Marauding moose is no match for Vale’s top garden designer

The landscaped garden
The landscaped garden

Caught between a rock and a hard place hasn’t stopped a landscape designer winning a prestigious award for one of the most challenging projects he has ever undertaken.

Marauding moose, sub zero temperatures and an unforgiving terrain were just some of the problems John Wyer overcame to scoop best international garden award for an untamed plot in the Rocky Mountains, USA.

The project came to reality after John received an email from friends that said simply: “Help, we desperately need landscape input.”

After the 53-year-old designer travelled 5,000 miles to the 10-acre site in the foothills in Washington State, he saw why.

“It’s a very dry area with only 12 inches of rain a year, half of which falls as snow in winter. It’s minus 25 degrees in winter and 35 degrees in summer, when there’s no rain at all. All around the house is granite, pine trees and stony ground.”

John employs 11 staff based at the Bowles & Wyer office in Pitstone Green Business Park, with a further 20 skilled workers out and about in the field.

He said: “One of the first things we did was plant some young aspen trees but a marauding moose came along and ate all the tops of them. We had to buy some bigger 20ft trees and they fared a bit better.”

The rest of the project, which took him a week to visualise and plan, consisted of planting Ponderosa, dwarf and aspen pines, drought-tolerant grasses and herbaceous plants, laying a dramatic pathway of angular stone in a random pattern and strategically arranging vast granite boulders.

“We won the award because of how well we had adapted our design style to a totally different environment than which we would normally work. The distance, the logistics, climate and culture all contributed to the problems.”

John estimates the whole project at around £100,000 for the couple who live there – a paediatrician and a former cattle rancher – and they have now put the whole place up for sale.

John accepted his Society of Garden designers (SGD) award for best international garden at a glittering ceremony in 
London.