Mark Fenton - Growing to love his gardens

Mark working at home

Mark working at home - Credit: Archant

Mark Fenton’s early love of horticulture blossomed into a successful career in design. He talks to Linda Viney

Mark introduced an Oriental theme to a garden at Newton

Mark introduced an Oriental theme to a garden at Newton - Credit: Archant

For some people creating a garden comes naturally, for others it just evolves, making mistakes along the way. Then, there are those who call upon the expertise of a designer.

Their skill is in communication with the client to ensure the end result not only reflects their desires but will thrive where they live, taking into consideration, situation, climate and soil conditions.

We can all enjoy our open spaces in parks, but do we think about the work involved in creating the end product. For example, the restoration of the Grade 11 listed Memorial Park in Fleetwood, which, after a successful £2.4 million application to the Heritage Lottery Fund, will be completed next year to be enjoyed by all ages.

I met up with Mark Fenton, from Warton, who is a passionate designer, and landscape architect for Wyre Borough Council. He led the bid and has also recently received an award from the Society of Garden Designers for the renovation of the rose garden at the Memorial Park.

The seeds are often sown for our future as children, this was certainly true for him for as a small child he was given his own vegetable plot at his parents farm in Freckleton. His mother, Barbara, was a keen gardener as was his godmother, Jennifer. He was encouraged to grow plants from a young age, learning all the time, and eating the produce from his own vegetable garden. The farm was dairy as well as arable and Mark believes the latter is where his horticultural side came.

Mark gained a degree in garden design at Myerscough College, coming out with a First Class BA (Hons) in 2005. He has left his mark there by designing the main entrance. During his time as a student he was awarded first prize in the Southport Student Design Competition. Working with a strict budget, his design was contemporary and quite stark though striking. Sadly when he graduated he couldn’t find a practice.

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Undeterred and encouraged by his parents, he then developed a farm diversification business setting up a business involving garden design and the sale of garden stoneware.

‘You certainly learn a lot through being self-employed,’ he told me. ‘My parents having faith in me helped as well as giving me great experience. Three years later, by good luck, I got a job working for Wyre Borough Council as a landscape assistant within the design team. During this time it gave me the opportunity to study part-time at Leeds Metropolitan where I completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Landscape Architecture achieving chartered membership of the Landscape Institute. I was then promoted to Landscape Architect three years ago. This led me into restoration work which involved research into the history which I really enjoy.’

His enthusiasm shines through and another of the council’s challenges are plans to restore Euston Park in Fleetwood.

Historic landscapes are one of Mark’s specialities and he has provided designs to complement listed properties and restoration proposals for registered landscapes and those in conservation areas. In his spare time he is undertaking designs for private clients including a walled kitchen garden in Cockermouth and a Grade II listed cottage near Settle. The challenges with old listed projects is to keep within the history and style while fitting in with modern life.

Much of his work comes from referral by happy clients, based on his friendly service, artistic flair and attention to detail.

He has lived in his present house for three years and has designed the garden though his smooth haired retriever ‘Monty’ has managed to reek havoc in the back. As a designer his front garden is on show to everyone who passes and this has to be kept well.

We all have our favourite plants and he is no exception - they are the bearded iris, miscanthus, cardoon, cornus kousa, persicaria, and cotinus coggyria. He is forever tinkering, Monty permitting, and still loves propagating plants.

Since his first forays into gardening as a child on his parents’ farm he has never looked back and has certainly found his niche. One day he hopes to design a garden for the RHS Tatton Flower Show.

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