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The Great Outdoors with Freddie Gibbs

Freddie Gibbs, Head of Garden Design at Nicholsons

    The Nicholsons Design Studio has been designing beautiful, award-winning gardens for 20 years. Freddie, their Head of Garden Design, has created gardens for Oxfordshire townhouses, country estates, manor houses and restoration projects, with a core focus on plant health and sustainability. His vivacious attitude to garden design allows Freddie to reimagine outdoor spaces, no matter how big or small, without compromising on the quality.
    Q1: How can furniture be integrated into a garden scheme?
    The best way is to incorporate multiple destinations for people to be drawn to. If big, create a lounge area, a dining area, and a sundowner terrace to invite people to enjoy the far corners of their landscape. If small, then be clever and softly break the area into two with a little transition of plants, so you can have dining and lounging side by side in two seemingly separate spaces.

    O2: What are the most important requirements for outdoor furniture?
    Ultimately this is down to client preference and taste; however, from my perspective quality and reliability are key. The best pieces of furniture have lasted for decades and moved from home to home like a sofa or bed would. Style and design are a great extra to compliment a space however you want a good return on your investment, so resilience is key.

    Q3: How do you create an outdoor garden scheme?
    Client brief is the most important thing, it is their garden and you are the custodian of reimagining their landscape. Quite simply, if someone doesn’t want or like something in their space, who are you to tell them otherwise? The other key considerations are the style of architecture of the house, the natural environment and wider landscape surrounding the garden, the budget and the carbon and environmental cost of the works. Balancing all these factors is not easy, but it’s the art form.

    Q4: If you could design anyone’s garden, whose would it be?
    To be honest, my own, I’m not a homeowner currently and have rented for years. I am dying for a small patch to call my own, and to create some beautiful memories. However, professionally, I would love a client who wanted to transform a landscape, with the sole brief to be as carbon sensitive as possible. Someone who wanted to be a complete case study for landscape construction, utilising all the latest advancements in materials and technology to make a garden as carbon negative as possible, as well as ecologically positive and a biodiversity heaven.

    Q5: Where do you get garden inspiration from?
    Like anyone doing anything creative, it comes from everywhere. Most clients have a fairly good idea of what they would like but don’t have the know-how to implement it, which is why they get you in. Every landscape and client brief is so infinitely unique that you have a new set of parameters each time to work within. Working with the land rather than against it is a great way of being more creative with your designs. Some things are obvious in a garden and others aren’t; however usually you are drawing upon your own experience to suggest ideas. This job does make you very nosy, so everywhere I go I can’t help but peek at a garden or a project to see what people have done and build up an infinite bank of solutions.

    Q6: What are your best tips and tricks for styling a garden?
    Less is more is the perfect thought process for good design. Often the most simple or obvious ideas really are the best. For instance, if you have a large lawn which you continuously mow, ask yourself how much you need and only mow an area which is required. The edges will develop into beautiful meadow grasses, wildflowers or orchids might start to bloom and in turn it might help to screen off some unloved beds at the extremities of the garden. Other things such as always questioning how much is enough? If you are creating a terrace, how many people realistically would you need to accommodate? Does it have to be paved? If not, could it be gravel or a mixture of textures and materials to save cost and be more carbon conscious? Make the most of the space you have; if you are lucky enough to have a larger garden, don’t focus so heavily round the house but make sure you have reasons to explore each corner of the garden and make the most of the space.


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