Financial Times Magazine, December 2005
7 July 2010
"We has a two-acre garden surrounded by fields and I always had mud under my fingernails," Barnett recalls, "I helped with the garden reluctantly as a teenager then found myself really enjoying it and coming up with ideas that I'd adopted by my parents."
After a year at Sandhurst, Barnett spent seven years with the Scots Guards, including a six-month tour of duty in an airborne operations rapid-response group in Northern Ireland, and three years as the Duke of Kent’s equerry. "I knew I wasn't a career soldier so I eventually left to join a private security company after which I worked on the organising committee for the Sydney Olympic Games," he says. "On returning to London I joined a management consultancy company, working on clients' global strategies."
Barnett hated corporate life. While debating whether to leave the consultancy, he visited a terminally ill friend whose mother overheard a conversation about his dilemma. She urged him to pursue his passion…it was the push he needed to enrol at the Inchbald School of Garden Design.
He did well on the course and immediately set up his own landscape and garden design practice… [and] joined forces with another Inchbald graduate in applying to design a small garden for the 2005 Chelsea Flower Show. It was one of six initial designs accepted out of 180 applications. Called The Gallery Outside, the contemporary design utilised modern materials such as corrugated steel and tapped into the current trend for exterior artworks by displaying Lord Lichfield’s photographs.
The garden was awarded an RHS Gold Medal and won Best Garden in the Chic Garden category. As a result, Savills will sponsor the duo to create a big-budget show garden at the 2006 Chelsea Flower Show. Meanwhile, the exposure has generated a large amount of solo work for Barnett.
“I’m fascinated by using old-fashioned materials in modern ways and creating clear geometry and bold, structural forms softened by planting. Much of my work will only come into its own long after I've gone and I think that’s an amazing legacy.”
“The truth is that if you do something you love, you will enjoy it. And if you enjoy it, the chances are that you’ll also be rather good at it.”