1. Can you tell us a bit about how you started your career in garden design? Was this your first career or did you do something else before this?
I started with a degree in Fashion & Textiles and went on to a management training scheme at Laura Ashley. This was followed by several years in retail at House of Fraser, Fired Earth and a period furniture & interior design business. I decided to consolidate my skills with a postgrad in marketing and was then part of the original team at Country House Wedding Venues, helping to build the business up from scratch from a team of just 3 to over 400 employees. After 12 years I wanted to move on to different ventures (and work more sociable hours) so took a career break and studied for a course in Garden Design.
2. When did you decide to start your own business and what have been the challenges along the way?
I started my own business The Cheshire Garden in 2015 and have since completed the RHS Practical Horticulture Levels 2 and 3, and am a pre-registered member of the Society of Garden Designers. The hardest part of the business is managing cash flow.
3. What is your niche and how does this help you to attract new clients?
I concentrate my work on residential projects. I try to be as sustainable as possible and will reuse existing materials where possible, mixing in old with new. My client relationships are built on trust and many of my clients have become friends, and I like to weave a client’s story or the history of their home into my designs. I often use curves and will create patterns with paving. Detailing and personalisation are my niche. Customer service is really important to me and it is rewarding that most of my business comes from referrals.
Courtyard garden for a Georgian townhouse.
9.1 m2 x Honey Cathedral Cobble Setts 100x100x40mm for rumble strip, edging, circles and coping
13.1 m2 x Honey Cathedral Cobble Setts random sizes 250×100, 200×100, 150×100, 100x100mm laid parallel to driveway entrance
4. How important is your website and social media to your business?
The website is important for showing lots of images and the range of my work, it elevates my position within the industry rather than driving new business. I also use Houzz to show case studies. Social media is useful for showing updates of my projects along the way so followers can see a design take shape over a period of time.
5. What has been your most rewarding creation & why?
The project I did at King Street in Chester was a difficult brief, transforming a small narrow courtyard and driveway with difficult access. I wanted to create that glimpse of a spectacular courtyard you see when a door opens in Provence – an oasis in the city! The design came together beautifully and looks particularly stunning lit up at night.
I am proud of the work I have done with charities including a couple of Show Gardens, which raise their recognition, and I recently designed a sensory garden for someone with autism, it was very rewarding to be able to enhance someone’s life.
Riverside terrace garden.
6.25 m2 Westminster Stone Fieldmoor Cobble Setts 100 x 100 x 100 mm laid chequer board radial to circle.
31 m2 Stone Porcelain Spa Collection Bath Grey 800 x 400 x 20 mm
53 m2 (including 10% for cutting & wastage) Westminster Stone Porcelain Forest Collection Wychwood Birch 1,200 x 400 x 20 mm
Garden Paving Inspiration
6. Where do you get your inspiration?
I get a lot of my inspiration from the natural landscape surrounding a client’s garden and their interior decoration, style of house etc. I love to create designs which show ‘through the keyhole’ to my client’s life. I’m also obsessed with visiting museums and galleries and get a lot of inspiration from them too.
7. Which industry figures do you most admire?
Oh there are loads! I love the work of Piet Oudolf, a Dutch designer famous for his ‘prairie’ planting. I admire Nigel Dunnett’s Pictorial Meadows at the Trentham Estate and James Hitchmough for his naturalistic wildflower planting. Thomas Stuart Smith who creates wonderful landscapes that combine naturalistic planting in more contemporary settings and Ian Kitson, an amazing garden designer and landscape architect who uses art as inspiration.
8. What is your favourite garden to visit?
Wollerton Hall in Market Drayton, I visit whenever I’m in the area.
9. Do you have particular plants that you always use?
It depends on the acidity of the soil and whether the garden is sheltered or exposed, but I love using Narcissus Thalia, a white daffodil wherever possible.
10. What plants do you use to create colour in the garden during winter?
Hamamelis – Witchhazel which produces lovely scented flowers in Winter and I like to use a mixture of colourful leaves, berries and crabapple malus.
11. How important is hard landscaping within your designs and do you have any favourites?
It’s important for areas that will be used for dining and sitting, I like to use paving to create pattern and interest. I particularly like using porcelain as it’s ideal for shady and north facing landscapes and has been made to be slip-resistant. I choose paving which will enhance and complement the client’s house and surroundings and I like to mix contemporary and traditional styles.
12. What are your ambitions for the future?
I would like to gain further recognition within the industry and win a few awards! It’s always nice to work on big complex projects but ultimately I want to be offered work which is interesting and creative, with clients who understand me and trust what I do.
Jane Bingham, The Cheshire Garden