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Cornwall Life – January 2011

January, traditionally the time when we make our resolutions, plan for the future and look forward to the year ahead.  All of which can be applied to the garden. Planning can fill many gardeners with dread but there is always professional help at hand.

Catching up with garden designer Hugo Bugg on site in Perranporth as the sun tries to rise on the sort of winters day that would keep most of us under the duvet and you might expect him to be less than chipper. Far from it, his enthusiasm for all things green and design related is apparent and for good reason.  As one of Cornwall’s up and coming garden designers, a University of Falmouth alumni with a string of awards to his name, Hugo has packed plenty into his short career to date.

Hugo’s impressive list of achievements would make even the most seasoned garden designer proud. In fact many strive their entire lives to win a coveted Royal Horticultural Society gold medal. Hugo has not only got one of those in his trophy cabinet, but also a Best in Show award from the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show to keep it company! He has set up a successful garden design business, been crowned Young Garden Designer of the Year and has his sights firmly set on designing a garden for the Chelsea Flower Show in the near future. All of this since graduating in 2008, he’s certainly not let the grass grow under his feet.

With a strong Art & Design background and architecture heavily influencing his designs, Hugo’s approach to garden design comes from an interesting perspective; “Every one of my designs start off as a strong concept and then develops overtime into a garden. Every element within this garden helps illustrate the concept, bringing together a strong sense of unity and cohesion. Inspiration from many different design disciplines are constantly evolving my design process and are evident throughout work.”

“I was born in Oxfordshire and moved to Devon when I was five years old to a house with a large garden. I vividly remember spending many weekends clearing the three acres of wilderness with my father; you could say I’ve grown up in the garden!”

“I was always been interested in art, design and the environment at school, and while growing up in the countryside it became second nature to combine these two passions.  I studied for three years and graduated with a first class honours degree in garden design from University College Falmouth.”

Two gardens close to Hugo’s heart are his parents’ garden where no doubt the seeds of gardening inspiration were sown but also Trebah; “When I was a student in Falmouth, we used to cycle a lot around Cornwall with Trebah being a great destination, it has great memories for me.”

Hugo’s design heroes unsurprisingly come from many different design disciplines; Thomas Heatherwick and Make Architects are high on the list of designers to aspire to, as are Vladimir Sitta; a garden designer known for conceptual yet creative ideas and Luciano Gubbilei, a fellow RHS gold medal winner who Hugo rates for his brilliant planning and attention to detail.

As far as planting goes, it’s one of Hugo’s favourite tasks; “I really enjoy the planting stage of the design process. I get to visit some wonderful places and it’s great coming back to the studio and drawing up my ideas. I always try to make the plan personal to the client, the setting and surroundings. I love trees and all their beautiful qualities.  Particularly unusual bark and stem patterns, Prunus serrula and Beltula nigra especially.  Wherever there’s room in a garden I’ll use trees. I have also used blocks of grasses, interplanted with Verbena bonariensis, this always looks stunning.”

Four things to consider when planning in the garden:

  • Don’t rush! Get an idea of the site and aspect before you embark on major renovations. Get to know your garden, the shady spots and sunny areas.
  • Make a list of the things you need in the garden. Seating areas, lighting, a compost area, a lawn for the children or even a hedge to filter sound.
  • Make a list of any problems you may have in the garden, both visual and functional, but also make a list of all the positive elements you would like to retain or enhance.
  • Make a list of those plants you like and loath! The colour combinations that make your heart sing and the ones that turn your stomach! A mood board or collage of plants, gardens and features you adore is a great way to focus your mind when it comes to planning.
  • Think hard about your budget. Remember a garden evolves; it doesn’t have to be created overnight.

What better way to spend these cold, dark January evenings than pouring over gardening books and magazines with a cup of tea and a good look forward to spring wondering what if…(Or work with a designer???)