Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Secrets of the Garden Designer; How a Handsome Hampstead Plot Was Created from Scratch -- Starting with a Roll of Tracing Paper

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Secrets of the Garden Designer; How a Handsome Hampstead Plot Was Created from Scratch -- Starting with a Roll of Tracing Paper

Article excerpt

Byline: Pattie Barron

HOW do you set about creating a completely new garden? Designer Bunny Guinness starts with a roll of tracing paper. "I spend an intensive day with the clients in their garden, listening to what they want, drawing what I think, maybe even marking the space out with pegs and string so they get a feel of how the design will work," says Guinness.

"Then they have something to criticise, which crystallises their thoughts, and I keep sketching ideas until everyone's happy. Often people only discover what they really want by seeing what they don't want."

The people who took on this overgrown Hampstead garden only knew they wanted a space for entertaining that was low-maintenance and they didn't want the upkeep of a lawn. Guinness obliged with a stylish green space that has a central focus of two weatherproof rattan sofas and a firebowl. She made a smooth transition from house to garden with a terrace of Indian stone setts and used Breedon gravel as an easy-care flooring, marking the outline of a central "rug" with timber, which also edges the surrounding raised beds. On one side, squared trellis elevates a brick wall for privacy, while on the other, a cedarwood slatted fence makes a sleek backdrop.

'THESE TREES CAN'T BE NICKED' Four medlar trees, providing shade as well as structure, stand on either side of the sofas. Guinness planted them in handsome terracotta pots that had their bases removed, so the trees simply grow through them.

"I do this a lot, because it raises the plants, giving them a frame and making them more important," she explains. "They're better for frost resistance as water doesn't pool in the base and freeze, and if they are in the front garden, the plants can't be nicked. These are from Italian Terrace, who cut them for me, but it can be done with an angle grinder."

Box balls of varying sizes make tactile, green mounds in the raised beds. "They're still small," says Guinness, "but the idea is that when they grow -- this is a new garden -- they can make what I call a lumpy-bumpy hedge, similar to cloud topiary, but less precise. It's easier to clip than rectilinear and is very effective. …

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