Sunflower
Leaf detail
Honeysuckle fruits

Our Story - A Love of Nature

Beginnings

We, Fiona and Geoffrey came to Yorkshire to start life afresh.  We felt the need for nature.

Our plans have suffered setbacks and alterations, but we have adapted and modified our aspirations.  We re-focussed our efforts on the ‘outdoors’; landscapes, flowers and most of all freedom to breath.

We met in Worcester 2001, a year of calamitous change in the world.  At once we felt together and shared an abiding passion for nature.

We moved ‘North’ to be nearer to family, in the event that we could help them as needed, that was in 2004.

A surge in house prices put paid to our house search and we rented a house in Terrington, North Yorkshire instead.  However, it didn’t quite work out there and a year later we were moving again to York.

Geoffrey started the business in 2005, at the start it was a solo venture into garden maintenance.  After considering a very long list of names we settled on, ‘Ask-King 4 Gardening’

Geoffrey had been gardening, quite a while by then, 35 years approximately, who can say when you start dabbling with plants?  After a few months Fiona felt ‘obliged’ to join the venture, and so we became a ‘partnership’.  As a team we were able to take on larger gardens and we quickly started working far and a wide.

Soon we were regularly tending gardens; from a hillside above Pately Bridge in the Yorkshire Dales, to a Churchyard in Filey, from rolling acres near Stokesley to a dainty plot in Cherry Burton in the Yorkshire Wolds.  We travelled throughout Yorkshire, greatly enjoying the changing seasons and varied landscape.

Not quite right

Tending gardens, being outside, is a pleasure but can be a chore.  As any garden owner knows.  We had always found more satisfaction with ‘developing’ gardens as opposed to ‘maintaining’ them.  Mowing grass is okay, therapeutic even, to a point, but it’s not quite Fiona’s idea of bliss.

Rumblings of dissatisfaction emerged from time to time.  Yes, Yorkshire is great, but the roads can be a tad tiresome after a while.  Vans, are just not built for the comfort of the occupants.

Early on, Geoffrey did a City & Guilds Certificate in Gardening at Askham Bryan and later did a Plant Knowledge course in 2008.  We often thought about a ‘garden design’ service, afterall we spent quite a bit of time modifying gardens.  Removing plants, re-configuring borders and beds, planting-up hanging baskets.  But we were hesitant, not for wanting to, but for knowledge.

We searched online for suitable courses, in the world of garden education, as elsewhere, education is always in flux.  Eventually, just in time as it happens, Geoffrey found a course that might satisfy Fiona’s creative desires.

Leeds Metropolitan University, as was, offered a degree in Garden Art and Design.  Not just a fancy for Fiona, she’s always been a creative person and in tune with nature.  Pens and paper, a favourite gift as a child.  Back in the 90s she studied various ‘art’ courses culminating in a Degree in Ceramics at Cardiff University in 1997.

Weighing up the pros and cons, finances, capabilities, travel, Fiona went to an Open Day and an interview.  She was asked to take along a small portfolio of previous work, we almost needed a forklift truck to carry it all!

In the Autumn of 2009, Fiona commenced her studies, very unsure about coping with what lay ahead.  She opted to do the course part-time, this allowed time to fit in our ‘gardening’ work but also lengthened the course to six years.

It’s a good job, we’re good at ‘juggling’, as in October 2009 we also found, after searching for some time, our new Home.

Biophilic design

We moved to Wilton, after some initial major decoration works, February 2010.  It had been a cold winter and a hard start to our new ‘venture’, a home in the countryside and a garden with possibilities.  Everything, had been neglected, for who knows how long, many years for the ‘garden’.  Gradually we’ve cut back and allowed life, light and fresh air to re-enter the outside space.

Meanwhile, Fiona’s studies progressed, suffice to say she was loving it.  Tutors praised her and high marks reflected her enthusiasm.  As the course progressed, it was clear, that she was effectively studying ‘Landscape Architecture’ with minor deviations.  A whole new world opened, design for urban spaces.  For example the Armley Mill project, some of which designs can be found on Fiona’s new business cards.

Yes, at the beginning of 2012, we changed the name of our business to, ‘Damson House Designs’.  This reflected the new direction of our business, towards a ‘design’ focussed service.

We started slowly, as Fiona was still, ‘in training’ so to speak, but by 2013 we had a new van, brightly signed with our stunning new logo.  We could no longer hide our intentions, a new ‘Garden and Landscape Design Business’ had arrived.

2014 was an ‘upward learning curve’; we were engaged to do a ‘planting design’ for the Old Lodge Hotel in Malton, a ‘courtyard design’ for an existing client in York and a ‘planting design’ for St.Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds.  Whilst continuing with maintenance clients and Fiona’s studies.

It became clear from the very start of our business that finding the right plants, in the right quantity and with the right quality, was never going to be easy.  In fact one of the prime reasons we moved to Wilton, was to have space to grow plants.  For design, we often require, herbaceous perennials in 2-3 litre pots and often suppliers don’t stock those sizes.

In 2015, we started attending plant fairs, at Scampston Park and village fetes, this was obstensibly to sell some of the plants we had used to create our award-winning show garden at the Harrogate Spring flower show, ‘Exploring Biophilia’.

The design and creation of our show garden, was not only very hard work, (so much to do, in a very short time) but also part of Fiona’s final year studies.  In the previous autumn Fiona wrote her critical study, ‘Biophilic Design’ – ‘Understanding biophilia and its potential application in garden design’.

Simply put, Biophilia means naturelove or a love of nature

Fiona’s studies culminated with an amazing degree show at the now Leeds Beckett University, in June 2015.  We re-constructed part of the show garden, in the studio exhibition space six floors up, in central Leeds.  Finally Fiona was awarded an upper second (or 2:1) BA Garden Art and Design.  A triumph!

Looking forward

2016, has been a very damp affair so far but has not dampened our desire to offer a Professional Garden and Landscape service to Yorkshire and beyond.

We love flowers, and the cheer they bring us.  We use them to enhance gardens not only with their colour but structure, shape and scent!  We grow and sell plants, not just for client’s gardens but also take them to plant fairs.  This year we are expanding our range of perennials and looking to specialise in native wildflowers.  If you spot us, come and have a chat, we are quite friendly 🙂