trees as a landscape company for a line off job. As well as this, we find the recycled heads of Arborguy can crack when being driven in, especially on flint or brash soils. On clay soils it is also hard to get the heads to lock out, as they end up sliding up and down when soil is wet - so neither system works well. 

We came across a great cost-effective system from a nursery in Holland a few years ago and have evolved the technique for our own specific site use. It’s simple: stakes are inserted with a digger or knocked in by hand tight against the root ball. As the straps are ratcheted tight, the tension pushes down on the rootball, drawing the whole configuration downwards and inwards, fixing it solid. 

It can be used in conjunction with overground supports if required in exposed areas at risk of severe wind rock. We’ve used this system on a large planting of 20-60cm girth parkland trees at Newnton House, without any overground support. The project was a great success and benefitted aesthetically from the lack of overground visual structures which was a priority for the design.

On rock, replace wooden stakes with pointed angle iron. Steel marquee pegs are more expensive but can be driven into solid rock.

We'd love your experiences of tree staking; overground and underground? Has anybody else come across alternative solutions?

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