Marcus Barnett: architectural garden design

From geometric walls to Italian Basaltite paths

Image: Matthew Evans

Marcus Barnett’s garden schemes exude a calm and organised architectural spirit, but their order belies the extremes to which Barnett and his team go. Craning semi-mature trees into walled gardens and importing Basaltite stones from Italy is all in a day’s work, explains the Inchbald-educated landscape-garden designer, who was the equerry to the Duke of Kent in his previous military career.

Architectural forms are a major inspiration for Barnett; his gold-medal-winning garden at the Chelsea Flower Show last year (first picture) was designed around De Stijl principles, featuring a large geometric wall made up of different-sized rectangular stone blocks. Such “hard landscaping” – walls, paths and other surfaces – always form the foundation of a design. “Then we lay a carpet of beautiful and complementary planting over it, which sets off the surrounding architecture and landscape,” he says. The results, he hopes, “exude atmosphere, interest and complexity”.

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Clients don’t come to Barnett for a fixed style, however; rather with the understanding that they will receive a highly individual and personal design (from £35,000), from lush, flowing countryside gardens (second picture) to more linear spaces (third picture). Barnett starts with a site tour and ideas are then developed via free-flowing discussions, simple sketches, more complex models or rendered visuals, and even 3D fly-through virtual animation. Sometimes clients have just a loosely formed notion of what they want; others have very specific requests, such as incorporating a bath (complete with plumbing) into a roof terrace design, as well as a number of hung chandeliers and entertaining spaces within the garden.

Barnett organises planting plans, the tender process of selecting a contractor and oversees all work on site, which also includes aftercare. “Small gardens can be implemented in a few months. But large gardens and landscapes can sometimes take several years to develop. We usually work with clients on the development and care of their gardens for many years after the design has been finished.”

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