Renowned garden designer talks at Charleston

Tom Stuart-Smith. Picture by Eva Vermandel
Tom Stuart-Smith. Picture by Eva Vermandel

Award-winning garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith always puts people first when it comes to creating a garden.

“I like spaces which are not too designer-orientated, spaces for people to explore,” he explains, in advance of the two-day Festival of the Garden, which he is curating at Charleston on Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and 14.

People are very much at the heart of his work, plus the character of a site.

His gardens evolve, which means looking at the way people move in the space and the feelings that space evokes. That will be the theme of his talk at Charleston when he will be discussing walled gardens.

His work over the years has ranged from the domestic to the sculpture garden at Wakefield. His design for the latter again put people at its heart.

“It had to be flexible,” he says, “taking into account the different needs of the space, whether to accommodate an arts festival or a picnic; a place for children to play and adults to have a snooze.”

This is the second garden festival he has curated at Charleston.

“It is an amazing place,” he says, “with a real hands-on feeling in the house and a charming garden, which is a real period piece. The challenge is to retain its simplicity.”

Although there is an ever-increasing interest in gardening in a nation deprived of a proper contact with nature, he fears the “Macdonaldisation of the horticultural industry.”

Large garden centres are pushing the small nurseries out of business – for they just cannot compete, he says.

He is hoping to set up his own nursery, working with young adults with leaning difficulties, and with the ultimate aim of creating a community garden.

The programme he has brought together at Charleston explores many different aspects of gardening – from the importance of allotments (with Cleve West and Green MP Caroline Lucas); the healing powers of the garden with TV presented Rachel de Thame and psychiatrist Sue Stuart-Smith; husbandry versus wildness with Jinny Blom; garden history with Christopher Woodward and how to design a Gold Medal winning garden at Chelsea with Brighton’s Andy Sturgeon.

Charleston’s head gardener Fiona Dennis will explain how she researched the restoration of the garden from the paintings of its early inhabitants – and will lead after-hours garden tours.

For the full programme visit charleston.org.uk.

Tickets for individual events are £10-£12; an all-day ticket is £30 or £50 for both days.

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