Emily Barnes

Designer & Plant Specialist

Hi, I’m Emily and my role as designer and plant specialist at Bestall & Co includes creating gorgeous planting schemes and collaborating on garden design concepts. We will most likely meet towards the end of your project when the hard landscaping is almost finished, and you can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel! I will often come out and visit the build during the final stages; to take measurements, photographs and discuss the planting brief with you in person. We may also meet again a year or so after the planting is finished to make sure everything is growing as per the original vision. I see my role as making the garden come alive – which is essentially what plants do! The icing on the cake with a cherry on top so to speak. 

When they first meet me, new acquaintances are generally surprised to find out that I am an obsessive gardener, which I think is due to not fitting the conventional image of gardener (aka Mr McGregor from Peter Rabbit) but that is essentially what I am! I live for a love of gardening and the outdoors which can be quite boring to those around me at times who don’t share my enthusiasm for photosynthesis or rare native plants. I’ve always been intrigued by nature, and it somehow got distilled down to plants and what started as a self-taught hobby has now grown into my profession. I’m not afraid of getting my hands dirty but I do love a splash of luxury now and then and enjoy taking a spa day or a city mini break with my husband, visiting nice restaurants and bars. I’m naturally an introvert at heart and my other quite holistic hobbies and interests all revolve around a desire to create a simple life for myself and my family with a strong focus on nature, health and wellbeing. These include cooking, reading, making art, hiking, horse riding and exploring new places. I’m always avidly searching for inspiration and my dream is to one day travel and visit a wide variety of gardens and cultures around the world. I’m also a mum of two lovely children who keep me on my toes!

Of the many things I love about horticulture and garden design, the most important one for me is the power it has to connect and ground us to nature and the positive impact it can bring to our hectic modern lives. We all have an inbuilt biophilic response to the natural world around us and being immersed in planting in a beautiful garden is so good for the soul. My love affair with plants and gardening stems from childhood. Whether it was growing a runner bean in a cup in primary school, exploring wild places, endless drawing and crafting sessions or growing veg on the family allotment; nature, art and gardening has always absorbed me. With a background in graphic design, retraining in my late 20’s after maternity leave to become a garden designer felt like a very daunting yet natural progression, tying together my two passions. It’s one of the best life decisions I’ve made and a gift I want to share with others by improving lives (if only in a small way) with the gardens we design at Bestall & Co. 

I can’t imagine working in anything other than the horticultural industry but if I wasn’t, I would most likely be an interior designer creating beautiful living spaces which include lots of plants! 

If I ever got to a stage in my life where money wasn’t an object and could do anything I desired, after traveling and seeing the world, I would settle down at the coast. Perhaps the UK or maybe abroad to set about converting an old farm or estate into an ecologically friendly wellbeing retreat with the most amazing sustainable and immersive gardens complete with natural swimming pond and large expanses of wild areas. There would also have to be wild ponies – my favourite animal. I’m thinking Soho farmhouse esque blended with Knepp farm. It would be a sanctuary where people could reconnect to themselves and the natural world. The conversion would be completely sustainable and a way to explore new technologies in living, building, landscaping, and land management.  I absolutely love being absorbed in a project and being a true creative, couldn’t ever see myself not designing or making something for very long without getting very bored indeed. 

Although the idea of living on a deserted island in comfort is very appealing to me, the thought of being stranded on one alone, with nothing, is certainly not! If I had to list only three desert island essentials, they would be fishing tackle, a boat (with motor and fuel) and a map detailing instruction on how to leave and get home!

If I could choose anyone to play me in a film of my life it would be Emma Watson who I admire so much for her work towards women’s rights and her elegant and unapologetic sense of self. Hermione also happens to be my favourite Harry Potter character, I can relate to her in so many ways. A perfectionist, hardworking and motivated as well as larger than average front teeth and naturally bushy hair, which mine certainly would be if I were stranded on a desert island!

I very much hope we will meet one day to discuss all things garden and plants, but until then I will leave you with my best mum joke (from a pitiful collection) and some plant geek trivia.

What did 0 say to 8? – “Hey, nice belt!” 

Hydrangea, Hellebore and Cornus kousa are widely grown for their long-lasting, showy flowers which are actually not flowers botanically speaking, but modified leaves called bracts! They have the same function as a petal – acting as a homing-beacon/bullseye to attract pollinating insects. If you look closely, you will see the actual flowers are tiny and quite insignificant, grouped together in the centre. The bracts last much longer than petals and go through some wonderful colour changes as they age.