We speak with celebrity garden designer, Dan Pearson, who was recently named by Homes and Gardens in the 2019 Top 100 design tastemakers, and awarded the 2019 Garden Designer of the Year by House and Garden, which was proudly sponsored by Westbury Garden Rooms.
There’s something about a wild and natural garden that brings with it the desire to while away a summer’s afternoon, exploring its hidden nooks and grassy footpaths. If the thought of wild flower meadows and rose-covered dry stone walls excites you, then you may well be familiar with the work of Dan Pearson.
A pioneer of naturalistic yet modern garden design, he was one of the very first to try this entirely new approach to landscaping in the late ’80s. Over the years, he’s built a reputation for his outstanding horticultural knowledge and his understanding of how plants grow in nature, which is second to none.
Dan is the ultimate expert when it comes to naturalistic perennial planting and has been practising as a landscape and garden designer since 1987. Coming from an artistic family, he trained at some impressive establishments, studying horticulture at RHS Gardens Wisley, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.
His knowledge has seen him move to the forefront of the garden design world, presenting on horticultural TV shows, writing gardening columns for newspapers such as The Guardian and The Telegraph, and publishing books. His latest published title, ‘Natural Selection – A Year in the Garden’, has proven to be a big hit and explores a gardener’s journey through the ever changing seasons.
Dan Pearson and his design studio
The landscapes we design are worlds of their own, wholly right for their locations, offering the chance for escape, delight, reflection and illumination.
Dan and his team have worked on a wide range of landscape projects. Examples of his work can be found at the London studio of photographer Juergen Teller, at Lowther Castle in the Lake District, and at the Torrecchia Vecchia in Italy. His influence is far-reaching too, with a 400-hectare sustainable park in Hokkaido, Japan in his portfolio.
Earlier this year, the Dan Pearson Studio team worked on a floral installation called Colourstream at Coal Drops Yard in London. A temporary ‘pop up’ of planters filled with bright pink and red geraniums, the Colourstream was designed to guide the public towards Coal Drops Yard from Granary Square, bringing a splash of colour to contrast with the urban landscape.
Look out for a permanent scheme later on in the year, which is being prepared by the team with bespoke planters made by designer Ian McChesney. “We look forward to the realisation of the permanent second phase planting scheme later on in the summer,” says Dan.
What seems to be the most important thing to Dan and his team is to develop an understanding of a landscape’s meaning from the beginning, especially to the people who will be there to enjoy it. Before they begin, they explore the surrounding architecture, the history of the site, the layout, and the natural geography as part of their design process. He’ll use features such as grassy paths, wild and shadowy ponds, meadows, overgrown stone steps, walled gardens and sunken pools in a way that takes your breath away.
At the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015
Dan has designed a number of award-winning show gardens for the Chelsea Flower Show. Most notably, his 2015 show garden for Chatsworth and Laurent Perrier was awarded a Gold Medal and Best Show Garden.
While the Champagne house creates a garden at the show each year, Dan had not designed anything for Chelsea for eleven years. He was briefed with creating a garden that would reflect the champagne itself; freshness, lightness and delicacy.
Taking inspiration from two lower profile areas of the 150-acre gardens at Chatsworth in Derbyshire, Dan looked to recreate the rockery and the ornamental trout stream.
His design included a stream that flowed through flower meadows and giant feature rocks before reaching a small pond. A willow sourced from Holland stood to one side of the garden, sitting among a brightly coloured, wild planting scheme.
The result was a spectacular, natural space described by the BBC’s Monty Don as being one of the most significant ever seen at Chelsea.
Dan was recently named by Homes and Gardens in the 2019 Top 100 design tastemakers, and awarded the 2019 Garden Designer of the Year by House and Garden, which was proudly sponsored by Westbury Garden Rooms.
If you are interested in seeing Dan in his element, he’ll be speaking at the Carlow Garden Festival on the 2nd of August at Altamont Gardens, which you can book here.