10th October 2018 by Daniella Quaglia
We have recently had the pleasure of working with the brightest talent in garden design – Ula Maria. Her vision, attention to detail and beautiful attitude to life was breathtaking and the design of the gardens at Garden Rose Cottage, Warwickshire is inspirational. We cant keep her a secret so we interviewed Ula and we are now shouting from the roof tops how wonderful she is.
Ula attended the School of Fine Arts in Lithuania before moving to England in 2008. She studied a BA and MA in Landscape Architecture at Birmingham City University, where she was awarded the Landscape Institute’s John Knight award for both her undergraduate and postgraduate projects. Since graduating, Ula has worked for a number of landscape practices prior to entering and winning the RHS Young Designer of the Year competition where she received a gold medal for her garden ‘Studio Unwired’ in 2017. Ula has now established her own practice – www.studio-unwired.com – and is also a visiting tutor at Birmingham City University.
What inspired you to become a garden designer?
I have a deep and innate connection with nature originating from my childhood spent in rural Lithuania. I would spend my summers collecting berries and swimming in the River Ula with its banks dotted with coniferous forests, thick woods and high sandy cliffs. Becoming a garden designer meant I could turn this passion for nature and the outdoors into my every day work.
I also consider myself very lucky to have discovered my passion for design, architecture, and art at a very early age, which became more apparent when attending The School of Fine Arts in Lithuania and later led me to study Landscape Architecture in the UK. Having moved to a busy and crowded city environment, compared to my nature filled childhood, it was very obvious to me of how much of our everyday surroundings can change the quality of our lifestyles.
This has inspired me to think how becoming a garden designer could help my clients to discover ‘their landscapes’ that will improve not only the appearance of their surroundings but also create spaces where unforgettable experiences and memories could be enjoyed and made for the generations to come.
What influences your work?
I get most inspired when traveling, learning about new cultures, and discovering unfamiliar landscapes. However, a lot of influences come from everyday experiences and meeting people, hearing their stories. I tend not to follow the ever-changing fashions and trends because I believe that every design should be bespoke and tailored to suit a specific place or person. Gardens are very personal and unique spaces, like our homes or lifestyles are – not two are the same.
I seek to create meaningful designs by sensitive approach to an existing space. My particular interest is in creating emotive garden spaces that evoke innate connections to nature through memories, senses and experiences.
How does the garden design process work?
01. Initial Meeting / Site Visit
The design process is discussed and agreed with the client at the initial meeting. The first site visit allows me to get a sense of the space and develop the client brief based on their specific needs and requirements.
02. Conceptual proposals
Based on the brief developed after the initial meeting, conceptual design proposals are prepared for the discussion with the client. Conceptual proposals include a garden plan and 3D sketches, along with the plant and material mood boards.
03. Detailed proposals
Once the initial design has been agreed, it is then developed further by adding another layer of detail to the design. Drawings are developed in sufficient detail for construction and the planting of the garden. At this stage, the client is provided with an accurate cost plan for the project.
The construction package is prepared during the Tender stage of the project. The collaboration of the designer and contractor is important to achieve the highest building standards using the most practical and efficient methods.
After the completion of the project, the client is provided with the information on how to maintain the garden and I am always happy to give an advice for a number of years after completion.
What does the future hold for you?
I hope to continue designing spaces for people to enjoy. I am very lucky to have a job that is also my passion. It allows me to travel, meet some amazing people, and make a difference in their lifestyles.
In the future, I would like to be able to work with a hospital or a hospice and improve the experience of those who spend a lot of time in such environments. I would love to create something really meaningful that would make a great change to someone’s life. Unfortunately, these environments are often overlooked from the exterior design point of view which results in passive and soulless spaces, that don’t value the benefits that nature can bring to someone suffering from severe or terminal illness.
Where do you like to travel?
I like to travel as often as possible. I travel to the places that I haven’t been before. I enjoy getting lost in the foreign streets, eating local foods I haven’t tried before, and immersing myself in new cultures. I most enjoy historic places, old towns, full of character and soul. Places that have a story to tell.
Do you have favourite plants?
I am obsessed with the combination of the glaucous coloured plants and the wild flora. Silver-blue colour tones of Leymus arenarius grasses or Artemisias create a perfect background for even the most humble and delicate of the wild flowers that I most often get drawn to. Each garden has to have a unique flower ‘gem’ hidden in it.
Which garden would you like to be in every day?
There are so many magical gardens I could think of but it would have to be my grandmother’s orchard, without a doubt. It used to be my hideaway from the rest of the world when growing up. Every day I would come home with my fingers stained from picking blackcurrants and strawberries, and my knees bruised from climbing apricot trees. My next show garden will be inspired by my grandmother’s garden, with a contemporary twist.
Otherwise, it would have to be a Baltic coastal landscape or a Welsh forest – if these would classify as gardens.