Matt Keightley MSGD tells Zia Allaway about an ongoing project covering 17 acres
Creator of the 2014 Help for Heroes and 2015 Sentebale show gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and fresh from creating the Jeremy Vine Texture Garden at this year’s event, Matt Keightley’s career is going from strength to strength. He now works on a diverse range of projects, running the design-and-build company Rosebank Landscaping with his business partner Cameron Wilson. Here, Matt talks about an exciting recent project in Berkshire.
CAN YOU GIVE US SOME BACKGROUND?
This was a most unusual job, in that the client was so keen to create a fantastic landscape that he asked us to view potential properties with him, so that we could consider what could be achieved before he made an offer. He finally bought a 17-acre estate in Berkshire, which we have designed and landscaped for him over the past three years, and are still working on now. We have taken what was essentially a blank canvas and created a range of new gardens within the landscape, overseeing every detail, right down to appointing a head gardener to look after them.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE MASTERPLAN?
The land was originally mostly horse paddocks and the client’s brief was open, although he wanted to keep some features, including many of the mature trees and an old pond, which we dug out and made into a lake. I started by designing a more formal entrance, creating a rhododendron driveway punctuated with beautiful trees, including acers and pines.
The rest of the garden flowed from there, and includes an orchard, sculpture garden (the client called from New York and asked us to place seven sculptures he had just bought), kitchen garden, five acres of meadow, rhododendron walk, stumpery and a topiary garden, complete with 50-year-old mature topiaries from Belgium. We have also planted a woodland with semi-mature broadleaf trees and the plan is to plant over a million bluebells beneath them.
WHAT AREAS OF THE GARDEN ARE STILL BEING DEVELOPED?
I am currently working on a 100m-long ‘hot’ bed, filled with brightly coloured perennials. It is a challenge, as the client doesn’t want any grasses, shrubs or trees in the bed, so I am grappling with a design containing about 6,000 to 10,000 perennials – the scale drawing alone is over 3.5 metres long. After this is complete, we will be taking a break to allow the client to enjoy the garden without building work going on. However, there are still a few large spaces to fill, which will probably be developed over the next few years.
ARE THERE ANY MORE PLANS FOR FUTURE CHELSEA SHOW GARDENS?
Yes, definitely. I have two or three ideas sketched out in my head, so hopefully we will get a sponsor for another show garden in the next year or two. We will just have to wait and see.