Homes & Gardens

MY GARDEN LIFE Juliet Sargeant shares her creative design approach

Juliet Sargeant is renowned for creating atmospheri­c gardens that feel as wonderful as they look, as well as being a familiar face on TV. Here, she reveals her design secrets, favourite plants and where she goes for inspiratio­n

- Juliet Sargeant Sussex Garden School, sussexgard­; Charleston workshops, charleston.­tion-for-garden-planting

What inspired you to become a garden designer?

When I was growing up we lived in the grounds of a boarding school; there was acres of space to run around in. My mum gave me a small section of garden all of my own when I was eight – and I’ve loved gardening ever since. I did a degree in medicine then worked as a doctor, but I always wanted to do something more creative, so I decided to change careers and studied garden design. Then I moved to Brighton and set up my company, Sussex Garden School.

How did your signature style evolve?

Actually, I pride myself on not having a signature style. Instead I design gardens that clients would create themselves. I inject their personalit­y into my schemes, taking the time to find out about their relationsh­ip with the garden and how it makes them feel. My gardens begin and end with the people who use them.

What does your garden look like?

It’s not a ‘designed’ space. I view it as a laboratory, an experiment­al place where I put plants to see how they do. This is because the plot is a challengin­g one. It’s near the sea, so it’s exposed to salt wind, has shallow chalky soil, and is shady because of the myriad sycamore trees that have self-set there.

How can we introduce your design ethos into our own gardens?

Think of your garden as a creative space, somewhere to express your personalit­y and interests. I encourage people not to pick a look and say ‘I want that’, but to do something different. It’s the same way you would design interiors, where you put your personal mark on the scheme to make it unique to you.

How do you approach a new garden design?

It all starts with inspiratio­n and unleashing creativity. I play around with watercolou­rs or acrylics, or I might flick through an inspiring book. Sometimes I go to a gallery, do something creative that’s not necessaril­y linked with that garden project. If I’m stuck, I fall back on the step-by-step processes I learned at college to analyse the site and work out how best to place the various elements.

What are your favourite tricks for compact gardens?

I think of small spaces as jewels of opportunit­y. You can use your budget to make them really special, with bold planting or paving detail in hard landscapin­g. Be bold with colour, too – as I say, think of it in the same way as you would an interiors makeover.

Which plants do you always include?

The evergreen Pittosporu­m is a shrub I return to time and again as there are so many to choose from and it’s so useful in the garden. I particular­ly like the variety ‘Golf Ball’, which can be clipped into shape like box.

Which gardens do you like to visit for inspiratio­n?

I love going to botanical gardens to learn about plants. Probably because of my scientific training, I’m always looking for informatio­n. I like to visit gardens where the plants are labelled so I can return year after year to check their progress. Kew, Wisley and Wakehurst are some of my favourites.

Any best-loved gardening books?

I really admire the work of Andy Goldsworth­y, and have all his books about land art. I also like Meetings with Remarkable Trees by Thomas Pakenham and Piet Oudolf ’s Dream Plants for the Natural Garden.

Is there a particular moment in your career that stands out?

Winning a gold medal and People’s Choice at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2016 for my Modern Slavery garden.

What projects are you currently involved with?

I’m working on a show garden for next year’s Chelsea. The theme is ‘Spotlight on Soil’ – I want to raise awareness of the fragility of soil. I’m also involved in a healing garden project with Charlotte Church in Wales. The series will be on TV in the autumn.

Can we do workshops with you?

Yes, I’ve just started a collaborat­ion with Charleston – a series of workshops on garden design inspired by the house and grounds.


 ??  ?? Juliet (top right) visits RHS Wisley (this picture) and Kew (below right) to learn more about plants; she designed this mosaic path (right) and garden in West Sussex (below) to clients’ briefs
Juliet (top right) visits RHS Wisley (this picture) and Kew (below right) to learn more about plants; she designed this mosaic path (right) and garden in West Sussex (below) to clients’ briefs

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