A Fashionable Garden|Roger Saul – founder of Mulberry, Kilver Court – Designer Village in Somerset and Sharpham Park (the organic food brand) talks to Bath in Fashion about the principles behind his creative success. From designing collections at Mulberry to planning the herbaceous borders at Kilver Court – a place where fashion meets flora and fauna – there is a philosophy that runs through every stitch and stem.
I have always been drawn to the wonder of change, both evolution and revolution. Just as the early days of Mulberry were inspired by the vibrancy of the London fashion scene in the 1970’s, today my inspiration comes from the garden and a focus on creating something new with natural and sustainable spaces that will hopefully inspire others.
My love for gardens came from childhood visits to my Grandmother’s farm in Norfolk and when I bought my first house the restoration of the overgrown walled garden became my first grand project. I visited many beautiful gardens by way of research and found the work of garden designer Gertrude Jekyll to be most inspiring. Working closely with the Architect Edwin Lutyens, she was able to incorporate strong geometric features with the immense drifts of colour formed by the shrubs and perennials that made up the herbaceous borders in her gardens. I wanted to inject some of this natural style of gardening into the landscape at Kilver Court – the Mulberry Head Office at that time.
In the 1990’s we launched a Pre-Raphaelite collection for Mulberry Home based around the herbaceous borders we had planted at Kilver Court. The colours ranged from majestic purple to deep blue, rich reds and gold disappearing into blousy whites and paler golds. We took all these amazing colours into our Home collection adding luxurious textures with velvet and brocades, creating a quirky rich look for interiors. It was a huge success, featuring heavily in the launch issue of the new Elle Decoration magazine with Ilse Crawford and taking over the entire top floor of Harvey Nichols. It also went on to influence our Mulberry ready to wear collection for the next season.
I am currently working on the gardens at Kilver Court. This year we are enhancing the natural vista by planting a wild meadow border that draws the eye naturally away from the garden towards the historic viaduct and out into the open countryside. By introducing a warmer and richer palette of pinks, mauves and blues I hope to re-create the natural pastel hues that you would find in summer hedgerows. It is important that elements of surprise remain with leafy archways, small wooden bridges, and the curves and cushions of the mid-1960’s rockery, which were so popular during Gertrude Jekyll’s time and as I forecasted a few years ago are now enjoying a resurgence.
This spring we have created a new space between the gardens and the shops in keeping with the heritage and spirit of the site. A Garden Nursery where shoppers will find an interesting selection of specialist plants and seeds that inspire you to go home and get busy; weird and wonderful ‘one-off’ garden ornaments, plus the best in sensible tools and equipment – a treasure trove of the eccentric and the excellent.
There is though one big surprise that you will only find if you visit, think hot pink!