Working with my hands comes naturally and, in addition to garden maintenance, my services include garden consultancy and design. I also work as part of the team at Ground Designs, my husband’s landscaping business and, with my practical gardening experience and Sparsholt College training, together we aim to create the perfect outdoor space for your enjoyment. We hope this unique approach will make Garden Design more accessible, keeping costs down to suit you and your budget.
Because we work as a team, the need for repeat consultation fees is reduced. Also, from experience, things usually change once work progresses, but the need for amended plans and construction drawings is also removed because we communicate and resolve them together on site, therefore removing the potential for additional, unnecessary expense.
Also, if using a Garden Designer and Landscape Contractor separately, this could create communication issues, whereas our respective businesses work together so this will not happen.
FdSc Garden Design
MA Regional and Local History & Archaeology
BA Hons Archaeology
Gardening and garden design is my life now. I have trodden many different paths to get here. I left college with two ‘A’ levels, including Classical Civilization and Geology, and went to work for a Bank. During this time I also studied Archaeology and, seventeen years later, when I left, I had gained my degree and was studying for a Masters.
Earth has always appealed to me in many ways. Indeed archaeology is the study of the material remains of the past, and I was fascinated by ancient civilizations, including the origins of gardens, and discovering legendary places like The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
I have travelled widely (and responsibly) increasing my knowledge of different countries and cultures, from which I can take inspiration for my garden designs.
Having completed my Masters I then embarked upon a three year Garden Design course, which I finished with distinction in 2013. Also my husband Gary is an experienced Landscape Gardener. He has great vision and a lifetime of skill which, together with my Garden Design qualification, makes us a great team, and the perfect choice to design and build your garden.
From left to right: Dean, Lisa, Gary and Jonno.
Earliest gardening memory
Digging! Finding little bits of clay pipe in the soil along with those ubiquitous sherds of blue and white pottery, which is probably why I chose to study archaeology at first, then gradually the gardening took over.
How did you become involved with gardening as a profession?
The same year we got married we bought our first house, which was also our first garden, and it was a blank canvass. Gary designed and built the hard landscaping and I added the final touches with the plants. In time, I believe it must have been my husband’s devotion to his profession that led me to stray from the archaeology route I was pursuing and start a new journey down the garden path!
Who has inspired your career the most?
As already explained, my husband Gary, but also excellent lecturers at college, and my own very keen and knowledgeable customers. Not least, if not who, but what, NATURE itself; flora and fauna. Plants are amazing! They need animals too, including insects, for pollination. Seeing plants grow in their natural habitats is breathtaking, and I was recently in the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia where Alchemilla mollis, Kniphofia, Aloe Vera, Scabious, Pennisetum, to name but a few, were growing everywhere, against a stunning mountainous background!
Which gardening tool would you not be without?
Secateurs, but also my special Japanese topiary shears
Who would you most like to have dinner with (past or present)?
Probably Agatha Christie because she was married to an archaeologist but also had a beautiful house and garden at Greenway in Devon, so we would share similar passions and have plenty to talk about.
Not a lot of people know this about me…
I have experienced past life regression and was once a prince, but also a pauper!
First plant love
When I was little, our family used to go for walks by the River Itchen where we would find the giant leaves of Gunnera manicata, plants reminiscent of prehistoric times, conjuring up images of dinosaurs yet, as children, if it started to rain they were simply fun umbrellas!
I currently enjoy watching Monty Don, Carol Klein, James Wong and Chris Beardshaw, as well as many others, but I do have a great respect for gardeners past and present who are not necessarily in the limelight. Although Gertrude Jekyll became famous, it was her elder sister Caroline who gardened first, creating ‘The Garden of Eden’ in Venice with her husband Frederick.
Biggest challenge facing gardeners today
In general, the historical image of gardening does little to encourage young people to aspire to a profession in the horticultural industry because of low rewards for hard work. However, a variety of creative, interesting and responsible roles are possible with suitable training, and efforts are being made to change the pay culture, enhance the current perception, and make such careers more appealing. After all, modern research shows that gardening has excellent health benefits, both mentally and physically and it makes people feel good.
Personally, in our business, there is increasing competition from cheaper operators like ‘cowboy builders’ or disreputable traders who will not do a good job, don’t have the required licences and insurances, pay labourers cash in hand and fly tip waste. We have to rely on the age old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ and customers who can recognise a professional company when they see one and want a job well done.
Favourite planting style?
Exotic gardens are very appealing to me: Alhambra (Spain) Majorelle (Morocco) and the jungle that is Las Pozas (Mexico), but I also love the warm climes of Mediterranean gardens, and most recently I have become interested in the cool, calm style of Japanese gardens, so it depends where I am in the world. However if I am back at home there are also many wonderful gardens to visit in Britain . I particularly enjoyed visiting Biddulph Grange, so perhaps I should say my favourite style is eclectic?!
I like overgrown, mature gardens, but I also like contemporary too- it’s not just about right plant right place, it’s about right garden, right place.
What principles have guided your attitude to gardening?
Just do it! Gardens are healing environments, they provide pure escapism. They respond to nurturing, and they evolve. Don’t be afraid of gardening, just do it. You learn by doing. Garden because you enjoy it- being immersed in the nature of things. Create a garden which suits you and your lifestyle. Try and keep it natural, consider the environment and the wildlife within it. Harness the spirit of your garden to enjoy its beauty and for the pleasure of your senses. Don’t be afraid to enhance it with garden art and other accessories. Put in plants which suit the soil type, don’t try and change it, as it will always revert back eventually. Experiment- plant what you like, but always the right plant in the right place.
Favourite garden book?
Too many to choose from, but a few are listed below, along with others to be found in my bookcase.
Beatrix Potter The Tale of Benjamin Bunny and Peter Rabbit- simply because working for one of my regular customers, I feel like I am in a scene from Beatrix Potter, like Mr. McGregor’s garden- lovely!
Frances Mayes Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy - now a film- about renovating an old farmhouse and bringing the garden back to life.
F. Eden A Garden in Venice- the story of the creation of an English garden in Venice written by Gertrude Jekyll’s brother-in-law, first published in 1903!
M.M. Kaye The Sun in the Morning- recalling the delights of growing up in India; the peacocks, the bougainvillea, the pine forests…a must read autobiography.
Frances Hodgson Burnett The Secret Garden- the children’s curiosity that opened up a world of wonders in a beautiful garden.
Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland- painting the roses red!
Philipa Pearce Tom’s Midnight Garden- a lost paradise.
Helena, Attlee The Gardens of Japan- visiting some of them in 2016 was amazing!
Angelica Gray Gardens of Marrakesh- following a tour of Morocco in 2012 the Majorelle Garden provided much inspiration.
Monty Don Around The World in 80 Gardens- simply makes me want to see them all!
Monty Don & Derry Moore Great Gardens of Italy- at least I can cross the impressive Villa D’Este and Villa Adriana off my list.
Jenny Condie The Gardens of Venice and The Veneto- one of my favourite regions of Italy!
RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers – extremely useful!
Johnson & Smith Plant Names Simplified- a little book of Latin names- explains a lot!
My style is still evolving like, I believe, a garden evolves, although I am influenced by my travels and all the gardens I visit. I am learning all the time, even from working with my own knowledgeable garden customers, and during the course of helping to run my husband’s landscaping business and working with his skilful team. At present I am doing The Specialist Plant Course to obtain a deeper understanding of current plant ideas and plant combinations, with a view to providing the best possible advice.