Great British Garden Designers Margery Fish

Born in 1892, Margery Fish was a leading light in the English Cottage Garden design style. Her work at East Lambrook Manor Gardens Somerset exemplifies her exploration of this style. She advocated for a more natural gardening style that embraced nature’s beauty and purpose. A style that has recently been rediscovered in the contemporary practice of natural and sustainable planting. As such, East Lambrook Manor is a garden that continues to inspire horticulturalists and garden designers today.


English Cottage Garden – A New Design Style

Fish had a unique passion for flowers, nature, and traditional British cottage garden planting. She turned this passion in to a body of work, researching the horticultural heritage of British flowering plants. Producing influential books on the subject.

Whilst today we often view the English Cottage Garden as purely an aesthetic, its origins are utilitarian and based on provision. They contained herbs, vegetables, fruits, and flowering plants that had a practical medicinal use, and use as scents.

Alongside influential designers such as Gertrude Jekyll and Vita Sackville-West, Fish celebrated nature’s randomness rather than trying to impose rigid structure and order. She was one of the pioneers of the informal garden, which valued casual beauty over strict symmetry and regimentation. This naturalistic approach allowed her to incorporate a wide range of plants, choosing hardy plants to thrive in specific conditions, like shade or dry soil. She often chose plants that were overlooked or looked down upon in certain gardening circles. Fish wasn’t afraid to use native self-seeding plants. This unconventionality and respect for nature’s resilience marked Margery’s work as original and unique.

Fish was a proponent planting design that matured and bloomed at different times through the seasons. This ensured that the garden was always full of interest. She believed that a garden should be a living entity, ever changing, and evolving with time.


East Lambrook Manor Garden, Somerset

East Lambrook Manor garden is a living example of Margery Fish’s approach to garden design. The Grade 1 listed garden is an informal cottage garden with an array of diverse plants and mixed borders. The plants are a mix of traditional cottage garden favorites and less common varieties, including many types of snowdrops, a plant for which the garden has a yearly festival aptly named the ‘Festival of Snowdrops’.

Following Fish’s gardening style, the garden is informal, whimsical, and abundant. A walk through the garden reveals a romantic, seemingly semi-wild environment. The garden is a year-round spectacle. Each season reveals a different side of the garden. From the aforementioned snowdrops of winter, the spring bulbs, the profusion of summer flowers, to the rich colours of autumn.

Margery continued to evolve the gardens at East Lambrook Manor, and through a series of books, articles she was able to share her unique style and horticultural knowledge with the wider public.

The gardens remain open to visitors and you can visit the gardens in South Petherton, Somerset. More information is available on the gardens website

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