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Foreign influence in garden design, with Nilufer Danis

Pro Landscaper speaks with Nilufer Danis of Lotus Design Studio, looking at how garden design from overseas has impacted her work, essential consideration of global warming in design and we gain insight into specific projects that have been impacted by her Turkish heritage.


foreign designer
Nilufer Danis

Which nation’s garden design inspires you most?

It really depends on the project and use of space, as my opinion varies. Overall, I would say I like Scandinavian design for its simple, modest, rustic and cosy gardens. They’re also highly functional and sustainable.

From planting aspect, I like the way we use plants here in the UK. I believe English gardens represent a sophisticated and an excellent horticultural knowledge in rich planting combinations which is rare in other countries as they don’t understand plants as much as we do here in Britain.”

The naturalistic planting by Piet Oudolf greatly inspires me. I love using assorted colours, texture of perennials in a naturalistic and modern setting to create a visual interest and enhance the natural habitat.

Finally, I love traditional Turkish gardens’ – simple, symmetrical lines with a relaxed atmosphere and an elegant charm. Despite of their simple layouts, details of rich decoration and beautiful accesuars which are used in the gardens emphasise their luxurious appearance.

I believe that they are an excellent example of Neoclassicism, in a luxurious and elegant style.


What are some gardens you have designed with a foreign influence?

The first garden that comes to my mind is my show garden, Turkish Garden of Paradise at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2015. The garden was sponsored by The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism to create a garden, capturing the essence of all that early Turkish gardens mean to Turks and represent the culture, history and rich flora of the nation.

This lavish and evocative style of early Turkish Islamic Gardens of the 10th century and onwards greatly influenced my design. Traditional Islamic elements have been used, such as strong geometric architecture, an elegant pavilion, fountains and rills for cooling its surrounding. A high wall containing a window grille surrounds the garden, provided privacy and enclosure while representing the nature of Paradise to be secret and hidden away.

Turkish Garden of Paradise
Turkish Garden of Paradise

The hard landscaping was softened with scented herbaceous planting representing the rich flora that blooms in Turkey. Flower beds containing blooms with bold, hot tones aimed to provide energy and excitement, and a plane tree, cypresses, and fruit trees offered shade, structure and height.

The second example of foreign influence in Lotus Design Studio’s gardens, would be our latest international project, ‘AIPH Community Garden’ for 2018 Taichung World Flora Exposition. The design concept is based on a combination of various functions: sustainability, ecology, landscape and air quality improvement.

Most of the Taiwanese people live in apartments without access to their own garden or outdoor space. We proposed vertical gardens, made from recycled gutters with edible plants to demonstrate a way of increasing growing space and productivity and make maximum use of limited space.

The proposed planting scheme contains mostly native local plants such as the traditional Taiwan tea (Camelia sinensis) and rice (Oryza sativa) plants, to encourage biodiversity. The proposed tea planting on the small hills references traditional Taiwanese tea planting on the slopes of mountains and hills, providing a striking evergreen feature. The rice plants will be planted in the eco-pond to represent traditional rice fields in a natural setting.


What global influences do you incorporate into your designs?

As we are all aware that climate change, decreasing natural resources, including; water, woodland and fossil-fuels, and increasing population in urban areas will create a big negative impact on our cities and life in the future.”

In accordance with the World Counts, the way we’re living, we are already using two to three times more of the Earth’s natural resources than is sustainable. If we do not act now, we will see the consequences of depletion of natural resources – and it’s not going to be pretty.

I believe that landscape architects and garden designers have important responsibilities to protect the environment and create sustainable spaces which are in harmony with natural surroundings and biodiversity. This conscious state of mind influences my design approach very much.

AIPH Community Garden

I challenge myself to provide mainly sustainable elements in a design such as recycled materials, permeable surfaces, rain gardens, natural water features, insect houses and green rooves, to address major environmental issues.

I believe that we designers can bring hope of a greener and breathable world for the next generation. We must encourage investment in sustainable and environmental green spaces.


About Nilufer Danis

Company founder, Nilufer Danis, is an international award-winning Chartered Landscape Architect and Garden Designer with 15 years’ work experience designing all scales of landscape in the UK and overseas. She specialises in a wide range of projects, including private gardens, residential, public realm, leisure, education, parks and show gardens.

Originally from Turkey, Nilufer moved to the UK in 2000, after completing her BS in Landscape Architecture. She continued her education, completing an MA at the University of Greenwich and Landscape Institute Chartership.

Her work has been recognised with a number of awards for a diverse range of project briefs in the UK and abroad. These include three RHS gold medals, two ‘Best in Category’ and two ‘Best Trade Stand’ awards at the RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court Palace Flower Shows.

Nilufer’s international projects have been honoured with ‘Best Thematic & Innovative Project’, ‘Best International Project’ awards by Plant Magazine and ‘The Innovative Garden Special Prize’ by EXPO2016 Antalya and featured in design magazines worldwide.

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