By Justine Tabak
On an almost-warm day at the start of September, me and my trusty team gathered in a socially-distanced manner to shoot the latest collection. After months of hard work during a very challenging time for all, what a treat it was to work together and see the collection take shape in the most beautiful of surroundings. This season we had the pleasure of shooting within the gardens of Emma and Anthony Burrill, with just enough sunshine and under a blue sky before the seasons greyed for good.
Emma, garden designer extraordinaire, created her garden from scratch just seven years ago when their family moved to Kent. With her instinctive creativity and green fingered flair, Emma has designed, planted and nurtured her very own garden of Eden.
Here we meet Emma as she talks us through her garden, and we share a few photos from behind the scenes at the shoot.
Take it away Emma ...
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are today.
"I originally studied Photography at the Royal College of Art and went on to work commercially as a photographer and illustrator for about 15 years in London. I moved back to my home county of Kent 15 years ago and began a diploma in Garden design, an RHS horticultural course and began volunteering at Great Dixter Garden. I am still there 14 years later!"
Can you tell me a little bit about the development of your garden? What did it look like originally and how long ago did you plant the current landscapes?
"When we arrived here seven years ago the house was a 1970’s conversion of a victorian granary building, with a collection of dilapidated outbuildings. There was no garden to speak of but a mass of overgrown willow seedlings, paddocks and a lot of blackthorn scrub. We spent the first two years clearing the site and rebuilding the house. The old stables were demolished and we built our studio on the same footprint. I drew an overall plan of the garden when we began the project and each year we add a new element slowly building the larger picture. In our first year we planted 550 native trees as part of a woodland trust scheme and a cobnut platt designed on a traditional off set grid. In order to divide up the space and make sense of the huge open area I began to plant a series of hedges using the sight lines of the house and existing landmarks to connect the indoor space with the garden and wider landscape. Over the past 3-4 years we have added the borders, prairie and orchard."
When did you first discover your love of good gardens? Have you always had a green thumb?
"I have gardened all my life and have always felt happier outdoors than anywhere else. My parents were keen gardeners and from a very early age I had a small patch to grow easy plants like marigolds and sunflowers although my favourite were always the tiny blue flowered speedwell, a weed that covered our lawn."
"As a child I created a nature table in the garden shed to display my collections of feathers, abandoned birds nests, pebbles and bones. I think my love of collecting and curation of those items developed into my love of arranging and designing in both the house and garden."
Where did you take inspiration from, are there any garden designers, gardens, artists that have influenced you here?
"Garden designers that have inspired me over the years are those who work with biodiversity in mind to create beautiful natural wild plantings. I love the contrast of formal structure and straight lines with an overlaying wild and natural planting. Designers such as Dan Pearson, Tom Stuart-Smith and Piet Oudolf are at the top of my list for the inspiring and naturalistic gardens they have created."
Can you describe some of the plants you've chosen to plant and why you like them?
"As I love a natural and slightly wilder look to my plantings I use a lot of grass varieties particularly Miscanthus Sinensis and our native Deschampsia Cespitosa mixed with perennials that not only fit well in a natural style planting but have a long season of interest. I look for plants that are just as attractive in death as in full bloom, the borders stand till mid-February so the plants have to look good till then. One of my favourite areas is the Prairie which is viewed from the studio. It has a very wild feel, but is filled with colour and once the colour fades the grasses and seed-heads stay all winter till we cut it all down in January. It is pretty low maintenance and even some weeds are welcome!"
A massive thank you to Emma and Anthony Burrill for letting us shoot within their beautiful garden, I couldn't have asked for a more idyllic location. As always, a huge thank you to my dream team; here's to hopefully many more collections and shoots to come!