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Adam S Bailey BA Hons (Garden Design)

Profile of a Garden Designer

Occupation: Garden and Landscape Designer, Plantsman, Gardener, Writer, Dendrophile

Started in horticulture: 1988 

Professionally qualified designer since: 1997 (First Class Degree Garden Design) and City and Guilds (Gardening)

Work featured on: BBC 1, BBC 2, ITV, BBC Radio Kent, Kent Life Magazine and Tatler Magazine and part of the winning entry on ITV's "May The Best House Win". Gardens featured in “Garden within Walls” by author Grune Innenhofe.

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

Adam, Why would a client choose you?

I appreciate it can be difficult to know where to start in finding the right professionals for the creation of a garden. It can be a significant investment and you want to find someone who knows how to avoid the pitfalls and expensive mistakes. Qualifications vary widely and not everyone has the level of knowledge we do.  With over 36 years’ experience, however, we have a strong portfolio of finished gardens from tiny courtyards to large estates and when you engage us to create your new garden, you’re dealing with us on a one-to-one basis.

I’m proud to be working with my step-daughter Katie who is now part of the business and we have a very hands-on approach. From the initial drawings all the way through to getting hands in the mud, we’re there on that journey with you.

Many of our clients have become very good friends over the years and they know they aren't hiring a landscaper whose priority is laying paving and brickwork. They're hiring someone who has a huge amount of design experience and trained artist’s eye for texture, colour and all the many forms that make a garden truly harmonised. I've been practising the art of gardens for most of my life and have a real passion which I'm told shows in the gardens we create.

We’ve been fortunate to create schemes for some famous names over the years including Will Champion, drummer and percussionist of one of the world’s most famous bands, Coldplay. It was a wildlife-sensitive tree planting scheme and one I can look back on with fond memories.

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?

This year has been our busiest ever with many new commissions focusing a wider array of garden elements, helping our clients to have not just an enhanced outdoor living experience but outdoor working spaces with bespoke garden buildings used as home offices and family entertainment areas. With working from home such a priority in today’s modern life, the garden is no longer something just for the weekend, it’s the essential link between home and outdoor office, a place for calm and tranquillity in a very busy world. The size of projects we’ve taken on has greatly increased as well, although we’re always happy to work on small scale when asked.

We’re very excited to be introducing stunning 3D visuals as a consistent part of our design package now and with the latest in 3D rendering technology you’ll see the garden come to life long before the garden is ever built or planted.

Another key aspect of our work is creating beautiful planting schemes which not only look good but also benefit the local ecology too through the careful selection of species. This is fundamentally at the heart of what we do. I would never describe us as ‘landscapers’, we don’t do the building work ourselves, we use other expert professionals for that. We are a design team that creates truly artisan gardens as unique as their owners, keeping the client’s desires at the core of the design brief. Getting to know our clients really well and understanding their needs is the only successful way to achieve their dream garden.

We have a history of creating unique gardens, one of which has 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 of 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.

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

Can you describe your CV?

I 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?

Probably 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?...