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Jo Midwinter, garden designer

When we began to develop Kilden Mor, we decided that the garden needed to be a place that people would want to visit and spend time in. To help realise our vision, we turned to award-winning landscape gardener Jo Midwinter, who has a track record of creating beautiful outdoor spaces that complement the Cornish landscape. Jo speaks to us about her approach to garden design.

Tell us about your work

I am hugely grateful to live and work in Cornwall and am constantly inspired by its landscape, climate and wildlife. The projects I work on can be very varied, from small basement courtyard gardens to one I’ve got at the moment that is around five acres. I enjoy the smaller gardens. I love the challenge of making the most of limited space and turning a key eye to every detail.

How did you get started?

I’ve been a gardener since I was young and have always designed gardens for other people. In a previous life I was a computer programmer but, in 2014, I qualified with an HND in garden and landscape design. It was a real change, but it pulled together all the elements of my personality and skill set. I love the puzzles and problem solving.

You’ve become very well established in a short space of time

I won two awards from the Society of Garden Designers early in my career and that really kick started my business. It was so useful to get my name into magazines and all over the place really.

How do you begin to create a design?

I always think that a good brief makes a good garden. The first thing I do is talk to my clients and find out as much about them and what they’re hoping for as possible. I have an instinctual response to spaces as well. I’ll wander around the garden and think, is this a place that I want to come and sit? If I did sit here what would I be looking at? What’s the view? Is there a neighbour I’d want to hide?!

How did you approach the Kilden Mor garden?

First I looked at the materials used in the building – it has quite a striking architectural look. It’s also set in the Camel Estuary in Padstow, which is a very interesting, warm environment. Because you’re looking across a large expanse of water, there are wonderful changing blues with sands on the other side, and then the green of the hillsides. So I took the architectural elements of Kilden Mor and the softness of the surrounding landscape and merged them. The garden has some quite strong lines in it but the planting will be the thing that softens it.

Were there any challenges?

The challenge is always the Cornish coast and weather. The salt winds will dry out a plant very quickly and, with hard landscaping, all your light fittings can rust if you don’t choose the right ones. I’m using plants like Pennisetum, which is such a pretty grass and has little fluffy heads, but is tough and survives well down here. You can’t help but touch it because it’s got these lovely little bunny ears.

What else should people look out for at Kilden Mor?

The top level is very nice porcelain paving, the lower level is a combination of paving and gravel. Among that will be traditional Cornish plants like Erigeron that is a real favourite down here; a lot of the stone walls have this pretty pink and white daisy all over them. Because the climate’s really mild, we can use a lot of Mediterranean planting like rosemary, lavender, thyme and we’ve got olive trees. I’m really excited to see it growing up in the coming years.


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