The English Garden

Dan Pearson

The visionary garden designer on a career spent working meaningful­ly to enrich our landscapes and increase biodiversi­ty


We were a family of makers: my parents taught art and they were always gardening. Mum grew vegetables and my dad was good with colour. They spent a lot of time with us as kids talking about how to get the most out of it. It was never just a hobby, and when I was five we moved down the lane to a house with an acre of overgrown garden, which became my project.

I trained at Wisley, but I didn’t find my tribe until I joined the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. A group of us secured an alpine garden scholarshi­p and went across the Pyrenees and the Picos de Europa in northern Spain to see plants in their natural communitie­s. I saw erythroniu­ms growing on the slopes and astrantia in the woodland, and I had an epiphany about growing plants that are happy because they’re in the right place. I studied at Kew and then did another scholarshi­p at Jerusalem Botanical Gardens.

I designed Frances Mossman’s garden at Home Farm and had fun working on a grand scale and planting naturalist­ically. By then I was 23 with my training behind me and the connection­s and realworld experience Francis had facilitate­d. I started a mobile gardening business with a number of new clients and put my ideas into practice.

The Tokachi Millennium Forest in Japan has been my benchmark project. Mitsushige Hayashi, a newspaper magnate, bought the land in the 1990s to oŽset his carbon footprint. It had been deforested and he was rewilding it to redress the balance. In Japan, they connect to the landscape through literature and art, and I learned about the principles of satoyama, which is only taking as much as you need from the land, and living in harmony with the landscape.

I have 20 acres at my home in Somerset, and I love the process of enriching it on all levels, especially biodiversi­ty. Every job that comes in is a chance for us to work meaningful­ly. We want to learn and work on an increasing­ly large scale to eŽect positive change through what we do with the environmen­t.

Study ‘Naturalist­ic Design Masterclas­s’ and ‘An Expert Guide to Planting Design’ with Dan Pearson at createacad­

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