Gardens: expert designer Lucy Redman

PUBLISHED: 16:42 23 June 2014

Feature at the Lucy Redman Garden in Rushbrooke. Jilly Hurley (left) talks with Lucy.

Feature at the Lucy Redman Garden in Rushbrooke. Jilly Hurley (left) talks with Lucy.


Jilly Hurley gets a lesson in garden design

Feature at the Lucy Redman Garden in Rushbrooke.Feature at the Lucy Redman Garden in Rushbrooke.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a witty garden before, but Lucy Redman’s is just that. Hers is not a garden to be looked at and studied, it is one to experience and enjoy. There is a richness of colour and life, but most of all, there is a richness of fun and play.

Diverse tones and textures juxtapose, unexpected sightlines emerge around corners, and metal sculptures stand out against the plant life. Of the many sculptures dotted around, my favourite is the Walking Man (a piece by Maryanne Nichols), to be found wading through a sea of sedum, alliums and molinia.

Lucy talks a lot about pleasure, and her teeming garden offers that at every turn. But she marries her pleasure imperative with no-nonsense practicality.

She reclaims rubbish and salvage materials in all kinds of innovative ways. And I also notice that she has two ‘living roofs’ (made from pre-grown sedum mats), one on her Wendy house and another on her garden pavilion. These roofs are very visually striking, but they are also offer an ecologically-sound form of insulation.

Feature at the Lucy Redman Garden in Rushbrooke.Feature at the Lucy Redman Garden in Rushbrooke.

When it comes to discussing my own garden, Lucy likewise encourages me to think about how to make a pleasurable environment in practical ways. Before considering the possible look and feel of my garden, she asks me about soil; and then, about how much sun my garden gets, and how much wind.

For all the lush quirkiness of Lucy’s gardening style, there is, then, nothing abstractly conceptual in her approach; she digs down into the details of what is workable for me and my garden. I have an ugly fence it would be nice to hide, for instance, and so she enthuses me with her passion for grasses. Grasses are not fashionable in the gardening world apparently, but she recommends them for offering structure through the winter and for giving movement, where borders can often be boringly static.

We go on to discuss colour, and so she wants to know more about what I like, but also about what my house is like. I think I must have looked exhausted even at the question. And so she immediately helps me out. Busy people should try bulbs; they are ‘greener’ than very thirsty bedding plants, and reassuringly sturdy and self-sufficient; they offer colour from February to October, and they multiply themselves too.

On every aspect of my garden, Lucy is similarly creative and quick-fire with her advice. By the end of our short time together, I have a comprehensive design.

Although I cannot hope to emulate Lucy’s quirky wonderland, and I won’t try, I am won over to her maximalist, womble approach.

If there is something impressive, there is also something sterile about the manicured confections of the Chelsea Flower show.

By contrast, the riot of lovely colours and informal, eclectic mixes that Lucy favours have an artful artlessness about them that is warmly welcoming.

Unsurprisingly, Lucy’s children evidently love her garden; and Lucy’s gardening lesson reinvigorates my own sense of the childlike pleasure to be had from playing with colours, line and texture.

I have learnt to think more practically, but also more philosophically about my garden; and I’m eager to get back to it.


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