Welcome to part 2 of my garden design blog series. In this post I will be going through the design process, how the plans came together & taking a look at all of the research I did to get to this point in the design. If you missed part 1 or want to revert back to the ‘before’ images at any point please click here & to read about all of my home renovations click here. You can also see peeks at the garden coming together over on my Instagram & on #rachaeltaylorgarden.
In the beginning
I started with making enquiries with a few landscapers during the winter & early spring of 2016 & made contact with Mike Walker from Native Landscape Design. As a designer & stylist myself I’m confident in choosing looks & creating a vision, however by no means am I qualified to create a detailed to scale architect plan. Although I appreciate plants & flowers & draw them on a daily basis, I honestly didn’t have a clue when it comes to professional planting schemes. What I did know was what I liked & didn’t like & what key zones that I wanted to build in to the garden along with the general vibe & theme. I was also prepared well with a crammed inspiration folder & a Pinterest board.
Below is a selection of the original images that I emailed to Mike, as well as his immensely detailed scaled drawings & extracts of his magical planting scheme:
We live by a beautiful quarry with striking red sandstone & even though I wanted to be sympathetic to our natural surroundings, the design had to be fun with a contemporary twist. Our house is only about 35 years old but it was created with a slightly older aesthetic, yet it’s fairly modern overall. However, we live in the heart of a conservation area with quaint details & endless leafy streets. Even though I’m a retro & a fairly eclectic girl at heart, I’m a big fan of cottage style spaces & walled gardens & I do love a mix of old & new, so that was very much the brief I gave our talented designer & landscape architect.
For those of you that follow my design work you will know I’m a little obsessed with textures & this was a key attribute for the garden design. I purposely wanted to retain the old battered brick wall & decorate it somehow. Along with having a walling material that had an old feel & was in-keeping with our surroundings, I also wanted some clean lines & my husband & I are big fans of smooth style patios & sandstone. I also love warm tones & sleek lines against imperfect finishes.
Layout & form
I asked for a lot within the design, as I wanted to cater for many uses within the garden. I briefed in a pergola near the house as I felt we had a great entertaining space there that was currently being wasted. I asked for a circular structure to decorate the existing circular patio that we had. We also wanted a good-sized play area & a generous area for my potential cabin (I was thinking 4m x 4m at first). I also knew that due to the nature of the terrain of the garden there would need to be some sort of split-level & I really liked the idea of reclaiming some materials from the original garden where we could. With any fairly modern property you run the risk of things feeling a little sterile & lacking personality, therefore I wanted to save what character there was wherever we possibly good, so therefore I asked for the original steps to be used in the design somehow.
It was so important that the cabin didn’t absorb the aesthetic of the garden as any outdoor building of that size would also make a heavy impact, therefore I wanted to shift the focal point in many ways & I felt the two wooden pergolas were needed to create a visual balance; whilst offering different zones, fun entertaining areas & a variety of elevated heights. I was definitely carried away with the idea of wrapping fairy lights around them, as well as hanging & displaying beautiful & brightly coloured decorations. I knew the structures would provide an endless neutral backdrop for many years to come for key celebratory milestones & photo-shoots for my own work. I knew I wanted A LOT of plants to blend in the cabin & the hard landscaping details such as the curved wall. I didn’t want to visually feel boxed in so the free flowing plant forms were definitely key & instrumental to every aspect of the garden design.
Colour was always going to be a key factor for me since I’m such a lover of bright, vivid colour. I wanted to echo our colourful interior & bring the inside out & outside in whilst still having a natural feel. I asked for lots of vibrant plants so that there was a rainbow of colour at any given time of the year. I knew I’d team this up with grey neutrals & vibrant pops of accent colours with some of the key styling, such as a fun & bright painted cabin, planters, a bird village, a chalkboard & bespoke made furniture.
I’m a big fan of wildflowers, natural gardens & of the type of plants that I always see on The High Line whilst out working in NYC. However I love a tropical vibe along with some old traditional favourites, such as Blossoms & Magnolia. I wanted varying heights & an explosion of rainbow colours to take me through most seasons. During a lot of the time that I spend with Blayke you will most likely see us roaming around our local walled gardens. Plants have always made me happy, from the textures & smells to the colours & shapes & I just find them so therapeutic.
Mike visited our house & garden & stopped for an informal chat & took lots of photos. He also presented his portfolio so I could get a feel for his past work & it really opened up my eyes. I had collated a series of imagery myself & was clear in certain areas about what we wanted, however I encouraged Mike to implement his own vision too as that was his specialism after all & I really trusted that he would incorporate my ideas where he could if he felt they were fitting. I was a little worried that I was trying to cram too much in to our space but once he had measured everything he pointed out how big the garden perimeter actually was & that over a third of it was currently concealed by the overgrown mass of ivy & brambles as well as a mass of neglected shrubs & trees.
I was really impressed with Mike’s portfolio & therefore agreed to a two-part design process. The first included black & white plans for the layout along with a selection of images for inspiration. He integrated everything so seamlessly & added beautiful curves along with a stunning herringbone path, which is something I genuinely wouldn’t have considered before, so my husband & I were blown away. We didn’t ask for any design changes whatsoever from the initial sketch other than to add an extra bit of patio that wrapped around the house.
The seamless diversity within Mike’s planting scheme struck a chord with me the most as he had put in so much care & attention to detail within his choices & listened to everything I had asked for. From the Heuchera Rachel plants with their moody yet vibrant purple leaves, to the sunny Yarrow & striking purple Alliums that have all featured as key subject matter with my own surface pattern design work over the years; the natural colour palettes that they will create & heavenly smells are going to inspire my creativity for many years to come. The curved herringbone path is something I wouldn’t have considered before & little did Mike know we had a floor fit booked in that coming week to fit a wooden herringbone floor in our conservatory & family room - it’s like he knew! On paper I wasn’t too sure at first but when I looked closely at the materials he had chosen, (beautiful clay brick) I just knew it was going to be a stunning & integral feature to the design.
He somehow managed to connect all of the dots between my ideas, curate those ideas beautifully, whilst still injecting his own ideas & expertise within the design & layout so that it all merged so seamlessly on the design.
The garden is somewhere we will make memories for years to come but it’s also a space that will feed my imagination & senses as I draw daily from my natural & ever-changing surroundings for my own design work. When I finally move in my outdoor studio I will really have to pinch myself, as it will be a dream come true! I also need to remind myself to pause at times & smell the roses (cheesy sentence sorry.. I couldn't resist!)
Stay tuned for the next instalment as I will talk through the hard landscaping materials in closer detail.