Not many people would enter a prestigious show just after leaving college, but Charlotte Pearson catches up with a Worthing woman who did just that.
Fresh from finishing their garden design course, when Sara Warren, Paula Napper and Donna King entered a brief into the 2016 RHS Hampton Court Flower Show they didn’t expect much.
They certainly didn’t expect to win a gold award.
“We were ecstatic when we saw the marks we got were mainly excellent and very good,” enthuses Worthing resident Sara. “We had just finished the course at Plumpton College and thought ‘Why don’t we enter?’.
“We submitted our design, and then got something back just saying we like it but look at the trees.
“We were amazed that we had received a response so I completely redesigned the garden from scratch and sat in my studio drawing loads of circles.”
The result was ‘the lavender garden’ showcasing a mix of wild planting and trees with a circular walkway which leads to a hut, a sunken area and curved bench.
Their inspiration came from Lordington Lavender, based near Chichester in the hills of the South Downs National Park.
“We wanted to offer something different and think outside the box so we would get our design noticed,” says Sara. “Lordington used to be a dairy farm but they changed it from cattle to lavender, so we took inspiration from that.
“In the middle of our garden we had a cattle feeding shed and then a cows’ drinking trough with lavender planted at different points to represent the fields.
“We had a copper still to make the products and a few of the items they make such as oils and soaps.”
Once they were given the go ahead they had ten months to figure out the details and get contractors in to help build it, while they undertook all the planting themselves.
The garden was given a gold award and the trio thoroughly enjoyed the three weeks they spent at the show.
Sara admits there are no plans to enter the flower show again next year as ‘it takes over your life’ and she is keen to invest in her own business – Sara Warren Landscape and Garden Design, based in Worthing.
Before embarking in a career in landscape gardening Sara worked at Steyning Grammar School, but having always been creative in textiles and with keen green fingers she enrolled at Plumpton College.
Initially, the diploma was one day a week, but with the work taking up much of her time on the remaining six days she decided to hand in her notice at the school.
“It was hard to go from a stable job to doing this but I had older children and felt the time was right for me to do something for myself,” she reveals.
Hampton Court provided a good start for Sara as she was able to see her designs come to fruition and saw her work with contractors, but she adds that there are always things to learn. “It was great at Hampton Court as we were able to pick the brains of some designers,” she reveals.
“It is a great community, it can be close knit, but there are people if you have a query or question you have someone you can talk to.”
With a professional diploma in garden design, Sara’s aim is to work with the client to see what they want and need from the garden, be that a dining space or somewhere for the children to play, or both.
She also offers a design service, called ‘OneTwoThree design’ which allows clients to take advantage of her skills and knowledge.
“Some people can’t necessarily afford for their whole garden to be renovated all at once or underestimate the work that needs to be done,” she explains.
“This way I can go in, chat to them, design a garden and then it is up to them. They may want to do it themselves or ask me to carry on with the process.”
Asked what she is currently working on, Sara admits she is trying to find a home for the lavender left over from the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show.
“There is just so much of it so I’m trying to keep it alive,” she smiles.
“But it was a lot of fun, I still can’t quite believe it.”
The Lavender Garden
Gold award winner
Designed by: Paula Napper, Sara Warren, Donna King
Built by: Burnham Landscaping & The Landscaping Consultants Ltd
Sponsored by: Shropshire Lavender
September 22, 2016 Interiors and Property