A beautiful country house is as much about its surroundings as its bricks and mortar, something that the best garden designers in Britain all understand.
Not for nothing is the annual Chelsea Flower Show the most respected gardening show on Earth: Britain is blessed with a natural pool of creative horticultural talent. Good landscaping can have a truly transformative effect on a property, taking drab spaces and making them attractive. It can also lend character to an unremarkable house.
It’s now also possible to fast-track the landscaping of a new country house by planting mature specimen trees. In one (albeit expensive) stroke, green fields can be converted into attractive parkland, resulting in something that might have taken a generation or two to achieve in a previous era.
From pocket-sized but beautifully formed London gardens to larger redesigns and landscaping projects, these designers are masters of the ability to ensure the garden relates and responds to its surrounding landscape and buildings.
This West Sussex-based duo is known for its ability to create a series of interlocking spaces, sometimes with linking water features. The company has wide experience of typical soil types of the South-East, from free-draining chalky and acidic to heavy wealden clay.
They say: ‘We create a bold underlying structure that’s then softened with full and naturalistic planting’
We say: ‘Water is a big theme, whether it’s in a natural form or as attractive landscaping around a swimming pool’
01403 891084; www.acreswild.co.uk
Angela Collins Garden Design
Established in 1990, the company is known for its Classical architectural shapes set within romantic planting in large country gardens.
They say: ‘My priority is to marry the house to the countryside beyond where billowing and romantic borders are punctuated by strong architectural planting’
We say: ‘A classic designer working principally in the Cotswolds, who keeps a careful eye on creating easily maintained gardens’
07876 592440; www.angelacollins.co.uk
This Italian-born landscape designer for more than four decades has a host of gold-medalwinning gardens at Chelsea under her belt.
They say: ‘There are few practices that have worked on as varied a palette, whether it be major English country estates, a contemporary roof terrace in Hong Kong or a private seaside garden in Spain’
We say: ‘A globally recognised tour de force’ 020 7931 9995; www.arabellalennoxboyd.com
Arne Maynard Garden Design
One of the most celebrated garden designers working today (past clients include Queen Rania of Jordan), who offers courses at his medieval tower house in Monmouthshire.
They say: ‘A garden needs to respond to its surrounding landscape, its history and the buildings within and around its confines’
We say: ‘Talented all-rounder—you can’t go wrong for a classic country garden’
020 7689 8100; arnemaynard.com
His ground-breaking Latin Garden won best in show at Chelsea in 1997 and signalled a change in attitude towards Modernism, not just at the show, but also in the wider world.
They say: ‘We are a design consultancy at the leading edge of landscape and garden design providing a specialist design service for contemporary landscapes’
We say: ‘A leader in the field, who creates minimal, harmonious spaces. The thinking man’s garden designer’
020 7357 7666; www.christopherbradleyhole.co.uk
del Buono Gazerwitz Landscape Architecture
Tommaso del Buono left his native Florence in the 1980s to study in London. After working for Arabella Lennox-Boyd, he set up in partnership with Paul Gazertwitz.
They say: ‘We don’t have a fixed style, but favour clean lines, playing with scale and proportions, beautiful materials, unfussy detailing and giving our gardens a strong structure to support more, softer planting’
We say: ‘Modern and elegant designs that are often defined by structures’
020 7613 1122; delbuono-gazerwitz.co.uk
George Carter Garden Design
A sculptor turned garden designer and the creator of many notable projects, including the Garden of Surprises at Burghley House, Lincolnshire, George is strong on well-proportioned spaces and vistas.
They say: ‘We specialise in formal gardens inspired by the simple geometry of 17thcentury gardens’
We say: ‘The perfect option for anyone keen on strong shapes and structure’
01362 668130; georgecartergardens.co.uk
I. & J. Bannerman
Dubbed the ‘Bonnie and Clyde of garden design’, Isabel and Julian Bannerman have an approach to design that, although rooted in history and the classical tradition, is fresh, eclectic and surprising. Their work includes garden at Highgrove and Arundel Castle.
They say: ‘We strive to create places that work for living in’
We say: ‘Romantic and theatrical designs, heavily scented with an excellent pedigree’
A prolific landscape architect whose work includes both traditional schemes and highdrama contemporary styles. She’s also known for her complete discretion when it comes to clients and her willingness to dig alongside her crew.
They say: ‘Design is more a matter of intelligence and appropriateness than inflicting a style’
We say: ‘Never hampered by one look, her designs are as varied as her clients’
020 7253 2100; www.jinnyblom.com
Julie Toll Landscape & Garden Design
One of the first to pioneer meadow planting in private gardens, Julie Toll enjoys incorporating the work of craftsmen into her designs.
They say: ‘We go to great lengths to ensure the planting is imaginative and attractive to wildlife, using a wide range of bespoke plants to complement hard landscaping, and provides sensory beauty’
We say: ‘A considered designer with a portfolio that ranges from Hertfordshire to Nevis’
01438 310095; www.julietoll.co.uk
A designer of international note—work takes him to Chile, Moscow and Oman—he transformed the once murky courtyard at the V&A.
They say: ‘I try to understand the memories and associations embedded in a place and the natural flows of people, land, water and climate’
We say: ‘Technically talented and very strong on creating structural forms with the landscape’
01489 891691; www.kimwilkie.com
A Sienese designer who has won awards at Chelsea and also works with Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter, East Sussex.
They say: ‘Gardening is, to a large degree, performance art and, like all great music and theatre, gardens need to be constantly reinterpreted to retain their relevance and vitality while preserving the original fabric’
We say: ‘He creates gardens that are understated and elegant—they’re simple at first glance, but layered with more complexity’
020 7622 2616; www.lucianogiubbilei.com
The former Scots Guards officer graduated with distinction from the Inchbald School of Garden Design and his practice works on town houses, roof terraces and estates both here and overseas.
They say: ‘Our passion is to create gardens that are seductive and absorbing in their visual beauty, harmonious, ever-changing and with a slowly unfolding story’
We say: ‘Stylish designer at ease with large landscaping projects’
020 7736 9761; www.marcusbarnett.com
Marie-Louise Agius of Balston Agius
This designer has an impressive portfolio that includes London projects, roof gardens, a private estate in Yorkshire and an urban planning project. She won a gold medal at Chelsea in 2013. Marie-Louise also looks after the gardens at Exbury, Hampshire, created by her great-grandfather, the celebrated plantsman Lionel de Rothschild.
They say: ‘We are highly experienced in architecture, landscape planning, forestry, horticulture and garden management’
We say: ‘Clever, adaptable designs that integrate house and garden beautifully’
01380 848181; www.balstonagius.co.uk
Lady Mary Keen has worked on gardens across Europe and America and counts Lord Rothschild among her clients. She also designed the gardens at Glyndebourne.
They say: Nothing at all—she lets her gardens speak for themselves
We say: ‘One of the most revered figures in the field’
Contact by word of mouth
Until recently a double act with Mary Keen, there’s scarcely anything about him online.
They say: Nothing—possibly too busy working
We say: ‘A really good choice for someone who wants the traditional look, but hasn’t got much experience in owning a large country garden and needs hand-holding’
Contact by word of mouth
Robert Myers Associates
Large practice based in Cambridge, but working throughout the UK and overseas with a long pedigree of Chelsea medals. Elizabeth Banks, the president of the RHS, is a consultant.
They say: ‘We develop site-specific landscape designs that incorporate an understanding of the historical, architectural and cultural context’
We say: ‘Robert is celebrated for his extraordinary attention to detail’
01544 232035; www.robertmyers-associates.co.uk
A Kew-trained designer with a loyal following in the Cotswolds, including Daylesford House, and beyond, Rupert began his career as an apprentice with Rosemary Verey.
They say: ‘I’m not a designer with a signature style. I believe in the owners being the main influence on the garden though I also draw on the location for inspiration’
We say: ‘An obvious choice for a classically inspired Cotswold garden’
Highly experienced in a variety of climatic conditions, from the shores of the Baltic to the southern Mediterranean. For many years, he worked with Penelope Hobhouse and his reworking of the landscape at Parnham House in Dorset is outstanding.
They say: ‘I try to find the right balance between what people think they need and what is best for the place’
We say: ‘A good bet for owners of multiple homes in varied climates’
He advises on a number of public and private gardens, including Kensington Palace.
They say: ‘Todd brings to his garden design a sense of the complexities of our relation to the past’
We say: ‘An almost unparalelled mix of historical and horticultural knowledge’
020 7253 2100; www.tlg-landscape.co.uk
He’s the recipient of many Chelsea awards with a long history of working in countryhouse gardens of considerable stature.
They say: ‘We are a practice with an international reputation for making gardens that combine naturalism and modernity’
We say: ‘Impeccable taste and a good choice for creating a garden that will last generations’
020 7253 2100; www.tomstuartsmith.co.uk
Highly accomplished gardener whose designs range from courtyard gardens to large estates.
They say: ‘I use the influence of the house, landscape and lives of the people living there as the start button for the design that will follow’
We say: ‘A good choice for a grand, traditional garden, especially in East Anglia’
01473 890799; www.xa-tollemache.co.uk