I hope you’re having a lovely Easter. Today I’m delighted to feature an interview with the talented garden designer Lisa Cox.
Could you tell us what prompted you to become a garden designer?
I took on my first garden ten years ago and loved every moment of its creation, being able to look back and be proud of what had been achieved.
I had been an HR professional in the City for years and I begun to realise that it just didn’t fulfil my core values.
The defining moment in my decision to give up my HR role was part of a life coaching session where we worked through a series of exercises which highlighted quite clearly that I should be doing something creative.
The choice was between food or gardens, but it soon became clear that I needed to be connected to the outside.
When did you start your own business and where are you based?
I officially started my business in 2007 when I joined the Garden Design School. And I worked with award-winning designer, Fiona Stephenson, whilst I was training which gave me fantastic hands-on experience.
My business started properly at the end of 2008 when I graduated.
I’m based in Leatherhead in Surrey. I predominantly work in the South East, but I’m happy to travel and have worked with clients in the West Country and Leeds. Plus I’m currently working with a client in France.
What kind of garden design services do you offer?
I offer a range of services from a two hour consultation to a full garden design service. Sometimes clients just want some advice about planting, or about the general look and feel of the garden, but many work with me to redesign the whole garden and I will produce a full set of working drawings and specifications that will enable any landscaper to bring the design to life.
Most of the time clients are happy to work with my recommended contractors but I do manage the tender process for them sometimes and am available to oversee the construction phase of any project.
My ‘Garden Designer in Your Home’ service is really popular as it enables clients to be fully involved with the design as it evolves. Typically, I will spend a day with my client in their home. We discuss their requirements in detail, walk round the garden and then put pencil to paper and work through the design together.
This service is great for clients who want to implement the design themselves, but don’t really know where to start. They have the ideas but they struggle to bring everything together into a cohesive plan.
Could you tell us about some of your recent commissions?
The most exciting commission I am working on at the moment is a project near La Rochelle in France. My clients are just about to bulldoze their existing house to the ground and replace it with a ‘Grand Designs’ style contemporary house which maximises the view across the garden to the sea.
One of my other recent commissions was a project in London which was part of a house extension project, which you can see below. My clients wanted help to redesign their existing terrace so that it felt reconnected to the house and their existing garden.
These projects are often more challenging as you have to work with what’s there, but at the same time they are really rewarding because you have the ability to completely change the way they feel about the garden and influence the way that they use the space.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
I often visit other gardens which normally give me ideas and inspiration, especially with planting designs and of course the annual RHS shows such as Chelsea and Hampton Court Palace are great sources for new ideas.
For me though, my inspiration comes from my surroundings, especially when I’m outside. It’s not always about the gardens and green spaces, often buildings and architecture give me ideas and I love to see how materials have been used in unusual and interesting ways.
I understand that you’re running some new Garden Design workshops this year. Could you tell us about them?
My new half day ‘Design Your Own Garden’ workshops are great for keen gardeners and/or people who want to make the most of their garden but don’t really know where to start.
There are lots of courses out there that help people to tackle the planting elements of the garden, but approaching the basic structure of the garden is often the most difficult thing to get started with and there are a few basic design principles that have the power to really make a difference to how the garden will looks and feel.
I realised that there are a lot of people out there who want to develop their garden themselves and could probably use some input from a trained professional. After all, I was inspired to train professionally as a result of redesigning my own garden.
As well as learning how to take their own brief and working through how to get started, delegates will have an opportunity to put pencil to paper and have a go at designing a real garden.
My next workshop is on Saturday 21st April and full details can be found on my website.
Have you any tips for home owners thinking of employing a garden designer?
I would say the most important thing to consider is whether or not you think you will be able to work with them. Whoever you commission, they will be very much in your life for a significant chunk of time so if you don’t get along with them it has the potential to be a stressful experience.
Meet a few before you decide who you wish to work with and ensure that they will listen to what you’re trying to achieve. Most people know what they like and what they want, so it’s the designer’s job to listen, understand and bring these ideas together.
What is your favourite flower?
I’m not sure I have an absolute favourite. I love peonies, their shape and form and many of course are scented.
I also love hydrangeas, especially Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ and Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ which add a warm glow to a shady corner.
Hydrangea quercifolia I adore too. I love the oak-shaped leaves that have a reddish tint in the autumn.
Penstemon are also a favourite. They’re reliable and attractive. Plus because most have semi-evergreen foliage, they provide interest in the winter too.
Penstemon ‘Garnet’ is a brilliant variety because it flowers forever but I love the deep purple varieties too, ’Blackbird’ and ‘Raven’.
What are your plans for 2012?
I’m working at the moment to grow the ‘Designer in Your Home’ element of my business. Not only do I love working with clients in this way, but it also provides scope to work anywhere.
The concept design stage is the most creative element of the design process and it’s great to share this with the owners of the garden because it helps them to feel connected to it from the very beginning.
(Images : Lisa Cox)