Today, I’m delighted to feature garden designer, Nina Baxter who runs Nina Baxter Garden Design.
Below is an interview with Nina, plus examples of the gardens which she has designed.
Could you tell us what prompted you to become a garden designer?
Both of my mothers! I had a love of wild flowers from my mother who trained in Botany. She gave me a flower press and I used to make them into cards and sketch them.
The real inspiration to design gardens came from my mother-in-law, Charlotte. She is a wonderful mother-in-law, garden designer and plantswoman. And I consider myself very lucky.
I started off just wanting to propagate and grow plants, but I got more and more fascinated by the architecture of gardens. So, I ended up going down the garden design path.
When did you start your business and where are you based?
We set up in 2004. After qualifying, I started designing gardens for friends and relatives and it went from there.
We’re based in Beckenham. So we work around south east London and into Kent and Surrey.
I’m very luck to work alongside my husband, Matthew. We met and fell in love on my first day at work while we were both working at Shakespeare’s Globe.
So we have always enjoyed working together. He makes my designs into reality.
What kind of garden design services do you offer?
We offer a full service from consultation to completion. We work with a highly experienced and skilled hard landscaping company called Elitescapes. But we do all the soft landscaping ourselves.
I love creating designs and seeing them come off the page. But my great love is plants and planting. So I don’t ever want to give this up. It’s empowering to help beautiful things grow.
We have a very popular service we call ‘border control’ where we regenerate an existing border, often keeping a lot of mature planting and supplementing with a sympathetic scheme.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
Mainly from the clients themselves. The consultation is so important and I usually click in quite quickly to what they want.
I also look carefully at the house and the way they have styled the interior.
Someone said to me recently that there are a million ways you could design one garden. But if you’re working from the same set of information, I don’t think this is exactly true.
Once you’ve established what style people like, what they want to do in the garden and the most practical places to do it, the design starts to fall into place.
I’ve been very lucky to use my planting skills at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show for the last six years.
How would you describe your style?
I do love Mediterranean gardens but I’ve trained myself not to force my own preferences on clients and to be open-minded about all aspects of design.
I’ve quite often been surprised by growing to love things my clients have particularly wanted but I haven’t liked to begin with.
Gabions are a good example of this. I thought they were ugly when I first came across them!
I have a lot of signature plants I use, mainly because I know they work hard and are difficult to dislike. Ballerina roses and Erigeron karvinskianus are good examples of this.
Could you tell us about some of your recent commissions?
A client in Beckenham wanted his front garden turned into a knot garden with a modern twist…tricky to do in a 11m by 6m space where half of it has to be driveway!
I took inspiration from the renovated Italian borders at Trentham and reflected a planted knot on one side of the garden in a granite sett pattern on the other.
I used Myrtus ‘Tarentina’ and Euonymus ‘Silver Queen’ rather than traditional box and in-filled with a central olive, grasses, salvia and seasonal bulbs, which gave the garden a more contemporary feel.
Clipped Photinia and bay ‘lollipops’ were planted in the border around the knot giving a slightly ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feel.
On a totally different scale, I designed a quarter acre garden on a one in four slope in Chislehurst.
We put in three terraces with cantilevered staircases, one of which was 5m high.
The digger had to be craned over the house to get to the top terrace and Barry the operator was lucky on a particularly muddy day not to go sliding into the abyss!
Have you any tips for home owners thinking of employing a garden designer?
Try to gather information about what you like, the more you can supply, the better the designer will understand your needs.
It’s best not to be too prescriptive though. Try to be open-minded about the ideas you are presented with.
After all, this is what you’re paying for. So why get a dog and bark yourself?!
Could you tell us about Land Girl?
For years I’d been frustrated by not finding anything practical and flattering to wear when working in the garden.
Women seem to be forced to wear either jeans or men’s clothes. And let’s face it, we’re just not built the same!
A friend of mine suggested we turn the idea into a business. So now we have our own range of gardening clothes for women…Land Girl, which we hope to extend.
What is your favourite flower?
If you asked me a few years ago, the answer would have been very different. Probably something Australasian such as Oleander, which is what I originally called my company.
But now I would have to say roses for the sheer variety, the scent and their floriferous nature.
When they’re used to their best effect there is nothing more stunning. I could see myself collecting roses obsessively if I had the space!
Some particular favourites are R. Mme Isaac Pereire and R. Rhapsody in Blue.
What are your plans for 2013?
I’ve been promising for ages to put in a seating area surrounded by lavender for my parents, so this has to be a priority!
Oh, and I’m working on a show garden for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. So, watch this space…
Many thanks to Nina for all her help in compiling today’s blog post.
(Images : Nina Baxter)