Farm hillside

When we were travelling to England last summer, as we turned onto a one-way street. I was now in the driver’s seat. The road is heavily hedged and tighter than any road you’ll see in America. I prayed that we didn’t run into any oncoming cars.

After about 2 miles we came to a gap in the hedge. “I think this is it,” I said as I pulled over and opened the gate. I shouted a greeting and asked if anyone was present. Near the house, a voice rang out.

I’m Dan Pearson, and we were at Hillside Gardens. If you haven’t heard of him before, Dan is one of the world’s foremost landscape architects and gardeners. It seems silly to try to parse his life in a few sentences, but I’ll try. His training at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Wisley Gardens, the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, the Jerusalem Botanic Gardens and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew has allowed him to live a plant-like life. He has won many awards at the Chelsea Flower Show, including a Gold Medal and Best in Show in 2016, he helped design the Ten Saints Millennium Forest and the new Tillow Gardens at Sissinghurst and was honoured with the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by the Queen in 2021 . I think this quote from his CV sums up his focus well. “His work is characterised by an innate sensitivity to place, an intuitive and relaxed approach to design, bold and painterly naturalistic planting and a deep-rooted knowledge of horticulture.”

Dan came out to help us move the car in. Once out of the car, we introduced ourselves to each other and Dan led us towards the sitting area outside the house. It was a large covered gazebo with a wood burning stove. The tables were beautiful, hewn from large planks of wood. And, even though it was a dry July day, I could still see where the gutters pumped rainwater into the catch basin. In the distance, a row of trees stood aloof against the afternoon sky, just as they had when I first saw them twelve years ago.

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