Friday 1 May 2009

Creating a Corner of Paradise

Extracted from an article by Sue Lupton in the Spring Horticultural Supplement. IOW County Press 2009

Garden Designer Chris Barnes has made dozens of gardens for clients around the Isle of Wight. She is best known for her naturalistic, coastal designs, featuring grasses, colourful perennials and unusual plants from the Mediterranean and the southern hemisphere.

But it is hard to know what to expect from the designer's own garden. Would it be sadly neglected, because of Chris's hectic work schedule? Or a showpiece, with manicured plants and neat edges?

In fact, it is neither. The garden surrounding her Freshwater home is an exuberant jungle that reflects Chris's love of plants, particularly hardy exotics.

She experiments with new plants and planting combinations. "Once I am confident that the plants work together and are suited to the Island's climate, I can include them in planting schemes for clients' gardens," said Chris.

"For example, I am working on a Balinese-themed garden in the Undercliff and a Mediterranean-style garden in Bembridge. Both designs are likely to feature favourite plants that I have grown at home."

Chris's garden is also influenced by her love of travel, particularly to destinations like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

"British gardeners have always looked to far-flung places for inspiration. Foreign holidays remind us of bluer skies and more vibrant colours. Bringing tropical plants into our own gardens helps to keep memories alive."

Chris has used a shady area to create a cool, leafy border with tree ferns and other structural plants. "Having lived in Cornwall and travelled to New Zealand and Oz, I love tree ferns. Nothing matches their dramatic impact and the new fronds are simply magical," she said.

These are combined with astelias, ahrdy ferns, dianella and carex, which form a hardy ground cover.

"The hot border is inspired by Christopher Lloyd's exotic garden but I have chosen plants that are lower maintenance,"said Chris. A striking contrast is a zingy, hot border packed with colour and contrasting foliage. The centrepiece, Cercis 'Forest Pansy' is surrounded by dahlias, heleniums, abutilongs and crocosmia.

An important feature is an 'outdoor dining room', where Chris can relax. She has positioned furniture among lush foliage plants such as beschorneria, cannas, zauschneria, lophomyrtus and restios.

"Most of these plants come from the southern hemisphere or the Americas, reminding me of special occasions, people and places," said Chris.

Likle most gardeners, I rarely sit down and enjoy the garden. But when I do, eating outdors with friends or family, or just relaxing of an evening, it can be quite magical. The mood and fragrance of the garden can trigger wonderfulo memories."

© Chris Barnes

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