Alice on her graduation from the London College of Garden Design with the course director Andrew Wilson.
Last August Alice Ferguson joined Jamie in our Design Studio after graduating from the London College of Garden Design with distinction and the college award for Top Student 2019. Now settled into the design team, we thought it about time for a proper introduction. Meet Alice…
What inspired you to become a garden designer?
For me, garden and landscape design seem like the two parts of me are being knitted together in one creative and exciting outlet. Before graduating from the London College of Garden Design I had been running my own successful wedding floristry business since 2014 (Forage and Blossom). Prior to my floristry career, I graduated from Cambridge University with a BA in Architecture. This has been a natural grounding for me in the world of design. I have always been drawn to nature and landscape, I loved growing my own cut flowers for my floristry business. Moving into garden design feels like a natural progression for me and that I am amalgamating the two parts of me: art, design and creativity with my passion for nature and human interaction with their surroundings.
How would you describe your style of garden design?
I would say I have no fixed style, but my style is responsive to both the site and to the people, it is designed for.
I genuinely enjoy sharp material detail and junctures. I would say I take the less is more approach and enjoy simplicity. I enjoy drawing inspiration from various fields and medium; be it textile, shadow play or landscape. I definitely think my floristry and love of flowers definitely translates into my designs.
Who have been your key design influences?
I have found that throughout my career in design, whether it has been architecture, floristry or now garden designer I always draw on inspiration from my favourite artists. (Bonnard, Klimt, Cézanne and Matisse). Last year I went to the Bonnard exhibition ‘The Colour of Memory’ at the Tate and came out completely inspired and uplifted by his use and harmony of colour. I also love finding new artists to me; Jenie Fawckner and Elizabeth Barnett are recent finds to me I came across via Instagram. Both their use of colour and bold brushstrokes I find inspiring.
Key influences on my approach to design have come from Tadao Ando and Peter Zumthor with their profound and evocative use of light. I am interested in creating experiences and spaces which have a sensual and uplifting impact on the user, by exploiting all the senses. Bernard Trainor and his philosophy of design ‘By celebrating and building upon the patterns of place’ is hugely influential to me. He designs joining together both the ‘needs of the people with the story of the land’, an approach which resonates and inspires me.
Do you find your floristry skills useful and transferable for garden design?
Absolutely. I definitely use my floristry skills. I’ve always worked in careers where I design in 3D so I am always using that skill and ability to walk around designs and spaces in my head. Planting plans, in particular, have been very similar to floristry skills.
Designing planting plans is just like putting together flower count recipes for weddings. In my head, I can see the mix of tones, texture and structure. (And scent..although I can’t see that!) Planting plans are the same, but just in a different form. They also have the added 5th dimension of designing for succession through the season. This was an added challenge at first to get my head around. I love designing something that is transitional and ever-changing. Not just through the day, but though the year. Also year on year the garden will change as plants mature, thrive or surprises pop up.
What do you do when you’re not designing gardens?
I’m currently hobbling around today after managing a cross country half marathon yesterday with some friends. I never knew there were so many types of mud! I feel about 102 today and stairs are not my friend! If I’m not deciding to sign up to some ridiculous running race I’ve recently started wild swimming, which I think I’m enjoying! Although I’m definitely a fair-weather swimmer!
Otherwise, I can be found experimenting with my paints (a resolution this year to get my paints back out) escaping to the Devon or Welsh Coast, or finding the best place for a Sunday roast in Bristol.
What current works have you been undertaking and which designs are you most proud of?
Since starting at Artisan landscapes I have worked on a range of projects. The one I am most excited about it is a half-acre private garden set on a steep slope. It a natural escape in suburban Bristol and despite neighbours nearby it is surrounded by trees. You would be mistaken for being deep in the woods. We are playing on this and working with the architect and landscape architect owners of the house who are redesigning the house at the same time. Stretching out from the house at the top of the hillside we are creating an incredible cantilevering deck over the landscape. The deck will have a light and floating feeling. Whilst projecting out it will also be set back within the treetops of existing and new trees, creating a playful and escapist treehouse feel. Flower borders will break through the deck softening the structure into the landscape. Below the deck, the garden becomes gradually wilder in its design and planting palette the further from the house. We are approaching the garden design with a soft touch and blurring the edges of the designed garden with the natural surrounding landscape.