An Interview with Landscape Garden Designer Jack Wallington

In our latest inspiration interview we are delighted to chat with RHS qualified landscape garden designer and writer, Jack Wallington.

Writing columns in Gardeners’ World, The English Garden and The Telegraph to name just a few, Jack chats with us about his influences, inspiration and his naturalistic approach to gardening which he describes as "immersive wild".

Jack Wallington

Where does your passion for gardening originate?

Like everyone, as a child I was given packets of seeds to grow some vegetables and flowers. Watching them grow and then caring for them captivated me more than other kids however, I don’t really know why. Looking back I guess the love of caring for and watching plants grow was built in.

Who has influenced you the most in your career?

My friend Amy Charlotte Kean, who is a poet, writer and all round creative individual. She taught me years ago to question everything and to use what insights came from that to help others for greater good. While Amy isn’t a gardener she helped open my eyes to what a life of gardening could mean.

Jack Wallington

How would you describe your gardening/design style?

Immersive wild - sometimes I think I could place a chair in a natural woodland or meadow and that would be my ideal garden. In my designs I try to recreate the essence of the magic of the wild and then exaggerate it with colour and movement using a mix of wild and ornamental plants. I want a garden to make me and my clients feel that emotion of escape and freedom that we have on holiday. Structure and a breathing space comes from the hard landscaping, which I use to frame and bring a sense of calm order within the planting, like a picture frame.

Jack Wallington

Which other gardeners/designers and gardens do you admire?

My favourite people in the gardening world are those who share the same passion for plants and wildlife that I do. It could be a famous designer or quite often it’s a stranger talking to me about their beautiful front garden. Anyone that knows how to plant a seed, take a cutting or divide plants, seeing the uniqueness that brings to a garden space.

How do you approach a totally new design or garden?

I always start by drawing the outside edges and then think purely about how the owners will use the space, asking them lots of questions and making suggestions for usable areas. This creates a good discussion and thought process for the owner to consider their outdoor space in ways they hadn’t before. Usable areas then define seating and patios, and as a result, everything else becomes planting.

 Jack Wallington

Do you have a planting scheme in mind from the start?

No, often I start with an overall feeling, a bit like a blurry daydream in the back of my mind. This could be to do with a shape, or colour, often it’s about the texture of the garden. For example, is it a light and airy garden with herbs, pines and a meadow feel, or does the space suit something more woodlandy with luscious leaves and greens of foliage shapes. I then match the plants to this overall vision.

How do you think structures work best in a garden?

For me, any hard landscaping has to be essential to a space and have a clear purpose. Otherwise it’s taking up planting space! For instance, we have a large fruit cage because it’s essential to protecting our fruit crops but I tend not to use raised beds. To have everything would feel cluttered to me, instead I can appreciate the structure of the fruit cage within our veg plot.

What 3 things can gardeners do to make an instant difference?

Make planting areas bigger because they’re often too small, repeat your favourite plants around a garden to create a back bone of colour and style, and to reduce maintenance include more suppressing plants that block other seedlings getting in (or vice versa!) I explain these concepts in detail in my new book, A Greener Life.

Jack Wallington

What's the best thing about being a garden designer?

The start and the end of a project are amazing, imagining an entire space and that becoming reality. Unlike TV shows, in reality the in-between processes are a huge endeavour with lots of people and lots of time. It’s all worth it when the dream finally exists and a garden is planted, set on a new journey as the plants establish.

Jack Wallington

Which part of your own garden do you get most pleasure from?

The paths to wander about and look out at the garden from. Paths are often forgotten but they’re the space we use to move between plants and wildlife, able to observe everything. I love what paths enable.