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Planting in high places: Burgon & Ball tools used in Royal Opera House terrace planting

We recently had the pleasure of providing our tools for a very high-profile project: award-winning designer Matt Keightley's green makeover for the new terraces at London’s historic Royal Opera House.
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Planting in high places: Burgon & Ball tools used in Royal Opera House terrace planting
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Planting in high places: Burgon & Ball tools used in Royal Opera House terrace planting

We recently had the pleasure of providing our tools for a very high-profile project; giving a green makeover to the new terraces at London’s historic Royal Opera House.

Opera in Covent Garden can trace its roots back to 1732 – and that’s very nearly as old as Burgon & Ball! In each of the three theatres which have stood on the site over the last 280-plus years, opera has played an important role. And now the current facilities, built in 1858, are being transformed to maximise their reach and appeal in the 21st Century.

The task of adding the green feel-good factor to the transformation has fallen to garden designer Matt Keightley and his design studio, Rosebank Landscaping. Matt is a two-times winner of an RHS silver-gilt medal, and also a two-times winner of the prestigious BBC People’s Choice award. He was the designer behind the beautiful RHS Feel Good Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2018; you may have seen him on the BBC’s show coverage showing Her Majesty the Queen around the garden and speaking about how gardens can support mental health.

After Chelsea this year, as a thank you for the hard work involved in putting the RHS garden together, Matt organised some of our specially-engraved RHS Chelsea 2018 souvenir trowels for his team; a lovely gesture, we thought. So when he recently got in touch again and explained that he had a rather exciting project coming up and needed some tools to help out with the planting, we were delighted to help out!

Matt explained that Rosebank Landscaping had been commissioned to plant up areas in the Royal Opera House. Part of an ambitious three-year project, the work involved adding greenery with a series of indoor and outdoor arrangements on the new terraces at the venue.  

The work is part of a complex project aiming to attract new audiences for ballet and opera, while respecting the heritage and unique character of the Royal Opera House. With the venue remaining operational throughout, there was a very limited window of opportunity to carry out the planting before the public returned once again to the building. Guerrilla gardening - in the most prestigious of surroundings!

To tackle the work, Matt needed a selection of our RHS-endorsed tools, including trowels, forks and secateurs, as well as some rockery trowels for fine detailed planting and adjusting. Our mid-handled trowels were also among the selection, as they’re perfect for extending your reach if you’re working in large containers or raised beds.

A team ten of ten gardeners carried out the work, and they managed to complete everything on time. Matt says:

“It went incredibly smoothly. As expected, the tools were simply superb and a real pleasure to use. I have to say it does always feel extra special using the Burgon & Ball kit. I love these and have had a number of items since I started 16 years ago! I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to road test some I haven’t used in the past.”

The end result is calm and impactful landscaping for both the Winter Garden and the refurbished Amphitheatre Terrace. With panoramic views over Covent Garden and the city skyline, the newly-refurbished terraces have been finished using an elegant, sophisticated and restrained planting palette that lends itself perfectly to the architectural detailing.

So you’re lucky enough to visit the spectacular Royal Opera House in London's Covent Garden, and you take a while to enjoy the terraces, take a moment too to admire the new planting scheme, and how it has brought colour, interest and a restful ambiance to this unique and very special building.

All images supplied by Matt Keightley

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