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Adam - Profile of a Garden Designer


Adam S Bailey BA Hons (Garden Design)

Occuptation: Garden and Landscape Designer, Plantsman, Gardener, Writer

Started in horticulture: 1998

Professionally qualified designer since: 1997 (First Class Degree Garden Design)

Work featured on: BBC 1, BBC 2, ITV, BBC Radio Kent, Kent Life Magazine and Tatler and part of the winning entry on ITV's "May The Best House Win"


We asked Adam a range of questions that help to describe his design influences...

Adam, why would a client choose you?

There are many garden designers and landscapers out there and I appreciate the choice for a new client is difficult to make, given that there are so many to choose from. The phone directories are full of them. However, as a small company we can can give individual care and attention to each and every single garden.

Many of our clients have become very good friends over the years and they know they aren't hiring 'white van man' who doesn't know the first thing about gardening. They're hiring someone who has over twenty years experience in the business. I've been practising the art of gardens for more than half my life and have a real passion which I'm told shows in the gardens we create.

With a First Class Honours in Garden Design and years of experience to my name, I feel confident that our company can understand each client on a personal basis, creating an outdoor space that is a private work of art individual to them. I was very moved by a comment from one of my clients when she said that the garden we had created, "Changed her life".


So, what's new?

We recently finished a large, private garden in Orpington, Kent. It's is a great showcase for the wonderful array of different elements a new garden can have from grand patio areas, outdoor kitchen, summerhouse, hot tub, play areas for the children and an extensive deck which overlooks a woodland. What makes it special is the details we've managed to incorporate like the beautiful lighting system which not only extends the use of the garden after dark but also increases security in a very discrete way.

We were over the moon recently to discover one of our gardens had been featured on ITV for their 'May The Best House Win" series. The garden was designed for Vinehouse Interiors of Wrotham and their property was one of four entries up for a £1000 prize. Described by one fo the contestants as "absolutely stunning", we were so excited when the winning entry was announced as Vinehouse and our garden ! It's a real achievement and a garden we're very proud of.

We've also recently completed a variety of different gardens, including several courtyards and two larger gardens. Every garden is as unique as their owners so there's no limit to what can be achieved with careful planning and intelligent design. See our portfolio for photographs of the finished gardens.

We've also been proud sponsors of Ellenor Open Garden Scheme. So far we've managed to raise almost £2000 for the Ellenor, our chosen charity.

What really counts is the passion one brings to each and every garden. Some people approach this profession as just a job. To me it's a way of life.

I've written over a hundred gardening articles for publications including Kent Life Magazine, Kent County Magazine, Kent Lifestyle and Meridian Magazine.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of being interviewed for the BBC1 6 O'clock News in a feature on how climate change affects gardeners here in the South East. It's something we're very aware of as a company and we aim to design drought tolerant planting schemes which not only benefit wildlife but also save precious resources, too.


Can you describe your CV?

adamstepsI started early at the age of 16, doing general gardening jobs for a whole multitude of different gardens, studying for my Gardening City and Guilds at the same time.

Then I worked many years at Ruxley Manor Garden Centre in Kent and Coolings Nurseries to improve my plant knowledge. I also learnt a great deal about serving the public during these early years which has proved invaluable.

In 1993 I enrolled at Hadlow College for the Garden Design BA Honours Degree, with a final year at University of Greenwich where I qualified with First Class Honours in Garden Design.

Shortly after that I spent a learning period at a landscape architect's practice in Kensington, London, designing Mediterranean gardens abroad, before setting up on my own.

Since then our company's work has been seen throughout the home counties all the way to the coast. I was very pleased to be interviewed on BBC Radio Kent for our Mediterranean Garden in Eynsford which I still look after.

We are also proud to be designing schemes for important developers some of whom are consistently win awards for their excellence.

All through the years, however I've continued to be a gardener. Some designers don't seem to get their hands dirty but I regularly do, either by planting in the gardens we do or maintaining them after they're finished. After all, you can't really design a garden if you don't understand how to look after one as the two things are interwoven. The maintenance of a garden is key to its success long after the builders and ladnscapers have all left.


What are your five favourite plants?

It's got to be the following, although I know I get teased about the Rudbeckias since I use so many of them in my designs - but, hey, they are fantastic!

Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm', Stipa arundinacea, Hemerocallis 'Cartwheels' , Quercus robur and Brunnera 'Jack Frost' in no particular order.


What's your favourite gardening tool / piece of kit?

adambw13Probably my Felco 7 secateurs. They've got the swivel handle and I can use it all day for 'tweaking' things in the garden.


Who is your most admired designer (dead or alive?)

That's a hard one! Probably Jellicoe since I studied him at University and he really made me sit up and think about the psychology of sensitive landscape design. Otherwise, I'd choose Christopher Lloyd, an absolute plantsman genius. He wasn't afraid to try bold combinations and what he didn't know about planting design probably isn't worth knowing!


What's your favourite external space (garden or architecture?)

We visited La Grande Arche, La Defence in France a few years back. It's a working office block - but with a difference. From a long way off it looks like a giant white square on the horizon. When you're standing underneath it, it's like nothing else on Earth. The geometry is so clear, so pure and so...huge!! Imagine a white cube, big enough to contain Notre Dame Cathedral, with a hollow middle you can walk through. Designed by Otto von Spreckelsen, it's simply mind-blowing.


Can you describe your personal design bias?

Keep it simple! Be it materials, planting or spatial schematics, take the ideas and then carve them down to a simpler form. Then do it again. The simplest designs, like the paper clip, are usually the strongest and most beautiful.


What's your most memorable gardening story?

I did a garden for Harriet Roberts, one of Tina Turners' song writers a few years back (yes, I know it's name dropping!) One afternoon it was raining so hard I had to admit defeat and retreat back indoors. Harriet was playing her piano and asked me if I played anything. I said I played (a very bad!) guitar. Before I knew it, there I was, jamming with Harriet, improvising the only piece I knew, Hugh Christie Piece No 5 for guitar. Not gardening, but certainly a special garden that left an impression on me.


Finally, what do you see as the future of garden design?

We need to get away from the quick-fix, soul-less media junk. Gardening is a very personal thing, it takes time to learn and patience to become good at. Good design refines the process of understanding the land around us. Garden design could be seen as the greatest of all the arts in the future - after all, wasn't it Jellicoe who said that garden design is the only art to reach all five senses?...