Discover articles on garden design, seasonal planting tips for your garden and other news and views from Gillian Goodson Designs.

From high heels to wellies

Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show, 2013  (Gillian Goodson Designs)

Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show, 2013 (Gillian Goodson Designs)

Having worked in the legal profession for more than a decade, I fondly recall the moment I told my father that I was hanging up my heels and donning wellies instead! I had been a keen gardener for quite some time. Following a horticultural course at Brooksby College, near Melton Mowbray, and a chance meeting with Chris Beardshaw (whom I was lucky to work with later), I decided to take the plunge, started commuting to London and undertook a one-year Diploma in Garden Design at the world-renowned English Gardening School based at The Chelsea Physic Garden. This was an intensive course covering not only design principles but importantly, plants and hard landscaping: great discipline instilled, it was a wonderful springboard to my garden design business.

I am very fortunate to thoroughly enjoy the work that I do – whether it is creating a contemporary or traditional garden, from small courtyards to larger country gardens. Perhaps gardening was always there and I just didn’t realise it until later in life? Two of my all-time favourite books are The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, and The Story of Johnny Appleseed by Aliki; both children’s picture books.

Coco Chanel once said, ‘Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory’. This too is true in designing your garden. It is very tempting to put too much in. The trick is in knowing what to leave out. Create a sense of harmony and balance. Too many different plants, hard landscaping or conflicting colours will create a sense of chaos and won’t feel restful. Whatever the size of your garden, try and create an element of mystery or surprise. Being able to see your garden all at once makes your garden appear smaller.

A design should be practical as well as aesthetically beautiful; a place where you can relax, entertain or just be. Garden design isn’t about perfection although we strive for it come Flower Shows. It is about creating a space that balances your needs with your wants and what is actually possible for your location, architecture of the house, soil, budget and a host of other considerations such as structure, texture, seasonal interest, maintenance, sustainability…

All fully hardy and a delight for bees and butterflies, be on the lookout for: Tilia cordata – the sweetly scented, native, small-leafed lime tree; the rich-pink, fragrant, beautifully cupped, repeat-flowering ‘Alnwick Rose’; rounded-blue heads, rabbit-resistant, globe thistle Echinops bannaticus ‘Taplow Blue’; flower spikes of striking violet-blue Salvia nemerosa ‘Ostfriesland’.