Manoj Malde, an award-winning garden designer based in the UK, has garnered attention for his creativity, functionality, and sustainable approach.
Having recently tied the knot with his same-sex partner, Malde brings a fresh perspective to the world of garden design, blending elements of his British and Indian heritage to create visually stunning and culturally rich outdoor spaces.
In this interview, iGlobal joins Manoj Malde to celebrate the marriage of culture, creativity, and personal expression and discuss emerging trends in garden design.
As a British Indian garden designer, how do you blend elements of both cultures in your work?
First and foremost, I love using colour in my work. I feel Indians are not scared of using colour, and they do it so well. When you go to India, you see the women in some of the poorest villages with whatever little they have, they put on their saris and blouses in bold clashing colours, and they make them work.
I like this confidence, and I try and bring this through in my work. My very first garden, which I did at the RHS (Royal Horticulture Society) Chelsea Flower Show in 2017, was inspired by the work of Mexican architect Luis Barragan. The garden had bold pink and orange walls, providing a beautiful backdrop to the planting scheme. The walls were juxtaposed with an aquamarine pool.
In my recent garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, I created a pergola that resembled a mandap painted in beautiful bold colours, which was decorated with lots of lovely flower garlands hanging down from the canopy. I had thrown cushions that Indian artisans crafted and included a murti of Ganesh.
How do you select the right colour palette for each project?
Colour plays a huge role in my design work. When I ask clients what they would like in their garden, their most popular answer is colour. By this, they are referring to flowers. However, when I discuss other ways of bringing colours into the garden, I often see their eyes beginning to light up. I'm always looking for inspiration that I can use to bring colour palettes together. Inspiration can be drawn from architecture, interiors, holidays abroad, other cultures and traditions, paintings by well-known artists etc. I have even drawn inspiration from my mum's saris.
I then play about with small swatches of colours and see how they work together. I set them out on a board and will revisit them over a few days so that I am constantly seeing the colours with fresh eyes and different light conditions. Sometimes I may change some colours if I feel something is not working. My advice is not to be scared and to play around with colour and take your time with it.
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What trends do you see emerging in garden design this summer?
Sustainability is both a strong and vital trend. There is just too much waste. This year at the Chelsea Flower Show, the strongest message came through from all the gardens. Recycling building materials is very important so that it is not all going into landfill. Also, reducing or eliminating the use of concrete in garden builds is equally important. Planting schemes are also a lot looser and more relaxed. Gone are days of heavily manicured formal gardens. It's ok to have a few weeds growing in your garden. There is also a greater interest in growing wildlife.
You've won several awards for your work. Could you tell us about a particularly memorable project that you received recognition for and what made it special?
My first garden at the Chelsea Flower Show 'Beneath a Mexican Sky' is my most memorable project. It is very special. My first submission to the RHS and the design was selected to be created at the show. The garden was very different from many of the Chelsea gardens that you get at the show. The planting scheme incorporated agaves, succulents, and other drought-tolerant planting. The blaze of colour was a little unusual for a Chelsea show garden. The garden also made two front covers of magazines, and it has also been published and various books. It has remained a memorable garden in many visitors' memory and is still talked about today.
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How do you balance functionality and aesthetics in your garden designs?
When designing gardens for clients, they must work for the owners' lifestyle. There is no point in designing a space that people cannot enjoy. When I design gardens for clients, I always have lengthy discussions with them about how they want to use their gardens and what their priorities are in the garden. Often, they want everything, and the space will not allow for everything. After all, you do not want your garden to look cluttered. I then get them to think about what matters to them and what they can live without. As a designer, it is my duty to take their requirements but push them beyond their expectations to create a beautiful and practical space.
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