After a long career break looking after my two children, I decided to re-train in garden design at the Oxford College of Garden Design. The one year post graduate diploma was all-consuming and I was inspired by every aspect of this industry.
I set up my garden design business in January 2010 and shortly after entered a competition run by NS&I to design a show garden at BBC Gardener’s World Live. I was one of three winners and built my first show garden “The Salad Bar”, at the NEC in Birmingham in June 2010. I received a Silver medal for the garden and won the public vote, which I was really proud of. I had a great team of contractor’s from Simply Green Landscapes, who had built show gardens before and so were great at guiding me through the process – and their workmanship was superb. The BBC also followed the making of my garden for the Gardener’s World programme on the show, which gave me a huge amount of publicity early in my career.
Whilst planning ‘The Salad Bar, I got a part time job with a well established design and build landscaping company called Artscape, which gave me a fantastic insight into running a business in this field. However, after only a few months working there though a mixture of late-night grafting and good fortune I resigned to focus on my business full time. In late 2010, the RHS asked me to design my second show garden for the London Plant and Design Show in February 2011 and I also found out that a design that I had speculatively submitted for a conceptual garden at Hampton Court Flower show had also been successful. Whilst the show garden had given me some good profile, my private client work was slowly building up.
The show garden for The London Plant and Design show had to be a roof garden and I decided to use only plants that could be used in ‘Greenroof’ style planting to showcase how this sustainable method of planting could be used in a contemporary setting. I was awarded a Silver-gilt for this garden – so was slowly moving up in the medal ranks!
My first couple of gardens had just started to be built and new commissions were coming in, so it was a busy time and although often stressful, I was relishing the new challenges. A fantastic part of building show gardens is the speed with which the project gets completed and the number of people you meet along the way. I have made some great relationships with all manner of trades people who I will continue to use on private client projects. The process of designing gardens for clients can be a very long one – especially when they are also building a new house – so it can be years before you see the results of your work and without the show gardens it takes a long time to build up a portfolio. Shows, on the other hand, give you almost instant examples of your work and good profile.
The garden that I designed for Hampton Court was based on an art gallery and was great fun, as I spent time visiting as many galleries as I could – all in the name of work, which felt very indulgent. Although stressful at times, the build went well and it was an awe inspiring experience being at Hampton Court. I was utterly thrilled to get a gold medal for this garden and the whole experience will always be one of my greatest achievements.
I’m taking a break from show gardens for 2012 and concentrating on private clients, hoping to build up a solid portfolio of gardens and taking some time to go and visit different gardens and landscapes, hear people speak and generally keep learning as much as I can.