Chobham-based garden designer Catherine MacDonald on what's hot for 2013

PUBLISHED: 09:07 29 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:40 20 February 2013

Chobham-based garden designer Catherine MacDonald on what's hot for 2013

Chobham-based garden designer Catherine MacDonald on what's hot for 2013

Chobham-based garden designer Catherine MacDonald, who won gold at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, looks destined for big things in 2013. Leigh Clapp went to meet her

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine January 2013

Chobham-based garden designer Catherine MacDonald, who won gold at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, looks destined for big things in 2013. Leigh Clapp went to meet her

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It was at last years RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show that Catherine MacDonald first came to my attention, with a stunning show garden that was deservedly awarded a gold and won the coveted
Best Summer Garden.

Her design, The Landform Garden, was inspired by aspects of the High Line, a public park in New York that is built on a derelict, elevated railway line. The colours reflected the earthy, rusty shades with naturalistic plantings of textural grasses mingling against orange flowers anchored with rich blues. Elsewhere, a sunken seating area with a shade structure created a contemporary, tranquil spot, while bespoke water features and colour-rendered walls completed the effect.

Visitors comments were mainly about the unusual colour combination, says the Chobham-based garden designer . Theyd say things like, I would never have thought of using orange and blue together but I really like this. The most popular plants were the achilleas, Digitalis parviflora Milk Chocolate and Trifolium ochroleucon, and a lot of people were interested in the sunken seating area too.

A strong foundation
A design and project manager for the multi-award winning Landform Consultants in Chobham, Catherine has been the guiding force behind many projects for residential, commercial and show gardens and also designs gardens privately for clients. With a background of working for some of the luminaries of modern garden design, including Luciano Giubbilei, Christopher Bradley-Hole and Anthony Paul, she certainly has an impressive pedigree though we could very easily have lost her to a different career altogether.

My first career was in science genetics actually with a BSc Hons and a PhD, but I think my early enthusiasm for gardening and for nature generally inspired me when I chose to change career direction, says Catherine. Also, my father is an architect and my mother has always been interested in art, interior design and gardening. As a child, I collected alpines and grew cacti from seed I had a general love of gardening. Design and gardening were part of my everyday life as a child!

In 2006, Catherine qualified with distinction from the Oxford College of Garden Design and was the joint winner of the Society of Garden Designers first Student of the Year Competition in the same year. She cites Surrey-based garden design guru Andrew Wilson as a major influence and was fortunate to have him as a tutor. Historical gardening figures have also inspired her along the way, as well as some of the modern greats, some of whom she has worked with, others whose creations she has visited.

Here in Surrey, I really like the combination of architectural features and soft planting that you get with Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll at gardens such as Munstead Wood, says Catherine. Other inspirational gardens I have visited include Sissinghurst in Kent and Hidcote in the Cotswolds, while a lot of the inspiration for my planting comes from Tom Stuart-Smith and Piet Oudolf; in fact, I have visited Oudolfs private garden at Humelo in Holland.

In her own planting, Catherine likes to mix informal displays with formal clipped taxus and buxus. For shady areas, she favours carpets of evergreen epimediums under trees, combined with hellebores and ferns, and punctuated by persicarias and species digitalis. In sunny spots, grasses, such as descampsia and panicums, combined with echinaeas, eryngiums, salvias and umbels are all favourite choices.

Describing her overall style proves a difficult question to answer, although her response perfectly sums up the balance I see in her designs. I dont believe that I have a set or defined style, as every garden and client are different and therefore have different requirements or suit different styles, says Catherine. I try to design a garden that will suit the space, architecture and client. However, the key words linked to my favourite designs would probably be rectilinear, formal structure, soft naturalistic planting
and modern.

To the future
Looking ahead to the rest of this year, as well as her domestic design work, Catherine will also be busy at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Not only will she be collaborating on a Fresh Garden and doing the planting design for the Hartley Botanic exhibit, she will also be helping out behind the scenes with the Landform team, in the project management of two show gardens they are building. Then, in addition to all of that, there will also be another garden to look out for at this years RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. So, definitely one to keep an eye on in 2013!

  • Catherine MacDonald, design and project manager atLandform Consultants Ltd, The Nursery, Bagshot Road, Chobham, GU24 8DB. Tel: 01276 856145 /

Whats hot for 2013
In terms of the big trends for 2013, Catherine predicts that in both home and show gardens there will be more functionality, mixing productive and ornamental planting together, and a continued obsession with obviously naturalistic planting. It basically involves the blending of species in a way that mimics nature rather than planting blocks of one species that has often been used for visual impact, explains Catherine. And I think it will continue for a while to come. Perhaps we will also see people influenced by the planting at the Olympic Park, which was a good example of meadow planting.

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