Soho's Secret Gardeners: David at 68 Dean Street

If you’ve walked down Dean Street you’ve probably noticed number 68; a grand, Grade II* listed Georgian townhouse with stone pilasters on the corner of Meard Street, Soho.

The house was originally built in 1732 by John Meard Jr, a master carpenter and artisan craftsman responsible for the houses on Meard Street. The property was formerly the site of the famous Benford O’Shea watchmakers (1869-1983), whose store sign is commemoratively hung in the back garden.

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Above: The sign originally hung between the two windows at the front of the house 

The property then remained derelict for a number of years before being bought by David Bieda, who restored it with great care to its former Georgian glory.

We spoke with David about the plants in his garden and his home’s interesting history.


Name: David Bieda

Location: 68 Dean Street, Soho

A blooming orchard

When we arrive at David’s house, the most striking sight are the flourishing trees growing along the railings and climbing up the front of the house’s facade. It’s a rare sight for a property in Central London, as the trees bear fruit.

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Above: Apricots growing at the front of 68 Dean Street, courtesy of David Bieda

68 Dean Street, apple orchard, apple tree, soho London

Above: this year's crop of apples

If you’re in the area, don’t be tempted to pick them! David planted the apple tree 20 years ago, and it now sits within his own City orchard. The crop includes Victoria plums, pears, apples, apricots, mandarins, and (hopefully) oranges, alongside a giant geranium.

 68 dean street townhouse, Victoria plums, soho London

Above: A ripe harvest of Victoria plums, courtesy of David Bieda

What is your most used gardening tool?

David: My brain

Growing trees and plants beside a property whose lowest floor sits beneath street level might seem an impossible task, but green-fingered David’s ingenious solution was to plant the trees in pots by the railings and allow the roots to grow down drainpipes into the soil beneath the house.

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Above: Engineering the growth of Dean Street’s fruit trees

David also enjoys watering his plants with Storm Flowers Bartley Burbler gifted to him by a friend on his birthday. It may be too small to tend to the tumbling vines growing up the walls in his garden, and the thirsty Begonias, but it’s handy for indoor use.

Below street level grows a giant Himalayan lily (Cardiocrinum giganteum), a plant which originates in the foothills of the mountains where it often experiences wet summers. David’s lily grows by the basement, and despite being a temperamental plant to grow, it flowered once!

Vertical gardening

With the back garden being fairly limited in ground size, David has drafted in the walls of his house as an honorary garden in a feat of engineering he refers to as “vertical gardening.”

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Above: Busy Lizzies in the garden

His favourite plants are the roses – these climb trellises up the back of the property – and the pink, white and red Busy Lizzies (Impatiens walleriana) growing in the shadows of the passionflower (another of his favourites), tumbling over the garden walls onto Meard Street.

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Above: The passionflower as seen from Meard Street

What’s next for 68 Dean Street?

An incredible avocado plant towers high, which David planted from seed in his back garden. He looks up at it, and the clematis plants growing above us, and tells us that the garden is full!

 David Bieda, Soho London, 68 Dean Street townhouse, seven noses of soho

Above: David in his garden.

Storm Flowers’ owner Joao is soon to help David hang some more trellis on his garden wall, so he can continue to tend to his flourishing garden.

The Six Noses of Soho

Have you spotted the nose on Meard Street? It is often mistaken for being the seventh member of the Six Noses of Soho, a 1997 art installation by Rick Buckley featuring casts of his nose protruding from the walls of buildings in Central London.

Buckley installed 35 noses in a demonstrative protest of the army of all-seeing CCTV cameras, to see if he could get away undetected in the streets of the city where everyone is watched.

 Meard Street nose, seven noses of soho, Rick Buckley, protest art, guerrilla art installation

Above: the Meard Street nose

The Meard Street nose similarly has a story of protest: David tells us that he hung David’s nose (this David is from Michelangelo’s Renaissance sculpture, not his own) on the wall as a temporary structure in opposition to the Council’s ruling that no nails were to be used on the outer walls of 68 Dean Street, or its neighbouring townhouse at 67, meaning a trellis to grow plants could not be hung.

Many of Buckley’s noses were taken down within days, but legend has it that if you find all the remaining six noses you will gain infinite wealth – just be sure not to mistake the nose on Meard Street as one of them!


If you would like to tell your gardening story, we would love to hear from you.
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With thanks to David for showing us around his beautiful home and garden.
You can find out more about 68 Dean Street at