Making Garden Magic with Designer James Brewer

James Brewer incorporated granite pillars his client had collected for years into this project in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.
Brewer’s own garden in England was featured in the venerable newspaper, The Times.
This lushly planted pond was part of a large garden Brewer designed and installed for a client with cerebral palsy. So it could be navigated in a wheelchair, the garden featured more than 300 feet of pathways comprised of 26,000 individual granite blocks laid by hand.

James Brewer got his start in garden design at the tender age of 11, when he helped his parents create their garden in the English countryside. Completely self-taught, Brewer launched his business in 1995 on a shoe-string, and just five years later, the BBC came calling, asking to feature one of his projects in a live broadcast. Brewer’s well-developed skills and extraordinary attention to detail—shaping paver stones by hand, for example—make his gardens look and feel timeless. “I always try to create magical spaces that work seamlessly with their surroundings so that the garden will continue to grow and merge with its backdrop,” he says. “The results are places you can go to lose yourself within the magic that only a garden can offer.” In 2014 Brewer moved “across the pond” to northern New England, where he has embraced a new palette of native plants to create more garden magic.

A. I started with just £5 in my pocket, a dream of what I wanted to achieve, and a steadfast determination to get there. In England I created my projects wearing many hats every day—designer, stonemason, horticulturalist, outdoor lighting expert—I’ve done it all. This has given me the unique expertise to design bespoke, functional gardens for my clients and to make sure the contractors I use accurately convert my designs—and my clients’ dreams—to reality.

Q. Much of your early career was spent in your native England, where the gardens are internationally renowned. How does that experience translate to working in Maine gardens?

A. Over my 19 years in England, I designed and created everything from Victorian “secret gardens” to cottage gardens. In addition to a carefully planned design, what these diverse projects had in common was a strong structure complemented by well-chosen, high-quality plantings. I apply these same principles to my work in Maine. While some of the plant material is different, Maine presents climate challenges similar to those in England, and my clients here are equally passionate about their gardens.

Q. Describe a particular garden design challenge and how you solved it.

A. A recent client in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, had collected granite posts for decades and wanted to use them somehow in their garden. I created a design that combined influences of a Victorian rose potager, an English country courtyard, and the famous mono- liths at Stonehenge. The dramatic result, which I’ve dubbed “Wolfehenge,” demonstrates the magical compatibility of English influence with the plant palette and natural granite majesty of northern New England. And most importantly, my clients are thrilled.

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