Inside GL Design Space with our Creative Lead, Libby Sprason

 At phs Greenleaf, we have 25 years’ experience of providing interior and exterior planting services to businesses across the UK, with this ranging from supplying real and artificial office plants and carrying out grounds maintenance, to designing and installing living walls, and completing interior and exterior landscaping projects on a larger scale.


Because we know the amount of planning and care that’s needed to create beautiful and eye-catching flower displays, our team can help with every step of the process, including design, procurement, and installation. This applies no matter the size of the project at hand.


Building on our years of experience, we created GL Design Space, our new planting consultancy division to help businesses create an individual style and ambience for their workplace through plants. Working with architects and designers, GL Design Space creates unique displays that have been designed with precision with our customers’ budgets and environments in mind.

indoor hanging baskets by gl design space


Due to our expertise, we know that bespoke large-scale planting projects require a certain level of skill and investment to get right. This is something that only a few specialist companies, such as GL Design Space, can provide with ease.


At the forefront of every project we work on at GL Design Space is Creative Lead, Libby Sprason.

She has worked for phs Greenleaf since 2012, originally covering the Midlands area as a Field Account Manager She says: “I have seen a lot of change in that short time, but by far the best was the birth of GL Design Space.”


Below, she tells us more about GL Design Space, the process of designing a bespoke large-scale flower display, and the planting trends to look out for in 2018…


Hi Libby! Tell us more about GL Design Space.


GL Design Space is the new specialist offering from phs Greenleaf. Ian, our Managing Director, and I set it up to work with the Design Industry, specifically at the design and planning stages of refurbs and new builds. However, we have also had enquiries from construction to end users, so we have generated a much wider appeal than we initially anticipated.


How does GL Design Space differ from the other services you provide from phs Greenleaf?


It fundamentally offers the bespoke service. Although everything Greenleaf provides is horticulturally based, GL Design Space will supply, install, and maintain all the odd requests clients ask us for. This could range from preserved trees with replica foliage to live planted walls, various moss walls and art panels, room dividers and exterior green screen panels, and everything in between.


The joy of GL Design Space is that we don’t like to say no to anything. Every unusual request is investigated and if we can do it, we will; the more challenging the better for me. I’m not sure the install team always agrees though!


How long has GL Design Space been a part of phs Greenleaf?


GL Design Space was created in the summer of 2017, and it has grown from strength to strength since then. Even from its first month, we realised that had a very special service that was much needed by architects and interior designers.


Why did you decide to introduce the new GL Design Space division?

phs greenleaf indoor hanging baskets installed in a clothing shop by gl design space


I realised that although phs Greenleaf already provides a great range of planting products and services, there was still plenty of potential to widen our offering to a specific sector. Here, we’re talking about a niche group of creative people that quite often know what they want, though sometimes they need to be offered solutions to fit their ideas. This can be time consuming as it requires a high level of detail and expertise.


Designers also need to have confidence that we have the range of products to solve their design remit, the skills to advise on suitability and diversity, the buying power to provide this at a competitive cost in a speedy timescale, the capability to complete installations wherever their clients’ sites are located in the UK, and the knowledge to look after it. We tick all these boxes and more.


What’s the process when a business orders a display from GL Design Space?


That very much depends on what the product is, though I will normally conduct a survey at the client’s location with a member of our install team. This is to assess suitability and access, as well as finetune the needs of the client.


In terms of progressing with the order, we can get our moss walls created in a couple of weeks and installed soon after assuming the right colour and types of moss are in stock. Other items, such as the kiln dried trees, take a few more weeks. Quite often, however, these are part of an ongoing project, so we have time to manufacture and order them in to meet our clients’ handover deadlines.  I am often on site at installations, as it’s always good to see a plan come to life.


What do you like most about working for GL Design Space?


The freedom to be creative and work with creative people, without a doubt. I also love being able to actually design each piece from scratch.


What projects are you currently working on? Anything exciting we should know about?


We work on so many projects all the time. However, I have a fabulous live wall going into a Lincolnshire Shopping Centre this week, as well as a moss wall being installed in a Kent hair salon, green screens in a London apartment terrace, and exterior live walls for a RHS show.


What’s your favourite GL Design Space project you’ve worked on? Why is it your favourite?


I currently have three. One is a Derbyshire hair salon who have a gorgeous live wall, plus lots of large and small moss panels all around their remaining walls. These enhance the natural reclaimed wood of their desks and tables so well, and they contrast beautifully with the exposed aluminium ceiling ducts. It gives the salon a very distinctive edge, which is what the owners wanted.


The other is the recently completed project in the City of London which has kiln dried Silver Birch trees, live pictures, live walls, and replica planting too. The design process was quite lengthy, but interesting; it developed from an initial couple of ideas from the client, into what it eventually became.


The last one was one of my first projects with GL Design Space. We installed replica macramé hangers in a store in the Westfields Shopping Centre for American Vintage. There are 50 units of various sizes with planting all hanging, and this looks amazing close-up, and from a distance. It’s all about making something noticeable for me, something that people won’t walk past without looking at. These don’t have to be outrageous; just clever.


What is your favourite plant and why?


green living wall installed in a brightly lit office

Ah, now this changes with the season so it’s a tricky one to answer. In spring I wait impatiently for the tete-a-tetes (Daffodils) to push through the ground and show their little happy yellow faces. However, in summer I adore peonies and delphiniums; I just love that natural blue. Autumn brings falling leaves, and who doesn’t love Amaryllis or blue spruce at Christmas?


What planting trends should we look out for in 2018?


I think the 1970s are going to continue to make a comeback. The whole macramé look is very on trend and recycling is going to new levels, now taking recycled planters with it.


What advice would you give businesses when adding greenery to their premises?

designer living wall in a cafe


Take advice from a professional like GL Design Space to place items in key areas. You may not need as much as you think to create a welcoming feel; it’s all about the placement.


Also, you can’t fight nature! If your premises are too cold or too dark for live planting, then use replica flowers or moss. There’s no benefit in making live plants suffer in a hostile environment. They’ll never be happy, and this won’t enhance anything. Moss, on the other hand is amazing; it’s versatile and also natural. I have a solution for most situations, which is the ethos of the business, I reckon.


To find out more about how GL Design Space can help you create a stunning planting display, contact us today.