Making Gardens with Mr B
Isabel Bannerman reflects on the gardens she and her husband, Julian, have made together for the various houses in which they have lived, and the garden they are making now, at Ashington Manor in Somerset
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'Making a garden together, in which to live and work, through thick and thin, fair and foul, is what we like to do best. Everything else is a sideshow. Since spring 2019 Julian and I have been making a garden at Ashington Manor Farm, a garden that we think of as our last principal private escapade, but you never know . . .'
Isabel and Julian Bannerman have made scores of lauded gardens for a host of famous clients, and three special, much-loved gardens of their own surrounding the houses which they have restored and lived in since they married, starting at The Ivy, Chippenham, in 1982; then Hanham Court, Bristol, in 1993; and Trematon Castle, Cornwall, in 2012. Now as they embark on a new adventure, creating a garden at their Elizabethan farmhouse in Somerset, Isabel reflects on the garden they are making and the others they have made as a couple, about the 'thousand tiny decisions about which we fight like hooting chimpanzees' and, especially, the fundamentals of what Julian, Mr B, thinks about the key things that go into making a garden for living in – a jumble of eating, drinking and sitting places, fruit cages, vegetable and cutting gardens, pelargoniums in giant pots, rose arches, tools and sheds, fences, formality and topiary, pools and meadows, and not least the importance of one's peripheral vision of how the garden joins on to the landscape.
Garden designer Isabel Bannerman and her husband, Julian, have won Gold Medals at Chelsea and designed gardens for a wide range of people, including HRH The Prince of Wales and many clients from the worlds of fashion and film. They also designed the British 9/11 Memorial Garden in New York. Isabel is the author of Landscape of Dreams (2016), Scent Magic (2019), and the author/editor of The Star-Nosed Mole (2021), all published by Pimpernel Press.
"The magic they bring to every project is elusive, but it is always built upon the solid foundations of a deep understanding of the history of a house and its relationship with the land. Happily, this book lifts the lid of the process that produces such warm yet thrilling results...This sharp and funny, warts-and-all approach does the great service of leaving the reader enthused and encouraged, not overawed by technicalities and hardcore...it imparts all that really useful practical stuff so often left unsaid. And all is told with that same chaos and charm that underpins their enchanting gardens."
"So beguiling in its content, so poignant in its perceptions, that when I had finished it, I started at the beginning again, to read it all over again."
"If you like gardens, houses, charm and other people's husbands then get this book. Nothing and no one keeps me awake till three in the morning apart, it seems, from Isabel Bannerman. Her style of writing is all her own and I love it."
"Broad in scope, Husbandry is beautifully and evocatively written...The Bannermans are original thinkers yet this is a useful and practical book. A garden like a marriage is ‘for pleasure and living in’ and Husbandry has a wellspring of ideas on the possibilities of place."
"Beautifully written, achingly honest and sometimes irreverent, revealing all sorts of useful snippets on garden design."
"The real story of a garden and a relationship. It would make a wonderful gift for the gardening person in your life or just buy it for yourself. It feels a little like a hidden gem that might get overlooked as it is not a big or a flashy book, but treat yourself, you will not regret it."
"Warm, candid and enormously entertaining, this book is as much about a marriage as a garden. There are gems of observation, thought-provoking statements and some really useful advice. It’s clear the gardens created by the designers Isabel and Julian Bannerman for clients, and their own home gardens, are tightly woven into their relationship and part of the fabric of life for a couple for whom garden-making is akin to breathing."
"This intimate and entertaining tasty morsel ruminates on love, marriage and garden-making. I felt that I'd lounged beneath the trees at Ashington Manor with a soul-mate."
"So out of the ordinary, so fantastically written, clever and very funny, that I might get two of them: husband-and-wife copies."
"A wonderful gift for the gardening person in your life or just buy it for yourself. It feels a little like a hidden gem that might get overlooked as it is not a big or a flashy book, but treat yourself, you will not regret it."