Freya Willetts

I graduated from the LCGD Garden Design Diploma in July 2021 with a Distinction.

I was recently selected as a winner in the Growing Generations 2021 competition run by The Royal Parks Guild in collaboration with The Royal Hospital Chelsea.

I hold an RHS Level 2 Certificate in Plant Science and have practical horticulture experience from volunteering at Fulham Palace Historic Garden in West London. I have helped build show gardens at RHS Hampton Court (Tom Stuart Smith, 2021; Ula Maria, 2019) and RHS Tatton Park (Freddie Strickland, RHS Young Designer of the Year, 2021) and in 2020 I worked as a self employed garden designer in London prior to starting my diploma.

Before training in garden design I worked as a Communications Manager in the charity sector. This experience in engaging closely with clients on creative assignments and managing complex projects underpins my training as a garden designer.

You can follow me on Instagram and find out more about previous projects on my website.

Instagram: @freyawilletts_gardendesign

Projects

Project in progress... Godstow Abbey / Heritage Development

For my final diploma project, I am reimagining the site of Godstow Abbey in Port Meadow, Oxford.

Growing Generations @ The Royal Hospital Chelsea 2021 / Competition

I was one of 12 winners selected to construct my design for the Growing Generations competition at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May 2021. Although the build was later cancelled due to COVID, I was invited to a workshop and a prize-giving event at the rescheduled September show. The competition brief was ‘What garden design means to me’. My design celebrates the cross-disciplinary nature of garden design by highlighting the role of gardens in medicine, art and conservation.

Gardener's World Live Beautiful Borders 2021 / Competition

My design was selected for build at the Gardner’s World Live Show in June 2021. The competition brief was ‘Flower Power’. My design tells the story of flowering plants as a fundamental energy source, a vital link in the chain of life, evolution and biodiversity. This ‘chain’ is expressed in the shapes of the planting, which are also influenced by the psychedelic graphic design of the original Flower Power movement. The planting evokes the biological evolution of flowering plants: gingko and ferns surround a small pool at one end and give way to colourful flowering perennials at the other. The pool’s fountain is solar-powered, a nod to the power of photosynthesis and the next step in the evolution of power.

The Wood Wide Web, Ascot / Residential

The clients at this property had recently purchased some neighbouring woodland and were keen to incorporate it into their new garden. Other key aspects of this brief were to create structure and destinations with a sense of flow, to include a productive element and to expand the terrace around the house.

Taking the concept of the Wood Wide Web – the networks of mycorrhizal fungi that connect trees underground – as my starting point, I designed a series of shallow terraces to break the sloping garden up into ‘rooms’.

The atmosphere and planting in these rooms are inspired by the various nearby habitats of Surrey heathland, hedgerows and mature woodland, with the garden gradually melting away into the woods as you move further from the house.

With a dedicated productive area at the bottom of the garden, the clients are able to pursue their passion for gardening and nutrition, while closer to the house there is plenty of space to entertain and relax. For moments of contemplation or play, the serpentine woodland path immerses you in nature and leads to a secluded tree house.

Flint's Dyke, Amersham / Residential

This property belongs to two architects. Their clearly defined aesthetic tastes, enjoyment of bocce and love for the nearby woodland formed the basis for my design. I set out to design a garden that was sympathetic to its context, but clearly contemporary and unique to the clients.

I kept the geometry of the modest-sized garden simple to maximise the usable space and softened the contemporary lines with lush planting, box balls and multi-stem trees to create a textured and calming space.

The new terrace and reflective pools make the most of the property’s woodland views, while the knapped flint water feature picks up on the geological character and heritage of the local area to transform the main steps into a striking feature.

A small seating area looks back towards the house across the lawn, which doubles as a bocce court. Enveloped by multi-stem trees, it’s an intimate spot where you can catch the evening sun with a drink in hand, or wait your turn at bocce.

Cambridge Cottage, Kew Gardens / Corporate

The brief was to re-imagine the gardens of Cambridge Cottage, one of Kew Gardens’ event venues that is used primarily for weddings as well as funerals, private parties and corporate events.

Inspired by the nearby River Thames, insights from the Kew Events Team and my own personal response to the site, I created a dramatic watery landscape that sets this venue apart from competitors and offers a unique experience to visitors.

There are three key areas in the garden:

The new entrance and arrival terrace greet guests with a naturalistic but luxurious space with layered views and routes that invite exploration, with break-out lawn circles to rest and enjoy the planting.

Venturing further in, a reflective pool with terraced edge offers flexible character for the different types of events held in this space – a ‘wow factor’ backdrop and photo spot for weddings and parties, as well as a contemplative and restorative energy for funerals or private visitors. The pool is positioned to form the primary view from both the main reception terrace and from inside the drawing room where ceremonies are held.

Beyond the reception terrace a woodland area provides a more playful space for smaller groups to unwind and children to play as an event unfolds. The combination of maze-like layout, woodland planting and dramatic reed lights in this part of the garden are intended to provide the sense of intimacy, exploration and excitement of a mini festival.

Materials of natural stone and sandy gravel recall the riverscape, while the planting is designed to create impact all year round with seed heads, foliage colour and tree bark taking starring roles in autumn and winter. Reed lights signpost routes and rhythm throughout the garden. The golden seed heads cast inside them are inspired by the ancient history of local Bronze Age river offerings and are a nod to Kew’s vital work in preserving precious and important plants for the future.

Shared Courtyard / Corporate

The brief for this project was to design a shared urban courtyard garden using a piece of visual art as a starting point.

I chose a Japanese kimono from the V&A’s 2020 exhibition, which led me to explore themes of negative space, texture and layers and how to express these through hard and soft materials. Inspired by German studio Topotek 1, I was also interested in the way a space affects people’s behaviour and mood, and with this in mind I set out to create a garden that would encourage social interaction between two separate companies while also providing private work spaces.