I’m Grace and I studied and worked in both Architecture and Floristry for 10 years before retraining as a garden designer.
I studied garden design at the Inchbald School of Design in London and started my own practice taking on both residential and commercial developments across London and the South East.
The design elements and process in architecture and floristry are similar, although at opposite ends of both size and time scales. After working in both I found that these disciplines are the bringing together of separate elements—hard materials, light and space, or flowers, plants and vases.
The principles are the same: structure, colour, texture, materials, form and place must all be taken into account. I discovered that garden design is a beautiful combination of these two practices: an experience of light, smell and vision, a space created with nature.
What approach would you suggest to anyone wishing to start a career as a garden designer?
Whatever your background, it’s good to apply design knowledge to a garden setting. I really recommend taking a course in garden design as well as expanding plant knowledge.
Design is all about giving your client their dream garden amidst an array of limitations. It’s important to go into each project with the expectation that you’re going to have to get creative and think of ways of getting around challenging conditions and requirements.
Whether you’re working or not, stay observant and take photos and notes of plants, details and design. As well as gardens, take inspiration from art, fashion or whatever interests you.
Try gardening and get used to how plants grow and behave. It’s amazing how an instinct for plant care can develop through practical experience. You may also find that certain plants can succeed in completely different conditions to what is advised!
A designed space should have specific experiences. When designing, use the plants, spaces, lighting and landscaping to create an atmosphere – the reaction to the garden will be more profound and memorable.
How would you advise a client when choosing the right designer for their project?
It makes sense to choose a designer who works in a style that you like – you should be able to see examples of work on their website.
Are they quite hands-on, formal or informal in how they work? Do they prefer to see the whole project through or are they happy to let you project manage? These are things you should be aware of and check what you’re comfortable with.
Keep in mind what you want to spend on the whole project—between 10% and 20% of that would go on designer fees.
Could you offer one top tip you wish you had known when you first started working as a garden designer?
It really is all about the client! Go with an attitude to please the client and give them all they want in their new garden, but know that you can provide the creative and surprising solutions on how to get there.
What is one valuable lesson you have learned since starting your career as a garden designer?
Be really clear with your work stages, project management and pricing structure both for yourself and your client.
What would be your career highlight?
Building Chelsea Flower Show Gardens with Jonathan Snow’s team. It was great to see all the designers and landscapers at work in the lead up to the show, and to see how it all works behind the scenes!