Based in the beautiful Stourhead in Wiltshire, in our latest inspiration interview we chat with award-winning garden designer, Fi Boyle.
Working predominately across the South West and Dorset, Fi offers inspirational and practical design solutions in equal measure. Fi also teaches at the Garden Design School on the same diploma course that sparked her own journey and in 2020 she became a Member of the Society of Garden Designers (MSGD).
Where does your passion for gardening originate?
I have always loved gardening and this was inspired by my father who was an avid gardener and I can remember from a young age being in the green house with him pollinating Courgettes. He encouraged me to to have my own little patch. Gardening is very much in the blood with all my family being keen gardeners as was my grandmother.
Photo by Heather Edwards Photography
Who has influenced you the most in your career?
My eldest sister is also a garden designer and has been a big part of my development. She has helped and inspired me all the way through and continues to do so. We meet several times a year to go to garden lectures and look at gardens, it is such fun sharing this with her. Also Robin Templar Williams who I trained with has been a guiding influence on my work.
How would you describe your gardening/design style?
I don’t feel I have a particular style as it is important to take into account what the client wants and what will work for the environment and the house and garden. If pushed I would say that I am plant driven more than hard landscaping however having a strong backbone to a garden is key as all the elements hang off this.
Which other gardeners/designers and gardens do you admire?
There are so many wonderful designers out there. Piet Oudolf, Arny Maynard, Tom Stuart Smith, Dan Pearson, Adam Woodruff to name but a few. Stourhead is always a wonderful inspiration and I love the hard landscaping detailing at The Newt in Somerset. Hauser & Worth in high summer looks spectacular and Encombe in Dorset, designed by Tom Stuart Smith, is a stunning historic garden.
How do you approach a totally new design?
When approaching a new design it is key for me to walk the site both with the client and then again on my own. This way I get a feel for the space and begin to visualise what will work and how the design will unfold. Following the visit I write a report detailing what I think my client needs within the space as a check list so they can add to it. This stage is is all about the design and structure of the garden, the planting comes later but is already evolving in my mind - I ask the client to populate a Pinterest board so I can get a visual sense of what they like.
Photo by ©Biotop/io photography
How do you think structures work best in a garden?
Structural design within a garden is key to making it work. There needs to be horizontal and vertical emphasis so one does not dominate over the other. For instance, when designing different areas within a garden transitions are key - making sense of the way you can move from one area of the garden to the other. Creating a divide with hedging and then emphasising it with an arch is a good way to draw the explorer in.
What 3 things can gardeners do to make an instant difference?
- Create structure - planting box or yew balls to punctuate a border.
- Add an arch over a transition point from one area to another.
- Plant bulbs under shrubs for early spring interest. There is a bulb for almost every month of the year and these can add another level of interest - be it iris reticulata early in the year to nerine in late summer.
Photo by Heather Edwards Photography
What's the best thing about being a garden designer?
Every job and project is different. The way one family uses a space will be different to the next. I love working with clients to ensure that their garden reaches its full potential. As every job is different I find I learn something new which is so rewarding and keeps one fresh and exited about what we do.
Which part of your own garden do you get most pleasure from?
I have a small garden but I think what I love most is being out tending, pottering about and tweaking things in the ever changing space. I have a green house for the first time ever and love dabbling with growing seeds. I have a small 3 tier shelf for auriculas which I can happily say I am addicted to. Basically I just love being in the garden and surrounded by nature.