A visit to Tom Stuart Smith’s garden

by Jane on October 17, 2018

In the hot days of summer, I was lucky enough to be one of 35 garden designers spending the day with Tom Stuart Smith. As a garden designer Tom has Chelsea Gold medals and Best in Show for his designs. The event was organised by Gillian Goodson in aid of Horatio’s Garden, which creates and cares for gardens at NHS spinal injury centres.

Tom spent the whole visit with us, which we weren’t expecting, so we found out a lot about how he created his garden and why he did what he did, as well as what he’d do if he were to start over again – very useful for all of us.  He also took us to his sister’s garden across the road at Serge Hill and let us use the natural swimming pond at the end of a hot day, much obliged!!

The first part we saw was where the farmyard used to be, surrounded by barns.  It was a stunning beginning, as parts of Tom’s Chelsea garden from 2005 have been transposed into the space.  It is sheltered by lovely feathery Etna Broom trees (Genista aetnensis):

The plants suit the hot and dry space here.  Euphorbia mellifera grows in some places to 2m and in others is cut back, mixing in with other plants:

Other sun-loving drought tolerant plants filled the space with the euphorbia, such as grasses and eryngium (with enthusiastic designers in the background):

The tanks of Corten steel have inky still water making the place relaxing and contemplative.

The house looks on to the main back garden, which is filled with the tall herbaceous plants that Tom loves, cut through with grass paths:

Looking back to the house:

Then there were beds of perennials punctuated by tall conifers:

A large wildflower meadow had just been cut, next to the back of the house.  We perched on straw bales to eat our lunch.

Not only is there a meadow, but a prairie, with no grasses, and many tightly packed flowering plants, some must have been 3m high:

And another meadow-like area behind it:

Beyond the meadow is a wood, and beyond that, a natural swimming pond, where we enjoyed a post-visit plunge.  Thank you, Tom!

Tom would like to have the garden involve more local people and staff; he is planning to move his office to a new studio here, with gardens outside that local people, charities and his staff can use, to learn about gardening and try out new ideas.  See this link to find out more.  Here is the model he built of the prospective ‘Orchard Studio’ area:

He also showed us round Serge Hill, his sister’s garden across the road – a lovely Edwardian house with a large walled flower and kitchen garden.  Both Serge Hill and Tom’s garden, the Barn, open for the NGS – though you’ll have to wait until next year.  Worth the wait!

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