Helen Saunders

With a background in Fine Art, and several years in the photographic industry, often working with architects to produce architectural visualisations, I became inspired to take my own plunge into the world of design.

I’ve always been fascinated by the natural landscape, and growing up in Derbyshire, was inspired by the dramatic, rocky vistas of the peak district, and the communities of plants and trees which colonised the landscape.

In designing a garden, I like to draw on the context of the site, whether it be the local landscape, materials, plant ecology and architecture, to create a garden which works in harmony with its surroundings. I like to create gardens, which function both to provide a useful, enjoyable space for the client, and ecologically, using plants, which happily co-exist and enjoy the site conditions, to create a beautiful and sustainable space.

During my spare time, I volunteer at Morden Park Hall, where we are in the on-going process of designing, building, and growing the community-run kitchen garden there. I’m interested in how gardens can bring people together, and the power they have, to enrich people’s health and sense of well-being.

To see my instagram account, please click on the link below:-

https://www.instagram.com/helenkatess/

Projects

Courtyard Raingarden

This garden is the central courtyard in an art gallery complex, and provides space for gallery visitors to relax and reflect, or socialise during a visit. I wanted to create a space which would reflect the clean lines of the gallery, yet provide somewhere to feel connected to nature – contrasting to the white interior.

The garden features a central pool, which will collect rainwater, fed by rills running from the building downpipes. Surrounding the pool is moisture-loving meadow planting, irrigated by the rainwater, made up of a mixture of native and non-native wetland plants, including grasses, reeds, and flowering perennials. Ground cover plants will creep into the joints between the concrete planks, creating a soft edge between hard materials and planting. Concrete benches next to the rills allow visitors to view the meadow at close-quarters, while patio space at either end of the garden is designed for informal seating to be set out on a sunny day, or for a temporary exhibition.

The aim was to create an immersive, tranquil space, which connects the visitor to the garden and the processes that sustain it.

Cambridge Cottage - A gallery and events venue

Cambridge Cottage is a multi-functional building, catering for weddings, parties, and conferences, as well as housing the Kew art collection. The re-design of the garden needed to fulfil various requirements, and spaces within it would need to be multi-purpose. The client wanted the design to improve circulation, and accessibility, as well as providing areas for socialising and for retreat.

The design takes the form of a relaxed rectilinear structure, with soft curves of meadow planting, reflecting the aesthetic and feel of the Georgian architecture. Rectangular pools give a broken reflection of the building and the planting, and add drama in the evening, when lighting highlights the building and planting. The crisp yew hedges give a sense of separation to different areas, and provide a foil for the soft planting. Gaps in the hedge intrigue the visitor to journey through the garden.

The terrace area provides ample space for visitors to spill out onto from the building, and a more secluded area separated by birch trees, allows for outdoor wedding ceremonies take place. The ramp has been re-designed to improve accessibility to the lower part of the building.

A Miscanthus hedge provides semi-transparent screening for privacy, yet appears to blend into the Duke’s garden, and views have been created throughout the garden for photography opportunities.

A 'Floating' Woodland Edge garden

This design blurs the boundaries with the local woodland landscape, using naturalistic planting, with a series of overlapping platforms, which appear to ‘float’ above the planting. The garden also takes inspiration from the local chalk rivers typical of the Chilterns, incorporating a dry river bed which helps to absorb rainwater and prevent runoff. A natural pool at the bottom of the slope, is fed by rainwater from the roof, and is a tranquil spot, as well as being beneficial for wildlife.

The brief called for screened spaces to dine and entertain, whilst enjoying the view. A cantilever deck allows dining close to the house, and within the greenery. A platform at the top of the garden provides a space to enjoy the afternoon sun.

A foraging element – The woodland edge planting incorporates fruit and vegetables through apple trees, and fruit bushes, as well as vegetables throughout the planting, which are both ornamental and edible.