Max Knudsen, the chief market strategist at the Abu Dhabi brokerage ADS Securities, transformed an empty field into a grand English country garden. Moving to Abu Dhabi this year presented him with a different challenge but he has equally ambitious plans for his terrace in the capital.
Tell me about the garden you created in England.
I previously lived in Greenwich and I had an 800 square foot roof garden overlooking Greenwich park. To fill up the roof garden I made it full of flowers. When I left London I moved to Essex, in the country, and we found a house with a big garden. I thought, 'Yes... that's it. No more flowers.' The form of flowers all cascading down things was actually not natural to me.
Why was that?
As an analyst, I take what seems [to be] random stuff and make it sensible and understand it. A formal garden would have always made much more sense to me, trying to control nature and make it straight, make it angular and get all the views right. I'll tell you a funny story. One day there was a knock at the door and there was a guy selling aerial photos of the area. He showed me this picture and I suddenly realised that from the air my paths aren't straight. I thought, 'I'm not having that picture on my wall,' so I sent him away.
How many hedges and topiary trees did you end up with?
I have 800 metres of formal hedging of different heights. I have 136 geometric topiary designs and that's box, which is the small-leafed bushes, and yew and also leylandii. I have a big central fountain that everything spins off.
Was it not hard leaving it to move to a city in the desert?
I am an eternal optimist and I knew I could do something here that might be really different for me. I have a 30 metre terrace that overlooks the piazza at the St Regis. I have had three very big palms delivered. But that's just the start.
What will your terrace look like when it is finished?
I want to create this jungle that screens it all off, except for the fact that through some of the big palms you can see straight through into the piazza, so you almost have to walk up to the edge of the terrace and pull the leaves apart and then you can look down into the piazza.
Gardening has been a hobby since you were a child, so why did you choose to go into market research?
My dad told me when I was growing up that I had to have a profession. I decided I would go into law and from law I joined The City [of London].
If not, would you have been a landscape gardener?
I would have liked to have been that, I think, and I would love to have had a nursery. I love plants and I love talking about plants.
* Gillian Duncan