Designer Showcase - Oxford Garden Design

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David Harber's Designer Showcase series will uncover the news and views of garden designers we have collaborated with – their design ethos, inspiration behind using sculpture outdoors, and their take on the latest trends in garden design.

We kick off with a Q&A session with Jamie Langlands, lead designer at Oxford Garden Design, whose calm and secluded show garden at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival featured the Geminus sculpture.

How did you start out as a designer? My story is a little bit different from others. I studied fine arts at Bournemouth University, mostly doing landscapes and florals and the architectural forms of plants. I realised when I left art school that becoming an artist was tricky so it was suggested I think about garden design. I knew nothing about plants, but I loved the idea and went off to do a RHS qualification. I never looked back.

I've found that because of my artistic background, I have a different take. I look at form and composition slightly differently to someone who has been classically trained in garden design. As with all all design, you should know the principles but not be constrained by them, and I feel my artistic background helps with this.

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Where do you take your inspiration from in your designs? I'm from Dorset and I have spent the majority of my life there. I always go back to the Jurassic Coast for inspiration, and sometimes I have to pry myself away from it. But it always creeps back in. I think for everyone there is a natural emotional link to where you were born, there are things that are set within your creativity and inspire you at an early age.

For soft landscaping, I believe in the naturalistic approach, and allowing the plants to look after themselves. I love exploring how plants work together in nature, intermingle and self seed. The garden will look better if you work with nature and don't try to tame it. And this is also means less maintenance and is, of course, better for biodiversity.

On a personal level, I've loved the recent works of Piet Oudulf and Mark Gregory. They have both worked wonders with the naturalist approach to soft landscaping.

Geminus sculpture in RHS Malvern Spring Show garden

How did you approach your garden stand at RHS Malvern and working with our Geminus? I designed the space to create viewing angles to the garden. I wanted structure around the viewpoints to give the impression of moving in and out of an intimate space. I was also keen to have something sitting in the main archway.

I didn't have a sculpture in mind, but I knew the void I wanted to fill. The Geminus ticked every single box. It was like it was made for the space, it merged the two viewpoints together. It is both contemporary and soft, it reflects in the water and it acted as a focal point. I'm always trying to give a focal point. A garden should lead you around from point to point without making a conscious decisions.

What is your opinion on the role of sculpture in garden design? Sculptures are a good way to lead you through a garden and add intrigue. I'm always trying to add intrigue and create talking points.

It is rare that I'll know what sculpture I want when working with one in a design. It is an organic process, the design evolves and changes, and sometimes the sculpture will influence the design.

Living area of show garden

What's the future for garden design? It's great that more people are interested in gardens – whether at the level of design or simply visiting a plant nursery. The more people that get involved, the more beneficial it is to the local ecology. Plus there are the personal health benefits.

I think the naturalist approach is the future and it's great to see it coming out in so many ways.

David Harber's Designer Showcase will promote the work of garden designers through our website, social media and in newsletters. If you have worked with David Harber before and would like to feature in the Designer Showcase, please get in touch.

Sculpture under a bridge

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