When I speak to Butter Wakefield, she’s literally just won Best In Show for her trade stand at Chelsea Flower Show, designed for Gaze Burvill. The American-born Londoner runs a small and highly successful garden design business that is driven by word-of-mouth recommendations, and this win is the pinnacle of months of hard work. Her mantra for success, ‘be happy, be polite, be helpful and just keep chipping away at it’ seems to be paying off. Here we catch up with the designer about Chelsea, London gardening and ways to unwind in the city:
When did you get picked to design a garden at Chelsea?
Last August I was invited by Gaze Burvill to design their trade stand – to be chosen was hugely exciting, tho I’ll admit it ruined the end of my summer holidays with thinking about it! The brief was to design a purpose-built, imaginative space to showcase their beautiful garden furniture. I was allowed to choose the pieces myself and went for a round table, with circular benches, half with backs and half without, and some sofas and an amazing outdoor kitchen range. The layout also has to allow for lots of people to move about the space, so there’s lots to consider.
What was the process of creating the garden like?
We were allowed in on 4 May and that’s when the build started. The trees arrived that day, and the plants a few days later to settle in. The industry is fantastic and everyone pulls together when there’s a crisis – I had to go and borrow some soil from Chris Beardshaw who was very accommodating! We’re in it together and we all support one another, the atmosphere is just phenomenal.
Which were your stand-out gardens at this year’s Flower Show?
The Seedlip Garden, Mark Gregory’s Yorkshire Garden and Jo Thompson’s Wedgwood Garden.
How much time do you spend outdoors vs. indoors?
I spend all my time outdoors! I love it. I did interior design before which was an amazing learning curve where I picked up an understanding of pattern, scale, design and colour, key foundations for my gardens in fact. But I was inside too much, it drove me crazy, I’m happiest outdoors and truly love my job.
Where do you get your ideas for your gardens?
Architecture plays a huge role. I study buildings and the way the masters like Christopher Wren and David Nash made them, I study roof lines and shapes. I also consider dimensions. Walking around Chelsea is inspiring – look at someone like Tom Stuart Smith. The way he threads his plants, the planting is just unbelievable. Cast your eye around and you lodge ideas in your mind for future projects – of course every client wants something different so its good to have things in store.
Do you have a work uniform?
No! I am not a personal branding type of person, I don’t even have a branded van. Today I’m just wearing black jeans, black espadrilles and a flowery shirt.
How do you unwind after a long day at work?
There’s nothing more soothing than being in my own garden. I love picking flowers, arranging them, carrying a posy to my bedroom.
Where’s home and what do you like about your neighbourhood?
Ravenscourt Park. I love the Angelsea Arms – it’s a proper pub and I enjoy wandering there once a week for a meal. I also love setting off for a long walk with my border terrier, Wafer. He and I have a very happy time on the river, it’s walking distance from my house yet it always feels like a holiday – it’s exotic, the views on the water and sense of space and horizon – it’s really transportive.
What’s your favourite flower?
Alchemilla mollis and Rosa Munstead Wood (above).
What’s on your bucket list?
Winning Gold for a Show Garden at Chelsea.
Catch Butter Wakefield’s garden for Gaze Burvill at Chelsea Flower Show until Saturday 26 May. butterwakefield.co.uk