Consider the future, Wyer advises

Bowles & Wyer design and marketing director talks at Society of Garden Designers conference.

Leading designer John Wyer has urged landscape architects and garden designers to think about the future life of designs to ensure that they stand the test of time.

Talking at the Society of Garden Designers Spring Conference at Imperial College London on 27 April, Wyer gave an illuminating insight into his present successes and past mistakes.

He advised designers to fully consider the natural environment of the garden, drainage, materials and who will look after the garden once the designer has gone.

"We are not setting a train on a track to run along premeditated lines, we are launching ships. It is up to whoever steers those ships and the weather as to how the garden ends up," he said.

"It's a partnership between human intervention and nature. We shouldn't get carried away with our own self-importance."

From the Pavilion apartments in St John's Wood, where limestone aggregate and bad pond filtration "came back to haunt" him, to the much more sympathetic Maces Farm, featuring an engaged client, site-sensitive planting and local materials, Wyer showed how he has succumbed to and avoided design pitfalls. These were summed up by Bowles & Wyer maintenance manager Jeff Stephenson.

Wyer said: "We are just about the only profession other than hairdressers that designs with living things. Our schemes almost never look their best on day one. It's two-to-three years at best, even decades, before gardens come into their own."

Wyer also spoke up for the much-maligned gardener after saying the relatively new term "garden maintenance" is odd because it implies no sense of change.

He criticised the trade's low pay and status, imploring people to remember that "a garden is not a garden without a gardener."

Bowles & Wyer Pet hates and top tips

Jeff Stevenson's pet hates:

- Wrong plant choice.

- Lack of adaptability.

- Wrong choice of materials.

- Lack of client interest.

John Wyer's top tips:

- Listen to your client: "If you don't listen carefully you can't give them something they will love and treasure."

- Drawings are key: "Freehand drawings and construction drawings are equally important."

- Write stuff down: "Written instructions, specifications and contracts should be clear and concise."

- Get talking: "Explaining what you want to do is the best way to get the detail across."

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