Gar­den­ing tal­ent Meet Will Smith­son, who was once an IT con­sul­tant and is now head gar­dener at South Wood Farm

An epiphany in New Zealand led to a ca­reer change for for­mer re­cruit­ment con­sul­tant Will Smith­son. He’s now head gar­dener at South Wood Farm, de­signed by Arne May­nard

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Contents - POR­TRAIT JA­SON IN­GRAM

Ear­li­est gar­den­ing mem­ory I re­mem­ber spend­ing hours with my grandma on her farm, walk­ing through the hay mead­ows and ask­ing her to name all the dif­fer­ent types of flow­ers and grasses. Have you al­ways worked as a gar­dener? I used to be an ac­count man­ager for an IT re­cruit­ment com­pany. I left af­ter three years and moved to New Zealand with my now wife and, stunned by the beauty of the coun­try, re­alised that what­ever job I did next ab­so­lutely had to be out­doors. On my re­turn I stud­ied for my RHS qual­i­fi­ca­tions at evening classes, and started work at Yeo Val­ley Or­ganic Gar­den. Hor­ti­cul­tural heroes Charles Dowd­ing for sav­ing me from dou­ble dig­ging! No dig is such a great ethos and one that should def­i­nitely be taken on board by more com­mer­cial grow­ers. Favourite gar­den Map­per­ton House in Dorset was the first gar­den I vis­ited and I loved the whole at­mos­phere of the place. Es­pe­cially the con­trast be­tween the in­for­mal banks of ox-eye daisies and the for­mal­ity of all the clipped yew top­i­ary that they have there. Most valu­able train­ing I spent a day learn­ing prop­a­ga­tion with Ma­rina Christo­pher, from Phoenix Peren­nial Plants and my suc­cess rate in all ar­eas from seed ger­mi­na­tion to cut­tings tak­ing root im­proved greatly. Favourite plant­ing style Arts and Crafts-style gar­dens with their mix of top­i­ary and herba­ceous bor­ders, as well as the use of nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als wher­ever pos­si­ble. If you had to leave your gar­den in a hurry, what one plant would you take with you? I’d cur­rently strug­gle with­out Phlox pan­ic­u­lata ‘Cool of the Evening’ in the bor­ders. How­ever, if I was in a real hurry I’d grab a pot of Pe­largo­nium sidoides. Points of in­spi­ra­tion I now find I’m us­ing In­sta­gram more as a source of in­spi­ra­tion. I fol­low lots of other gar­den­ers and de­sign­ers as well as in­te­rior de­sign­ers and crafts peo­ple from around the world. Debby Ten­quist and Claus Dalby are my two favourites giv­ing an in­sight into a range of dif­fer­ent gar­den styles. Next big project you’ll be tack­ling in the gar­den We’re about to start work on a knot gar­den, us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of yew and os­man­thus. Con­tact william­james­smith­son@gmail.com or @sole­gar­dener on In­sta­gram. South Wood Farm is in Devon and opens for the Na­tional Gar­dens Scheme, ngs.co.uk. Vis­i­tors also wel­come by ap­point­ment.

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