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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Laara Copley-Smith: Garden & Landscape Designer

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Meet Pinner, Laara Copley-Smith, a talented designer who creates beautiful gardens that range from courtyard to countryside landscapes. With summer underway, she shares her tips and tricks on how to plant a colorful harvest for your backyard vegetable garden—read on to hear her story!

Hi Laara! First, can you share with us a little about yourself?

Principally, I am a Garden Designer working on residential and commercial projects. The majority of my projects are for private clients and each project is individual because often my clients are undertaking extensive renovation, restoration or a complete new build of a property. The individual properties vary greatly from traditional and classic architecture, including grade listed properties, modern and contemporary to an integral combination of the old and new. The garden can be anything from a tiny courtyard to a much larger acreage in the countryside. I often work alongside other professionals such as architect, engineers, interior designers, bespoke house building contractors.

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When did you first know you wanted to be a Garden Designer?

I had previously worked in the Arts and TV for 10 years. I lived in London at this time, which as a country girl, was not a natural setting for me. As a result, I became a passionate gardener and an allotment holder spending any free time I had outside tending to my vegetable plot and flowers. As a creative, I was often exploring new potential fields of work including mixed media, painting acrylic on canvas, sculpture of many mediums including clay, stone, plaster and resin. The garden design was a natural progression aligned with this exploration and the inspiration I received from my gardening passion.

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Tell us about one of your favorite projects.

I have many projects that I have enjoyed immensely. One project, which is a favorite project yet, is not complete but in the process of design and creation. It is such a unique site that has been untouched for many years and was previously an RAF site, which is situated upon a hill and is framed with native hedgerow. The only other existing plants are coppices of silver birch apparently planted by the RAF as seeds. The open sky is just incredible when one is on site. Nothing overlooks the entire space, which is a total of 40 acres - approximately 14-20 acres will be garden zones. It is like being on another planet which has a flat landscape and the sky. Having worked with the clients previously, there is a `language` of gardens which is known, comfortable, previously explored and as you can see, it is an exciting project in the making. I believe it is not all in the result and that the process is as important as the finished garden with many people working as a team towards this end creation.

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You must spend lots of your time outside, so how do you use Pinterest in your day-to-day?

The great thing about Pinterest is that it’s so quick to use. Five minutes can be all one needs to feed ones creativity. For me, this does not have to be about gardens, but it may be about architecture, colour, shape and patterns. On one project which had extensive water, I researched water pools, pond and Charles Jenks fabulous water installations.

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If you could replicate any garden or landscape design in the world, what would this be and why?

I am passionate for topiary, clipped and shaped form. This goes back to my exploration of sculpture and creating shape with solid form. So, it would to be inspired by, not replicate, the many wonderful gardens filled with topiary. It would be to create within a large garden estate a series of inter-linking rooms which foundations were created with clipped form, hedging and topiary. Specific garden zones would be incredibly simple, such as an extensive lawn, clipped formal hedging and stone statuary. Extending into a topiary and water garden, then a series of side gardens all with a classical topiary vision. This would inter-link into formal, strict clipped parterres, then clipped parterres and soft planting. There may be a contemplative garden too, but as you see, there is just so much to create that there would never be one garden to be inspired by!

This summer, you are making a Vegetable Garden! Can you give us a sneak peak into what’s growing and offer any tips for other gardeners.

What to plant really depends upon your climatic conditions, soil, sunlight and location in the world. However, as are climate continues to change, one never knows how tried and tested vegetables will grow. I say this as it has been to date a very odd weather year in the UK.

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Crops which are easy and worth experimenting with:

Lettuce: try all types of lettuce, especially `cut & come again` varieties

Beans: broad beans, french beans, climbing & bush, bolotti beans and peas will grow well as long as they get lots of water

Carrots: they must be protected from carrot root fly

Kale: black & curly kale, spring greens, cabbage, purple & green all types, kohl rabi white & purple must all to be protected from pigeons & cabbage white butterflies

Sweetcorn: they will grow well as long as it gets enough heat and sun

Squash, cucumber, courgette, gourds and pumpkins: they will grow well as long as they get lots of sun and heat

Spinach and swiss chard: easy to grow yet they can bolt quickly in warm weather

Other green leaves: try rocket, endive, purslane and others.

Tomatoes: they need a long season of sun and protection from tomato blight

I am growing all of this in my garden and probably a few other crops, although I generally do not grow tomatoes due to tomato blight. For everyone else, you should evaluate your climatic conditions, then get sowing seed and experiment to see what works. Enjoy the process.

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Thanks for the pinterview and sharing your story with us, Laara! To see more of her amazing designs, check out her website, Facebook page and boards on Pinterest.