An interview with garden designer Emma Bond

I met the lovely Emma Bond via twitter, when she responded to a plea for creative spaces for my own blog. We've since become twitter pals, and so when I decided to interview a garden designer for Heart Home, hers was the first name that sprung to mind. Happily for us, she acquiesced... What’s the most important thing to know about you?

I had no clue that I would end up doing this job until I was in my mid 30s. Although I always knew that I loved being outside, I didn't ever imagine actually working as a gardener and then designer. I spent years and years working in jobs I hated, with a few I enjoyed, from being a broker in the city of London in the 80s through to studying fashion design and photography in the early 90s with a ton of temping and awful jobs in between. I really have found my dream career this time!

Emma Bond's garden design

Describe a really good day and a really bad day in the life of Emma Bond.

Well let's get the bad day out of the way first! I tend not to ever have really bad days in my life anymore, for a lot of reasons, but a less good day for me would involve being stuck inside having to work on either my tax return or some horrendous financial job, possibly involving pricing work!

Good days involve sunshine, being outside - preferably in a beautiful garden, or at the nursery choosing plants! Ideally the day would end with a lovely dinner at home in my garden with my gorgeous family; husband Tom and daughter Grace.

What inspires your ideas?

I am inspired by everything around me and over the years have developed my own taste. However, I always make sure I listen very carefully to what my client wants as I am not one to foist my taste on them - after all, it is their garden! I visit a lot of gardens during the year and also go to Chelsea flower show and other shows to get inspiration. I have always been a huge collector of vintage, both at home and in the garden and I love finding unique items which give me ideas. I love simplicity; I'm not particularly into minimalism and find it hard to do properly, but I'm intrigued by the repetition of ideas, particularly in planting schemes.

Emma Bond's garden design

Describe the process of turning your ideas into the finished product.

The first stage is that I spend time in the garden and with the client and listen to what they want and need. In many cases the garden itself will almost tell me what it needs! I will then prepare a mood board for the client showing them lots of ideas for design and style, materials for the hard landscaping as well as planting ideas. I will incorporate ideas on use of colour and garden structures like sculptures or benches as well as arbours or pergolas. This is then refined into a working pencil drawing as an overview and this shows the client what the possibilities are. Once they're happy with the design, we proceed to pricing the work and preparing building specifications. I'm lucky to have an amazing landscaping team to work with and they know me very well and fully understand what I'm after in terms of finish and quality. I hand the plans to them and they turn them into a real garden!

Emma Bond's garden design

What advice would you give to an aspiring garden designer?

The first piece of advice would be that it is difficult to earn a living from just designing gardens alone. I would encourage designers to have other forms of income from their work in the way of consultancy, gardening services, working with landscapers or perhaps writing about gardens. It is also essential to have a hands-on training in horticulture because without this knowledge you will never fully understand how a garden works and what the plants need. Many people view the job as a lovely easy time, wandering around gardens and sitting at a drawing board! It's really not like that if you want to earn a living from it and certainly for me it's been extremely hard work. I did a two year apprenticeship in a garden as well as another two years at college studying horticulture and garden design and planning, then worked as a gardener for years before learning landscaping and eventually running my own team. It's been a long haul - over nearly thirteen years, but I've loved every moment!

Emma Bond's garden design

Which three items could you not live without?

I am completely wedded to my iPhone. It has revolutionised my life in some ways, and made me its slave in others! It is indispensible for work because I can access files and emails wherever I am, which is usually in the middle of a garden somewhere! However, if I lose it, even for a few minutes, it engenders a horrible fear in me, and I've become far too dependent on it!

While I'm on the subject of Apple products, I would also have to include my Macbook and my Mac desk top computers too. I was introduced to the world of Mac by my husband, five years ago and have not looked back! I'm completely hooked.

My cameras - I have a large collection of vintage and other cameras, including old Polaroids and I could not live without them. I adore the design of them all, and have been known to buy cameras just for the way they look! My Polaroid Land camera SX-70 is a joyous thing to behold, it takes the most incredibly beautiful photos and I have a stash of out of date Polaroid film in my fridge which I am using very slowly!

Emma Bond's garden design

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the fact that I single-handedly bought up my daughter and also put myself through nearly four years of training to do what I do now. It was incredibly hard work and at times I thought I would give up, but I somehow managed to stick at it and after six years of being on my own met my lovely husband five years ago. They were really tough times, but I proved to myself that I could be a single mother and also work hard and provide for the pair of us.

What’s next for you?

I have just started work on a very exciting new commission to design the landscape for an incredible property in Bath. It's a unique 60s architect-designed house and will need a careful hand. I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to work on this project. I'm also planning on developing my photography skills next year as well as my garden writing. And I'm planning a trip to New York for the early summer, so exciting times ahead!

Emma Bond's garden design

And, finally, what’s your favourite colour?!

Every shade of green. Except bottle green. That was my old school uniform colour!