Behind the scenes at the Jo Malone London garden in Liverpool

PUBLISHED: 20:16 21 September 2014 | UPDATED: 20:16 21 September 2014

Terry Reilly (ex-volunteer now head gardener at Rotunda), Bianca Iaciofano (Jo Malone London UK Communications Coordinator), Maxine Ennis (Chief Exec at Rotunda) and Andy Thomson (head designer/partner at BCA Landscape)

Terry Reilly (ex-volunteer now head gardener at Rotunda), Bianca Iaciofano (Jo Malone London UK Communications Coordinator), Maxine Ennis (Chief Exec at Rotunda) and Andy Thomson (head designer/partner at BCA Landscape)

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A blossoming garden project by the fragrance brand Jo Malone London is bringing new hope to a corner of Liverpool

Maxine Ennis (Chief Exec at Rotunda) and Bianca Iaciofano (Jo Malone London UK Communications Coordinator)Maxine Ennis (Chief Exec at Rotunda) and Bianca Iaciofano (Jo Malone London UK Communications Coordinator)

You wouldn’t believe it, but set back from this road and hidden behind metal railings and a leafy hedge is a sanctuary. Just a few metres away from disused, boarded up shops, it is a haven for people to relax and take a break. This is the Jo Malone London garden at Rotunda in Kirkdale, Liverpool.

Rotunda, a centre for formal and informal learning for all ages, has been working with the renowned fragrance brand for a year, designing and then building the Kirkdale Country Garden in what was once the centre’s derelict grounds.

‘This project has been a saviour for us at the centre,’ said Rotunda chief executive, Maxine Ennis. ‘It represents resilience and growth against a troubled backdrop. A cacophony of colour, a symphony of the senses. This garden is symbolic of an area that is at a pinnacle and platform to change.’

Gardens are at the heart of Jo Malone London, and they can become the heart of a community. Horticulture and green spaces are a constant source of inspiration for staff at the creative studio. This is why they have pooled their knowledge into supporting marginalised communities in key cities to build and maintain scented gardens to improve the environment of those living troubled lives.

The Kirkdale Country Garden, LiverpoolThe Kirkdale Country Garden, Liverpool

Kirkdale is one of four gardens in the UK being developed in conjunction with Jo Malone London. Sitting in the middle of one of the country’s most impoverished areas, with a high level of poor health, unemployment and crime, the Kirkdale Country Garden is a real asset. It is maintained through the sale of the brand’s home candle, Silk Blossom, £42. A donation equal to the retail price goes directly to the four charities.

Jo Malone London’s press officer, Bianca Iaciofano, told me:‘We are proud to be involved in this fantastic project. Gardens are important to us, we use them for ingredients in the products for our brand.

‘Gardening is good for the soul, therapeutic in the short term and life-changing in long term.’

Rotunda, has been operating as a community centre since 1986. Each year it helps over 2,000 people through its services, from counselling to teaching programmes and even an on-site nursery.

‘I was a student myself here 29 years ago,’ said Maxine. ‘I was a very young mum, and my little boy used to go to the on-site nursery while I studied for an English qualification here.

‘It is amazing what people can achieve here. From those who have struggled to connect with mainstream education and are lacking in self-esteem and confidence to those who perhaps have a criminal background, we get them hooked into wanting to aspire for bigger and better things. The Rotunda is the hub of Kirkdale.’

The garden project has already involved many local people of all ages into developing ideas with the creative design studio, BCA Landscape, headed by Andy Thomson.

‘Andy has gone above and beyond into trying to incorporate what the community wanted,’ said Maxine. ‘We’ve had ideas such as a secret fairy garden from a four year old little girl to a 94 year old gentleman who just wanted somewhere nice to sit!’ added Bianca.

For designer Andy, this has been a relatively small project compared to the ones he is used to, but one with a big heart: ‘To see something go from derelict to the space it is now is stunning,’ said Andy.

Andy didn’t want the garden to be all in one space. ‘I thought of it more as an outside house with different rooms. The paving that trails from one space to another has been upcycled from a salvage yard. It takes the visitor from the centre to various rooms where different plants are growing. We also have a crab apple tree walled kitchen garden where we will grow items that can be used in the Rotunda café.’

Hop poles line either side of the first room, with jasmine and roses growing up the side. Plants and flowers fill the ground in warm and hot colours, contrasting against an evergreen backdrop. They plan to have wires connecting all the poles at the top with lanterns hanging, casting a pretty soft glow. Walk a little further on and you will find a circular paving stone, the centre of this part of the garden. Containing neutral and a controlled pallet of colours, this is a understated, peaceful and relaxing section, complete with water bowl and a seat. Moving up, visitors are greeted by a miniature woodland, where wild plants will rise up beautifully, eventually hiding the road completely from view.

‘It really is a secret sanctuary,’ said Andy. ‘The final room in this row is the theatre garden space. The curved stone seating provides a space for the audience, and the performance area is surrounded by silver and purple plants, contrasting against the lawn in a vibrant way.’

It is a sensory experience, where you can brush past and smell the various scents from herbs and aromatic flowers.

Maxine is hoping these aromas, reminiscent of Jo Malone London fragrances, will encourage young women to get involved. This is not only a place for recreation, it is an educational project and locals will be encouraged to take horticultural courses as a pathway to self-sufficiency and employment, such as the Wellie Boot Camp, designed for 16-18 year olds who have dropped out of education.

Bianca said: ‘We’ve held volunteer days where staff from the London head office, our stores in Liverpool and Manchester have visited Kirkdale to help paint or plant in the space. It was important for us that they come see it for themselves, the difference that is being made and what exactly the products they are selling are supporting,’ said Bianca.

Meet the gardener...

Rotunda ex-volunteer, Terry Reilly, is now fully-employed as the Kirkdale County Garden’s chief gardener. ‘It is a great project,’ said Terry. ‘It combines artistry with growing your own food and plants. Every part of the garden will have something happening. It is like having my own allotment!’

‘Terry is involved for the long term and that is great as a garden is for life - a lifetime devotion,’ added Maxine. ‘Getting started with the planting was the hard part, but we are now flyingng with the help of Terry and Jo Malone London.’

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