Jane Bingham of The Cheshire Garden looks forward to RHS Tatton
PUBLISHED: 00:00 26 June 2017
A degree in fashion is not usually considered a must in the career of a garden designer. However, for Chester-based Jane Bingham of The Cheshire Garden, it has led to her becoming one of the county's most popular garden designers and this year her work will be on display at RHS Tatton.
‘It has been a bit of an unorthodox route but I don’t think I’d change it! It’s been a huge help having a trained eye when it comes to placing colours and textures in a garden design. It’s true you know, colours can really influence mood: sometimes we want to be feel energised and other times we just need somewhere calming to sit. It makes sense for me to get to know my clients and their needs. As well as listening carefully to their ideas, I can also pick up clues about them from the décor of their home and even the way that they dress: that doesn’t mean though that they have to get the hoover out before I arrive or wear their best clothes; far from it, I want to get the right impression,’ laughs Jane.
It has to be asked though: why did Jane exchange the world of glamourous fashion for a pair of gardening gloves? ‘I think it was always in my blood: literally! My parents and grandfather were keen gardeners and I still have some of my grandfather’s precious gardening tools, which I use every day. My father in law is a great gardener but no-one else in his family was so, when I came along he was very happy: he had found someone who could talk gardening non- stop. In fact, he gave me some oriental poppies that resemble the creamy white silk of Princess Diana’s wedding dress-fashion and flowers in one!’ laughs Jane.
Jane, who had already amassed a library of gardening books, harnessed her family’s enthusiasm and finally decided to take the plunge; enrolling on a horticulture course at Reaseheath College. Before she had even completed the course, her natural talent meant that professional commissions began to come her way. Today, she tackles gardens that consist of many acres and those that are barely more than thirty square metres.
‘Everyone deserves a lovely garden whatever its size. I have recently designed a three acre garden. The owners wanted a series of connecting ‘rooms’ that led to a natural swimming pool. I used colour and texture as a way of doing this; as well as introducing smaller water features that led the eye down to the pool. Another recent commission was a very small garden that had been sadly neglected but which caught the evening sun. the client wanted to take advantage of this and with some clever planting, a gorgeous little jewel like space was created: perfect for enjoying a glass of wine. One client was an experienced gardener and simply wanted me to design a planting plan, which she would then plant up herself: every day brings a new challenge’ says Jane.
Jane’s own garden is full of colour and plants which attract masses of butterflies and bees.
‘I am interested in ecological principles of gardening but I don’t impose them on anyone else: for example, some people are allergic to bee stings so attracting different varieties of bees to their gardens wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do. In any event, I’m always constantly aware that a client’s garden is their space, not mine.’
Jane’s garden also features a wonderful array of plants that have been given to her by friends and family, including a gorgeous pink camellia from her grandfather: it’s that precise shade of pink that Jane chose as the colour for her website.
‘Gardens can tell life stories and memories almost as well as words. A particular plant can recall the person who gave it and the scent of a flower or herb can whisk us back to a particular moment. In fact, it was this stream of thought that led to my RHS Tatton design. Submitting it was all a bit of a rush: I was doing part of it on Christmas Day-luckily my husband is the chef in our house-but it was worth it when I discovered that it had been accepted.’
Jane’s design is a collaboration with Mid Cheshire Hospitals Trust and gardener Penny Hearn. Called ‘Remember Me’, it is designed to raise awareness of dementia and plays with the idea of gardens and memory in an innovative way. It contains a memory shed, full of bottles containing items that will stir memories such as seashells, buttons and even knitting patterns. Old fashioned hospital beds have pillows made from camomile plants and ivy forms old fashioned bedspreads.
‘The planting is significant too,’ says Jane. ‘I’ve used flowers such as red hot pokers and mop head hydrangeas that were popular when older people were young. The planting is strong and vibrant at the beginning of the plant journey but eventually fades to items such as Veronica and ultimately, a wild flower display.’
Thyme makes an appearance in the garden; apt for Jane as she has recently completed a herb wall for her husband.
‘I attached pots of herbs to a wall. It is a great way to fill a small space with fragrance and in my case I did have an ulterior motive: I wanted to make sure that it inspired my husband to continue cooking, so a win win situation.’