Queen of Enfield, Sissy Lea, Opens Drag Queen Inspired Garden Designed by Capel Manor College Student

Patrons, students and tutors gathered in the sunshine on Thursday 19 May at the College’s Enfield Campus to celebrate the opening of ‘The Garden of Exaggerated Beauty’.

Steven Davies a final year student studying Plants and Planting Design, designed and presented the garden based on the catwalk, stage and dancefloor of a drag queen club. His design is a celebration of drag queens and their contribution to LGBTQ+ culture.

Local drag artist, Sissy Lea kicked off the event wearing a bedazzling, lilac dress perfectly complementing the colours in the show garden. She entertained guests with an uplifting performance that included her take on Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’. Sissy Lea is the drag persona of local café owner Massimo Malluzzo, who originally hails from Sicily and has run Café Zippola on Lancaster Road in Enfield since 2015.

Featuring 13 entries, the design competition was based on an existing show garden at Capel Manor College with some of the existing plants and hard landscaping being retained. Now in its tenth year, the competition tasks students with a brief and budget to work with set by tutors and is sponsored by Provender Nurseries. Students were also instructed to introduce new plants that were not already featured in other parts of the College’s gardens.

Steven’s design was thought to be original, dynamic and an excellent representation of his aim to bolster the flamboyant characteristics of the existing planting. Steven’s design incorporates strong, structural elements throughout and much thought has been given to textures, contrast, colour, and forms in the new plant selection. Unity across the garden is provided by the repeated use of mounds and contrasting strap-like leaves.

Principal Christine Bianchin congratulated Steven on his innovative design and said, ‘Inclusivity is core to Capel Manor College and what we do. We care passionately about representing diversity across London and encouraging all people to study green courses.’

Steven was introduced to gardening as a child by his grandmother. The son of a carpenter, he also became interested in construction, helping his father by working on building sites during the summer holidays as a student. Eventually Steven ended up working for the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham as a Projects Team Manager, and it was this role that refuelled his interest in gardens and landscapes as he worked closely with landscape architects.

During this time, Steven also bought a house in Islington which he redesigned and rebuilt with his father. Here, he worked closely with a gardening professional friend to create his first garden from scratch. This stoked his desire to retrain as a garden designer, but it would take one more house move and the creation of another garden before he felt able to wind down his career and retrain.

Steven says, ‘I now intend to set up a garden design business focusing on the typically small urban gardens where I cut my teeth. I like the challenge of maximising the amenity potential and flexibility of small gardens, whilst introducing beautiful planting that can boost the wildlife potential of the city.’

Capel Manor College’s students and tutors helped to plant Steven’s Garden of Exaggerated Beauty and now complete the garden will be used as an educational resource for tutors to introduce new plant species and cultivars to those studying garden design.

Capel Manor College is London’s environmental college, offering a diverse range of full and part-time courses in further and higher education for young people and adults. We embrace and promote inclusivity in land-based careers.

The College plays a vital role in the green agenda for the capital, equipping the next generation of land-based sector workers with the skills and knowledge needed to help preserve and protect London’s wildlife, national parks, and green spaces.

If students are looking for the next step after school, considering a career change or want to further their existing skills, they are taught by exceptional, industry-experienced tutors and gain renowned qualifications valued by land-based employers across the world.

As part of their studies, our students have the unique opportunity to obtain real-world experience and help take care of the College’s estates, gardens, farms, zoos and commercial businesses.


Provender Nurseries is a trade only supplier of plants and related products to landscape professionals.  More information can be found at www.provendernurseries.co.uk

Provender Nurseries have a three year contract with Capel Manor College to continue the garden design competition across three campuses.