Designing gardens and outdoor spaces for a number of years, both inside and outside London, Karen Rogers initially discovered her passion for the industry when taking part in a garden design foundation at Capel Manor College. Quickly realising her passion and subsequently turning it into a career, Karen founded her own brand dedicated to various services including landscape, garden and planting design consultancy. Focusing on creating designs which are both practical and stylish, we had the opportunity to speak with Karen about the style we can expect to see in her outdoor creations, the biggest misconceptions surrounding garden design, and how lockdown prompted her to change her own outdoor space as part of our garden series.
How did you initially gain an interest in working with outdoor spaces?
I signed up for a Garden Foundation Design at Capel Manor College and loved it so much I signed up for a further 2 years to complete the Garden Design Diploma and graduated in 2009. I was always fascinated with architecture and loved the challenge of designing optical illusions to maximise client's outdoor spaces.
What about a garden space, whether private or public, do you find most important?
It is the shape and genus loci of the space that are most important. The design brief should take into account the architecture of the property, the interior design, the surrounding landscape and the shape of the garden. I work with clients to build a design brief that complements their style and the style of the property through use of visuals and sketches.
What is the biggest misconception about landscape and garden design?
Landscape and garden design is more complicated than clients think! It requires me to design a garden in 3D and provide an accurate 2D Masterplan with specifications for a landscaper to quote and build accurately. I need to understand levels, hard landscape materials and installation, building regulations, drainage, design and planting practises and of course have that extra design flair. I work with architects, construction engineers, surveyors, arboriculturists, landscapers, builders and interior designers and this requires me to be skilled and knowledgeable so everyone involved understands how the design works.
Our industry is often confused with garden enthusiasts who love plants and planting. Landscape and garden designers design the structure and build of the garden, like an architect, and the plants and planting is the equivalent of a final interior design touch.
How would you describe the style and aesthetic of your designs / creations?
I have various styles depending on the design brief. I have designed traditional gardens as well as contemporary gardens, but I hope my style is elegant, uncluttered with soft and structural planting for all year-round interest.
What’s your best tip to elevate an outdoor space?
Bring planting nearer to the house to give your garden depth and provide curiosity to entice you to walk through the garden.
What has been your favourite project to date? Why?
I have so many favourite projects and each one has lovely memories in how we designed and built them. Each garden is special to me.
I designed a sunken courtyard in Chiswick which is very popular as it feels secluded, surrounded by plants. Another was a 5 acre secluded country garden in Hampshire with architect designers Alma-nac that has been featured in House and Gardens and the Sunday Times -- I enjoyed the challenge of the different levels and soil conditions and I created different garden spaces within the garden for different uses and opened up views to the South Downs. I have designed gardens with children’s’ tree houses that have been popular with family clients. I have designed outdoor spaces for clients with teenagers to sit and chill in their gardens secluded and around fireplaces and firepits. I have also designed a garden for a church that incorporated vegetable beds, accessible seating areas and places for children to interact with the older members of the church.
Lockdown caused everyone to spend more time at home than ever, which renewed everyone’s interest in their outdoor space(s). What design changes did you make to your outdoor pocket or wish you could have made to improve your home’s environment?
Yes, I spent so much time in my garden during lockdown and changed a lot of planting schemes so that I had more colour and structure. I created a small vegetable garden and am now growing broad beans, courgettes, peas and tomatoes. I have had a lot of enquiries from clients looking to add offices in their gardens and wanting the design to incorporate an outdoor space for relaxation outside the office and integrate with the rest of the garden.
How would you describe your outdoor space in three words?
Elegant, uncluttered, seasonal.
What exciting projects are you currently working on and what can we expect to see from you in the future?
I have a lot of design projects in London, Berkshire and Hampshire and have an interesting project in East Sussex designing a garden surrounding an Oast House with a contemporary extension by RX architects. I am also expanding my practise to Hampshire and opening an office there as I would like to expand my portfolio to more design work in the countryside.