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A Q&A with garden designer Sean Pritchard

Ahead of his talk with fellow gardeners Jo Thompson and Steve Lannin on 14 March, we spoke with Somerset-based Sean Pritchard to find out how he got started in garden design, where he finds inspiration and his favourite garden to visit:

When did you realise you wanted to pursue a career in garden design?

I suppose, quite organically, I grew into a garden design career off the back of a love of plants and how they are displayed. What drives me is a sense of telling stories with plants and creating little moments of tension that elevate outdoor spaces into dramatic performances – almost like a set designer might, only I’m working with nature. I consider myself to have the best job in the world and I wake up every day feeling very lucky to be doing what I do.

Sean’s RHS Hampton Court 2022 show garden (c) Ellie Walpole

You’re now an RHS medal winning garden designer. What did that career journey look like to get from studying to where you are now?

I studied at the Garden Design School in Bristol under the brilliant Robin Templar-Williams, which gave me a solid foundation in design principles and the construction of gardens. Of course, nothing quite compares to getting out into the world and trying it for yourself, so since then I’ve been developing my style and ways of working with clients – it’s constant learning and exploration, every day. I’ve designed two show gardens but the one at RHS Hampton Court last year was undoubtedly the bigger challenge. I’m incredibly proud of what me and my team created at the show and the learnings and personal development that came with it were massive. There is something about the intensity of working on a large show garden that really forces you to look at yourself and the way you work – it’s quite enlightening.

What does a typical day in the life of a garden designer look like for you?

I work on a large range of projects – from urban and rural gardens to commercial spaces. Currently, I am working on a very exciting project at a well-known public space in the West Country alongside gardens in London, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, and Edinburgh. Most of my ideas and inspiration seems to come at the bookends of the day. I start work early as I am infinitely more focussed in the morning, but then equally, in the evening, I seem to always get a second wind and find myself scribbling down notes and drawings before I go to bed.

Tulips in Sean’s Somerset cottage

Where do you find inspiration? And what’s your favourite garden to visit?

I suppose I find it quite difficult to articulate where I get inspiration from; it’s often more of a feeling that I get from something that sparks ideas. It can come from anything and everything. Rousham, in Oxfordshire, is my all-time favourite garden to visit and no matter how many times I go, I never tire of it. It’s a very special place – a sort of dream.

What are some projects you’ve worked on that you are particularly fond of?

My garden last year at RHS Hampton Court is something that I will remember vividly for a long time. Not just the end product, but the process of putting it together and the wonderful people that I worked with along the way. It perhaps sounds quite cliché, but I have a special sort of attachment to every garden that I design – I suppose you leave something of yourself behind on that plot of land.

Catkins from the garden inside Sean’s cottage

Your charming home in Somerset features heavily on your Instagram. How would you describe your approach to your own garden, and does it influence your work?

I am constantly driven by the pursuit of blurring the lines between my garden and my inside space. I sort of like to feel as though the garden is an extension of the house and the house an extension of the garden. My cottage in Somerset is ancient and sits in the surrounding rural landscape quite organically, so it feels natural to me that the indoors and outdoors should co-exist in a kind of jumble where the boundaries are never properly defined.

Do you have any tips for people who want to think like a designer when looking at their own garden?

The key is to find a sense of overall balance between planting and hard landscaping. You want plants that perform in different ways: some provide height and structure, whilst some create ethereal drifts when grouped en masse. The garden should respond somehow to the landscape around it and offer something back. Ultimately, you should trust your instincts as this is a space designed to bring you joy and no-one else.

Sean Pritchard

Sean is speaking on the panel with Jo Thompson and Iford Manor Head Gardner Steve Lannin at our talk Instagarden: Social media’s impact on gardens and gardening on 14 March.

Tickets available to attend in person or watch online: book tickets

Follow Sean on Instagram: @sean_anthony_pritchard

Header image: Anna Omiotek-Tott
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