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Muddy Meets: Freddie Strickland, Garden Designer

Freddie Strickland studied Garden and Landscape design at the Eden Project and is now a finalist in the RHS Young Designer of the Year 2020.

Muddy picked his brains on what we should be doing with our gardens this month, his favourite indoor plants, and finding inspiration in Cornwall’s sub-tropical gardens.

Congratulations Freddie, being selected a finalist in the RHS Young Designer of the Year 2020 is fantastic news! Can you tell us about your garden ‘On Tropic’?

On Tropic is a show garden and will be constructed and deconstructed all within a month at the RHS Tatton Park show this Summer. 

‘On Tropic’ celebrates the sub-tropical gardens found in Devon and Cornwall, reimagining this type of planting in a domestic urban or suburban northerly context.

In an exotically planted British garden, traditional plants are replaced with a tropical palette that thrives in our warming climate. With climate change in mind, this garden speculates upon our future garden design and planting.

What’s your plan with the garden – who did you have in mind when you designed it?

It’s a space for a couple in a city or suburb in the North-West of England. Over 60% of the garden is planted, providing the clients with an escape from city life that surrounds them.

The imagined clients are inspired by the gardens of the South-West, and want a little piece of it for themselves up north. Considering their location, plants more adaptable to their climate have been chosen, whilst maintaining an exotic feel.

What does it mean to you to be a finalist in the RHS Young designer of the year?

Having followed this competition for a long time I’ve always wanted to be a part of it. It’s wonderful and surreal to be a finalist, I can’t wait to build the garden.

There are four other gardens in the competition, but just to get to this stage I can go home very happy!

So where do you begin with a garden concept? What factors do you take into account?

The location, aspect, climate, accessibility and soil make many decisions for you, even before I build a brief with the client to incorporate their needs for the garden. Concepts are formed through getting a real understanding of all these factors, then getting them on paper.

What was it like studying at the Eden Project – what is your favourite plant/area there?

The course and tutors were fantastic, I would thoroughly encourage anyone to check it out if they are considering learning more about horticulture. 

I was like a kid in a sweet shop when it came to the location, Eden is such a unique and special place, with the Mediterranean Biome becoming my favourite area. Especially in the winter, when there is still so much to see but without the crowds.

When you talk about climate change and UK gardens, what suggestions do you have for people to future proof enjoyment?

It’s easy to forget that we are only custodians of the outdoor spaces we have, so spare a thought for the wildlife we borrow our gardens from.

When gardening, think of the needs of pollinators, birds and animals, and they will give back far more than what you originally provided.

True enjoyment in the garden is a shared experience with nature, so consider reducing the size of your lawn, and making space for trees, plants, food and water. All of which will help in the global effort to reduce the impact of climate change.

Where do you visit for inspiration?

Plant nurseries, gardens, gardening societies, design seminars, and my growing library.

So where did it all start for you – what prompted the change from art to gardens? (Freddie studied Fine Art first)

Fine art and Garden Design share many similarities, but I was inspired to get into the industry through an emerging love of plants, and soon thereafter taking ownership of my own green space.

It was a tricky coastal garden on the North Coast in need of renovation and became a place to learn and make mistakes. My grandmother was a fantastic gardener and loved all things horticultural, I’m sure she had something to do with it too.

Any suggestions for gardening in Cornwall – what should we be doing in March/ April?

Take advantage of the ericaceous soil and embrace acid-loving plants like Rhododendrons and Camellias, check out the collection at Caerhays or Heligan if you need persuading.

Also, don’t underestimate the effects of coastal salty winds on plant selection, I lost way too many plants this way!

April is a busy time in the garden (is there ever a quiet time?) before plants really get growing. I’d suggest:

  • a thorough weed through and a peat-free mulch would do your soil and plants wonders, and reduce the need for water in the hotter months.
  • If the risk of frosts has passed it’s also a good time to plant out and sow seeds.
  • If you have snowdrops, lift and divide to multiply the plants you have before the foliage dies back, do this every year and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your collection will grow.

And any top tips for May/June?

Of course – I seem to spend a lot of time weeding at this time of year, so alongside that:

  • Now’s the time to plant out veg plants as the risk of frost passes.
  • You can protect fruit and veg from pests by using netting and mulching.
  • Try taking softwood cuttings of your favourite suitable plants like penstemon, salvia and even shrubs like lilac, buddleja and hydrangea to name a few.
  • Tie in and support herbaceous border plants that may topple as they get too heavy – these are plants such as peonies and delphiniums.
  • Make sure to water young plants that have not developed strong root systems yet to give them a helping hand.

A lot of us don’t have any outside garden space, what indoor plants should be getting? Any top tips?

Houseplants have never been more popular, and they are a great way for those without gardens to connect to nature indoors and learn to grow.

When choosing houseplants, make note of the light and temperature of each room and don’t be afraid to ask for advice, also be realistic about how much time you can give each plant to water and care for them.

I’m a big fan of devils ivy (Philodendron scandens) which is a great beginner’s houseplant that when looked after can really go for it: I’ve got one growing all over my room and I love it.

All this talk of gardens, I’ve gotta ask, what’s your favourite Cornish garden?

Trebah, all gardens should have a stunning beach at the bottom of them! 

trebah gardens

What do you do when you’re not gardening?

Having lived in Cornwall for the last 8 years the sea has become a wonderful place of escape. I learned to surf during this time, and it quickly became a big part of my daily life. If I can’t get down to the coast you might find me in my allotment, or with family and friends on the hunt to find good art, food and music.

And lastly, we can’t talk about Cornwall and not ask – what’s your favourite beach?

Chapelporth, even with the queue for the car park!

chapelporth beach with surfer

The winner will be announced at RHS Tatton Park Show 22nd-26th July.

Find more ideas here


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