Gardening expert and BBC radio personality, Bunny Guinness, talks about a Ribble Valley landscape project that was a joy to work on, writes Jan Woolley

BBC Radio 4’s Bunny Guinness, a regular panellist on Gardeners’ Question Time, is behind the stunning redesign of the outside space at The Three Fishes, Great Mitton.

The international landscape architect was approached last year when chef Nigel Haworth took over the pub in a collaboration with Martin Aspinall, a trustee of the Standen Estate that surrounds the historic pub, which has since been transformed.

Bunny, who has designed many medal-winning gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show, was delighted to take on The Three Fishes project.

“I love the Ribble Valley, we have now done a fair, few projects in that neck of the woods as one leads to another – the landscape is stunning!” says Bunny, who has been designing outdoor spaces for 45 years.

At the beginning of any design project Bunny spends a day with clients on site, as she explains: “We met up with Martin Aspinall, whose garden at Standen Hall we designed, and Nigel, on site at The Three Fishes.

“Outdoor spaces for pubs and restaurants have to be manageable for the staff, provide the spaces they need and must be maintainable. The day on site is a real brainstorming session and we don’t leave until we have a sketch masterplan, to scale, that we all think will work.

“It’s a long day but we do this with all new projects and find it works brilliantly. We always say if a client doesn’t like what we do we won’t charge, but that has only been the case once in many years of working this way.”

During the meeting at the pub, Bunny assessed the space and discussed what would be needed in terms of outdoor dining and making the area both practical and beautiful: “There was very little outdoor eating space at the back of
the building, so I decided to push the banks back and make more flat, accessible space for eating outside. There is now a sheltered terrace for 40 people full of parasols and tables.”

With the dining space agreed, Bunny turned her attention to the pub entrance to make it more enticing and attractive.

“We created a contained garden to the side of the pub by moving some parking space that was close to the building and pushed the entrance over. This we designed in a chequer of Breedon gravel and grass, so it looks fairly green and inviting as well as being a well-used hard surface to accommodate more tables.

“We put trees in baseless pots along the road frontage to green up the front. Nigel describes it as a quintessentially English garden with lots of spring bulbs followed by roses and geraniums.

“There is also an area under cultivation for food and a large polytunnel as Nigel is mustard keen on sustainability and fresh produce.”

When it came to choosing shrubs and flowers for the gardens Bunny selected some of her favourite, long-flowering roses and topiary to give the space structure: “We have used lots of tough roses such as Rosa Mutablis with their wonderful, changing coloured flowers and super-long flowering period. We also selected Rosa Sally Holmes a great white flowered performer and Rosa James L Austin, the best deep magenta red rose in my book.

“Yew hedging and topiary gives structure and can tolerate difficult conditions, and multi stem field maples, but these are still quite small, however these smaller sizes do establish easier than larger ones,” adds Bunny, whose mother was a keen gardener.

“She went on to set up a nursery, and her brother David Austin was also an inspirational gardener and rose grower and I think their influences rubbed off on me.”

Having studied Horticulture at Reading University, Bunny qualified as a Landscape Architect at Birmingham City University and after working for several practices, set up on her own in 1986.

“I had no idea where horticulture could lead to initially, all I knew was that it was extraordinary that I was paid to do something so enjoyable. Since then I’ve realised that it’s a career with so many facets – you can never become bored with it.

“As every job is different and every client wants a unique space, it is continually intriguing though rarely straight forward!

“The higher your profile becomes, the more people expect and I do love the challenge of pushing the boundaries.”

Over the years Bunny has become a well-known personality in the professional gardening world appearing on TV and radio, as well as working on gardens and commercial spaces across the globe. One of her memorable projects took Bunny to Japan: “In Hokkaido we did a huge project for an enterprising entrepreneur and learnt masses, ate amazing food and made good friends!”

Closer to home, among her favourite projects is Thyme Hotel near Lechdale: “This has been ongoing for some years, and Caryn Hibbert the founder is inspiring to work with.”

Bunny has also written numerous books on gardening including one in collaboration with Prince Charles about the gardens at Highgrove, the private home of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. The series of interlinked gardens on the estate, have been created over some 40 years and are managed organically and sustainably, becoming an important haven for a rich variety of flora and fauna.

Reflecting on the book Highgrove: A Garden Celebrated, Bunny says: “I was so impressed by the depth of knowledge of HRH and the way he has developed the garden into a thriving centre.”

More recently Bunny and her daughter Unity, who is also a landscape architect, helped on the stand of Gardeners’ Question Time at the Chelsea Flower Show: “GQT put on an exhibit and Unity and I planted the rose bed. The theme was about the programme and its history.”

Having forged a worldwide career, Bunny loves her work as a BBC gardening expert and author but she is first and foremost an ultimately knowledgeable garden designer and landscape architect: “It’s definitely, one of the best feelings in the world when you have a highly satisfied client and a great new space!”

Commenting on The Three Fishes landscape project, chef Nigel Haworth said: “It was a delight to work with Bunny. The gardens at The Three Fishes have been planted to look good throughout the seasons – in the spring the tulips looked amazing and now we are in summer the outside space really comes into its own.”



Tedd Walmsley

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