Well known garden designer, Ann Marie Powell is looking forward to a busy year ahead. She is refreshingly upbeat as she explains, “we are still really busy designing private gardens and have a couple of big projects in the pipeline. People are not getting a return on savings these days, so I think they are investing in their property instead. We have six large rural projects on the go and only one urban one, so it’s changed quite a lot. People are choosing Nature inspired stuff like orchards, wildlife meadows and rolling terraces which is lovely though I do miss the urban market – the designs are more dynamic and ‘tight’ somehow.”
Ann Marie was one of the first TV makeover garden designers, ‘before Ground Force’, she reminds me with a laugh, and worked on Garden Drs, Garden SOS, Real Gardens and The Great Garden Challenge. The energetic horticultural expert has also written three books and tells me, “I have got book number 3 coming out just before Chelsea Flower Show. It’s my favourite book so far, called ‘Plans for Small Gardens’ I wrote it because I really want people to ‘rip off’ the ideas and be able to design, create, maintain and enjoy their new gardens.”
As well as having provided live coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show for BBC, the bubbly designer also won a Gold medal for her very first Show Garden last year. “I did a small Courtyard garden with a friend last year and now this year I’m doing a huge garden all on my own, so the pressure is on”, she laughs. “This year’s garden is for the British Heart Foundation (sponsored by Brewin Dolphin) and I’ve been working with Sir Peter Blake, the 60’s artist who designed the famous cover for the Beatle’s Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band album and who is also Patron of the British Heart Foundation. Their ‘Mending Broken Hearts Appeal’ celebrates their 50th anniversary and includes the fabulous Zebra Fish adverts currently being shown on TV. They are raising money to research how these clever little fish are actually able to mend their own hearts, it’s great work.”
“The design for the Chelsea garden was influenced by the bold, block colours of Sir Peter Blake’s work and I also studied fabulous drawings of the muscles and sinews which surround the heart created by BHF researcher Dr Patrick Hales; these are really the key to the whole garden. There will be huge red arches all linked above and below ground with a big cage-like structure that looks very organic and sinuous. All the hard landscaping is red with a lot of red resin structures that are translucent and appear to glow, like big red cells. The planting is in strong blocks and includes healing plants like Salix caprea which has been used in the development of Asprin; I have also incorporated weeds to represent the hard times in life. And there will be a big water feature in the centre and lots of new materials.” She adds enthusiastically.
“It’s all consuming and with two young children as well, to be honest life is a bit bonkers at the moment but that’s the way we like it. It’s hard work and but after 15 years of building up the business, it’s also all very satisfying now.”