How do your surroundings make you feel?
This is the question I’ve been asking myself through my career in garden design and previously interior retail design. I love to design gardens that create feeling, have a sense of journey and use viewpoints to draw your eye. I also try to have a very practical approach and think it’s important to create usable spaces with the client and their home at heart. I believe a garden should sit well in it’s setting and compliment the architecture it surrounds.
I graduated with distinction from the LCGD Garden Design Diploma in 2022, having previously trained in garden design at Writtle College and attaining my RHS Level 2 qualification. Previously a designer in the retail sector for 15 years, I decided to use my multi-disciplinary design background to start a more rewarding career path in garden design.
Based in Stamford and working across the East Midlands, Eastern England and surrounding counties, Robert Johnson Garden Design is taking on new private and commercial projects.
You can find more about my work on my website: robertjohnsongardendesign.com
The concept for the garden is deeply rooted in the location’s history. Ketton Stone is known by all in the area; a high quality limestone used for building and sculpture since the 16th Century and the material that built the local towns as well as glorious buildings more further afield. The historic quarry in Ketton that gives birth to this fabulous material has two faces; the most obvious as the modern industrial quarry, the source of building stone and lime for cement. The old quarry is the second, now a nature reserve and site of special scientific interest, left to rewild.
This offers a beautiful contrast that parallels the material itself – the perfectly square chiselled stones against the waste rocks, now delaminating, left for nature to reclaim. This idea has been used to create the garden. The upper section is linear and modern – perfectly crafted and practical yet reflecting of the beautiful local material. As you move through the garden the incredible wild side of the space emerges. The delamination lines of the stone have been used to shape the natural paths, twisting, turning and cutting through the garden around rocks and trees.
The use of grasses in the new design also reflects the concept. Structural, architectural and upright near the house but softening and wilding to meadow as the natural garden takes over.
The design makes the most of the house’s elevated location and sloping site down to the stream at the bottom. Wonderful vistas have been created as well as more intimate places to sit and enjoy the space.
The concept comes from the terrain the garden lies within – layers of sand and clay soil on a sloping site that takes you down and away from the house. The design and uses this as a device to pull you through the space, walking in and out of layers and levels as you journey through the garden and into the woodland.
The new design blends the two environments that currently occupy the garden; open, hot and bright in the area near the house and an enclosed, wet and shady woodland running diagonally away from it. Keeping the feeling of bright openness but pulling the shady British woodland closer to the house and unifying the space was key.
As the straight paths start to wind and spread out into the garden, the uniform stone paving breaks up and blends into gravel paths. As you journey further, the garden drops away into a natural space.
As Bryan is a gardener there is the luxury to have a relatively high maintenance planting scheme so various (blended) planting areas have been included.
Currently the garden is more of a backdrop to the terrace which is much used in the summer months for dining outside and entertaining friends in the evening. The clients are busy and want to spend time enjoying their garden rather than maintaining it.
I wanted to make the wider garden a more inviting and usable space to explore, with an open lawn on which to play as well as more secluded hidden areas to relax and unwind in.
The design offers a great view from the house as well as a variety of spaces to share with friends.
The client’s love for the modern rectilinear has been reflected in the layout of the space as well as the choice of hard landscaping materials and detailing. However the clean sharp lines are also broken up with abundant foliage and scented, pollinator friendly planting that bring the evening to life. Architectural focal points have been brought in with water and sculpture throughout the space.
Struck by the building’s former elegance and heritage, I wanted to regenerate this feeling when you enter the garden as currently the site feels like it has lost it’s former glory.
The venue is and has been many things; a royal residence, a wood museum, a refuge and most recently a gallery and wedding venue. While rejuvenating the gardens I wanted to keep all these things in mind; to celebrate it’s past.
As it is a formal venue, I wanted to keep a formal structure but create a mix of modern and classical styles to make the venue a real destination to get married. Inspiration is taken from the style of the era it was built – Georgian style archways are an obvious theme and carry symbolism of marriage as well as the passage between the past and the future. Stunning vistas are currently observed both into and out of the venue, bringing the wider landscape in.