“A garden designed to wow at the weekend without the work during the week”. That's how Neil Sutcliffe describes Sociability, the garden that's just won him Gold and Best Garden in the Lifestyle category at Gardeners' World Live.
Show Manager Jenny Jenner said of Neil's design that it demonstrated excellent quality of finish and maturity of design, while Sarah Sandys-Renton of Gardener's World Live saw it as particularly relevant to modern living, integrating the garden into life at home.
Neil is a graduate of Nottingham Trent University where he took an HND in Graphic Design in 2001. He went on to work for chartered surveyor and property consultant FHP, where his time coincided with the increasing fashion for loft-style living. Since 2010, he has been running garden design and landscaping company Creative Roots with his father Keith and seen the “garden room" rise in popularity. He describes his winning design as a combination of the two trends.
Under foot, Neil chose a lovely limestone paving from Germany which has small fossils and shells clearly embedded within it, giving it real interest and character. “I chose Jura Grey Limestone because we had teak-colour decking,” says Neil, “and it was a contrast, and you've got the mottling and texture within the Jura.”
It's also low-maintenance, unlike some limestones. London Stone obtained the blue-coloured Jura especially for Neil, but our Jura Beige Limestone is a super, warm-coloured version of the same paving.
Neil's planting choices followed on from the paving, echoing the blue tones and mainly using plants with purples, blues and pinks, such as the irises pictured and Salvia 'Twilight Serenade'. To ensure that lack of weekly maintenance, he also chose ferns, hellebores and box balls. He complemented the colouring with home stainless steel planters that receive the fountains.
Creative Roots are no strangers to Gardeners' World Live as, in 2013, Neil won Silver Gilt for show garden Nature Lays Claim, entered in Metamorphosis, the show garden category which challenges designers to be as innovative as possible while using a prescribed list of materials.
The Lifestyle Gardens were brand-new this year, aiming to give visitors at every stage of life ideas that they could take home. Each garden was 7 x 10 metres and Neil's covered the Entertainment stage, when children are growing up and the garden can be given over less to play and more to socialising with friends, while offering more than just a barbecue.
Based in West Bridgford, Nottingham, Neil has found that requests for outdoor kitchen/dining on the rise. “We've done quite a few firepits and barbecues built in. The weather isn't putting people off, though a lot of people know they'll use it for only a few months a year. But we went to a client's birthday party last December and he was using the pizza oven, with everyone standing outside. It doesn't have to be hot and sunny.”
The British are a hardy lot, and home life seems increasingly to be moving out into the garden. Have you found increasing requests for kitchen/dining facilities? Tweet and tell us @_londonstone