A symphony of simplicity in Abbot's Langley

PUBLISHED: 15:31 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:48 20 February 2013

Tom Stuart-Smith's garden

Tom Stuart-Smith's garden

Tom Stuart-Smith, renowned landscape designer and Chelsea Gold medallist, has created a richly textured garden from an arable field at his home near Abbot's Langley. Philippa Pearson spends time walking around the garden with him

IT is intriguing to see what the private garden of a garden designer is like and Tom is only too happy to chat about how the garden has evolved over time, grown with the family and plans for the future.

Tom is one of the world's leading landscape designers and his inspirational and contemporary use of perennials has led to many prominent commissions. He has won six Gold Medals and two Best in Show awards at the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show and recent work has included one of the biggest planting schemes in Europe at Trentham and a new entrance garden to Windsor Castle. But he still finds time to tend his own garden, originally begun 18 years ago.

'There was nothing here except an empty landscape. No trees, nothing, just an old barn surrounded by arable fields,' says Tom.

The immediate garden around the barn, an enclosed courtyard, emerged first. Initially, this was planted with formal box-edged beds filled with roses and perennials but has recently been stripped out and re-designed into a more contemporary space. I recognise the rusting steel wall, brown stone path and steel rill as items used in Tom's sensational Daily Telegraph garden from Chelsea last year. Planting in this hot, sunny courtyard will be drought tolerant which Tom comments on as a recurrent theme as we look around the back garden. 'The last few summers have dried the ground here,' he says picking up a handful of dry, stony soil in what was once the rose garden.

'Plants are struggling and I'm thinking of replacing many with those that adapt better in drought conditions. Once established, they require minimum watering.' These include irises, oregano, euphorbias, sedums, salvias, eryngiums, amsonias and grasses like Stipa gigantea.

The back garden took five years to create and is divided up into separate areas, each surrounded by yew hedges which perform a dual role as shelter in this exposed site and design lines. He prefers not to grow lots of different things and a gentle repeated planting pattern is evident in the borders where a textural effect is created with different vegetation.

Article taken from July issue of Hertfordshire Life

Latest from the Hertfordshire Life