Continuing our series exploring the creative lives of people living and working in the country.
With the arrival of spring and the incredible weather we’ve been having lots of people will have turned their attention to their gardens.
Anyone with even a tinge of green in their fingers can’t fail to be excited by the arrival of spring, and the imminent bank holidays will likely see a stampede for the potting shed, lawnmower and glory of flowering displays in garden centres and nurseries.
But for design duo Nicola Semple and Susan Begg, from Semple Begg Garden and Landscape Design gardening is a year round business. In fact they claim the dark, dormant days of winter are often the most productive, Susan laughs:
“I think about gardens 365 days a year. In the winter I’m more reliant on images and find myself pouring through books and magazines to fill the reality gap between what I see outside and what I can picture in my imagination.’
‘But it’s really a great time to work, I’m not distracted by the construction and planting frenzy of spring and summer, I can just allow myself to become completely absorbed in the creative process of designing beautiful gardens for my clients.”
Nicola, who came to garden design from a background in horticulture, working in a specialist perennial nursery, agrees but adds with some humour:
“Spending the winter designing in a studio is certainly a lot warmer than being out in a polytunnel dividing plants in the freezing cold. But still nothing can beat the excitement of Spring – all that promise and a whole season of garden making to look forward to.”
The pair have collaborated and gardened together as friends and neighbours for the better part of a decade in the small East Lothian village of Athelstaneford, but have only recently combined their talents in the shape of Semple Begg Garden and Landscape Design.
Together they work for a range of clients, in country gardens, new build properties, contemporary city gardens, small or large. They work expressly to a design brief agreed with the clients, helping them to realise their aspirations for their gardens. In their experience people find it harder to create a garden than a home.
An expanse of empty space or established garden that doesn’t work can be intimidating and they help their clients to incorporate the elements they want, such as seating, playing, paths, water and planting in a unified design that looks good all year. One of their greatest satisfactions is in witnessing how good design changes lives and say a well designed garden is a well used garden, so it’s always a pleasure to hear clients say how much they use and enjoy their new gardens.
Working together was they say, a big decision. Afterall going into business with friends can risky. Nicola takes the lead on this one:
“Working creatively can be lonely. Most garden designers work solo and I think we were both keen to exploit the creative benefits of working together. We share an aesthetic but each have different strengths.”
They say that they really enjoy designing domestic gardens but that working together also gives them the confidence to pitch for bigger projects. Such as their current collaboration with children’s cancer charity, It’s Good To Give who are building a retreat for children with cancer and their families on the edge of Loch Vernacher – Ripple Retreat.
Taking their lead from the use of leading architects to design Maggie’s Centres, Ripple Retreat, has been designed by Tony Kettle (Kettle Collective).
It’s an amazing building and there are equally ambitious plans for the outdoor space to be designed by Semple Begg. Nicola says:
“We’re absolutely delighted to be part of this project and hope to provide a place of solace, comfort and hopefully much needed fun for the children and their families. Somewhere truly magical where they can forget their troubles for a while.”
They say they were encouraged to become involved in the project in part because they both have young families – all of whom were keen to have a say in the design, contributing to a long wish list of children-friendly play features for the space including sunken trampolines, a treehouse, a swing over the loch and a skills area for bikes.
It is the biggest project they’ve undertaken to date and with a host of other projects on the go and the responsibilities of families there is a lot of juggling to do. Again, they claim working together helps. It allows them increased flexibility and they share the pressure when one of the many balls in the air threatens to drop.
Sounds like a well-designed solution.
For more info see: Semple Begg Garden and Landscape Design.
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