Mertz Library Humanities

The Garden Came First: Isabel Bannerman

Photo of a landscaped castle

Trematon Castle, Cornwall, UK 

With a body of work that is dramatic, romantic, and grounded in classical tradition, Isabel and Julian Bannerman have been called “mavericks in the grand manner, touched by genius” and “the Bonnie and Clyde of garden design.” The Bannerman touch—evocative gestures with unexpected accents that enhance reality and inspire reverie—is perhaps best realized in their own gardens. Trematon, a Norman castle overlooking the sea in Cornwall, enjoys a unique setting, topography, architecture, and history. Against a backdrop of ancient keep and walls, cultivated borders overflowing with tangled roses, scented shrubs, and richly colored perennials bleed away into wilder meadows, mixed woodlands, and orchards.

Isabel Bannerman has been designing gardens with her partner, Julian, since 1983. Their work includes the British 9/11 Memorial Garden in NYC, as well as gardens for the Prince of Wales at Highgrove, the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk at Arundel Castle in Sussex, and John Paul Getty II in Buckinghamshire. They have won numerous awards, including an RHS Chelsea Gold, authored the book Landscape of Dreams, and most recently Isabel’s Scent Magic, a personal gardening memoir that’s also a compendium of aromatic plants.