As I get older, I find that I move further and further to the softer, greener end of landscape design. I trained as a landscape architect where paperwork is king but I am drawn increasingly back to the things that attracted me at the outset – plants obviously but also the natural balance which one finds in nature and a real yearning to identify the thing that makes a place special and to work with it
I’m not a Modernist; at heart, I’m an Arts and Crafts designer. I like collaborating with people who are good at what they do: craftsmen who can take one of my sketchy drawings and make more of it than I had imagined possible; gardeners – real gardeners – who can turn one of my planting plans into something greater than the sum of its parts. i started as a gardener in the early 1980s and then trained as a Landscape Architect. I worked as a draftsman assistant in a number of different offices before setting up my own practice in the mid 1990s.
My first big job was at Cowdray Park in Sussex, and then The Boots Millennium Sculpture Garden in Nottingham. For seven years I ran the design office at Clifton Nurseries in London, and for the last ten years or so, I have worked with the landscape designer, Catherine FitzGerald.
I have a small practice called Mark Lutyens Associates which is based in London and Somerset.
What I hope it conveys is a general progression towards a being a better designer – and if not better then more sympathetic. Whilst I still design at a large scale – and enjoy doing so – increasingly, I prefer to focus on the details using pencil, paper, set square and scale rule; and seeing the gardens I make grow and evolve, especially the trees which will, I hope, out last me and then some.
I never met him but Russell Page’s autobiography ‘The Education of a Gardener’ was a big early influence – I was attracted by the exotic exuberance of the life he lead. When I trained, Geoffrey Jellicoe was a visiting professor, his work, his absolute conviction that landscape design was the ONLY thing to do, and his link to a time of great heroes, all had a great influence on me. For as long as I can remember, my great, great uncle Edwin Lutyens, the architect and garden designer, who worked at a time before architecture and landscape design were put into separate boxes, was, and still is, an ever-present force in my life. And recently, a long-published book by a Japanese aestheticist Tanizaki – ‘In Praise of Shadows’ – was a revelation and reminder that subtle details are important; that there is an alternative to the current trend for the colour-blazing, attention-grabbing and photocentric
Childhood memories of my grandparents’s garden in East Sussex, a Georgian rectory on the edge of the Pevensey Levels which stretched to a far horizon. I was small and it seemed enormous but safe – a cedar tree so huge that it darkened the sky; Easter holidays when daffodills turned green grass yellow – where did they come from? where did they go?; the thrill of the long drive in and the sudden roar of the gravel sweep; a teardrop-shaped conservatory with an ancient grape vine and scented geraniums; a walled garden with a gnarled mulberry tree and a ruined glass house which we further destroyed with an airgun. It was old and comfortable, formal in parts but ragged at the edges; it seemed ever-lasting but of course, it wasn’t – le domaine perdu. It was my grandfather’s pride and joy but one which he happily let us romp through; it was an English country garden and nature, unthreatening, was very presen
New gardens around a restored early 18th century house in Wiltshire: designed by Mark Lutyens and Catherine FitzGerald, and made and planted by the home team of gardeners and estate staff. The works included new terraces, Purbeck stone retaining walls and broad steps, long borders, pleached trees and billowy hedging, a wilderness of crabapples, an oak bower made from the stag-headed oaks harvested from the park by Martha Freud, Danny Wootton and Sid Dawe; a fountain with central sculpture by Olivia Musgrave.