1 month ago

How Does Your Garden Grow?

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James Purdy the Belfast-based award-winning landscape designer tells us about his garden …

Since childhood I have always sought to cultivate and grow things in any available green space. Having trained as an architect, garden design naturally developed as an interest, and I use the same skill sets for both. My personal style is constantly evolving and I hope it continues to do so – to remain stagnant can lead to work becoming dated. I’m always reading to further my knowledge of garden design and subscribe to Gardens Illustrated which is a wonderful resource.

In my design consultancy work, I seek to lead clients on a journey of how best to use their space. Developing an overall vision, sketching ideas and suggesting solutions where necessary, I hope to create a garden that enhances the architecture of their home, and one that resonates with the natural landscape. This can be as simple as framing a view, to restitching a hedgerow, or simply where best to place a seat to catch the last of the evening light. 

My own garden is long and narrow and runs away from our recently restored 1930’s semi-detached house, which includes a new, modern extension. The original garden was overgrown and had no sense of purpose or form. I was originally attracted to this garden as there was a mature tree line along the bottom of the garden which followed the line of an old stream.  By planting more native trees along this (such as field maple – acer campestre) and restoring the privet hedgerow boundary I wanted to create the sense of your eye dancing along the borders and journeying up into the tree canopy beyond.  

The rest of the redesign intention was to create a playful, secure patio for our children with raised planted borders and natural stone steps leading down onto a rectangular formal lawn. This is flanked by herbaceous borders of multi stem trees, topiary, ornamental grasses, perennials and roses. Recent additions to the garden are two hens, which we got as day-old chicks back in March. They were for the kids to enjoy during lockdown. Rosey and Reddy have been very easy to look after. All they need is food and water and enjoy the occasional forage in the garden.

I’ve created several gardens for Bloom – Bord Bia’s annual family, food and gardening festival. The first being The Podcast Garden in 2016 – a garden that stitched together my passion for architecture and garden design to express the beauty of both disciplines into one unifying space. The garden won Gold, Best in Category and the overall Planting Design for all the show gardens and really resonated with the general public and judges.

The Wellbeing Garden in 2019 was a late commission – I only started to work on it two months before Bloom. It was a large garden based on the idea of “eating well” by growing vegetables and fruit and as “living well” by allowing a range of exercises to take place which improve both physical and mental health. 

I very much support a sustainable approach to gardening. I always advise clients to plant native trees and restore hedges for wildlife to re-inhabit, especially birds. In addition, when thinking of finishing surfaces – try to facilitate water retention within your garden from gravel paving to adding ponds. Nothing beats planting a tree or creating a wildflower meadow and enjoying it. www.jamespurdyarchitects.co.uk

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