Anthony Paul Talks

I learned to appreciate space and solitude. To walk for miles on empty beaches looking for seabirds or observing the beauty of lonely places where the sky meets sea.
— Anthony Paul

Today was an I-can't-believe-this-is-really-my-life (of the positive variety), kind of day. It seems like every day is like that here in London, but today was especially special. We had a guest come to the Inchbald to talk to us, and that guest was Anthony Paul, international garden designer extraordinaire!

From 10am until 4pm he imparted his knowledge, insight, passion, reverence, and energy for garden design. I made sure to sit on the front row so I wouldn't miss a thing whether it be a facial expression or a slight change in tone of voice. I was ready and eager to learn from the man! 

I did my research before the day began and read through his statements and gazed through his impressive online portfolio. This is what I learned from his website.

  • He has been working as a landscape designer for over 30 years
  • He was born and raised in New Zealand, which heavily influences his work
  • He loves the creative use of water and uses it in all his designs
  • His garden studio is in Surrey - it's in his wife's sculpture park, which is open to the public on the weekends. Their place is called Black and White Cottage.
  • He always includes art and sculpture into the garden
  • He is inclined towards planting perennials en masse and using strong vertical forms in his plantings
  • Very neat details
  • He has a caring and tender approach to designing the garden, and does it with creative enthusiasm

He took us through a few of his projects, and the one I would like to feature here is one he designed in the south of France.   

He gave two talks. The one before lunch was titled Genius Loci, and the talk after lunch was titled Design Philosophy. I was very much invested into every word he said. Here's another bullet point list which is based off of the 12 pages of notes I took while he was talking/showing pictures, etc. It's worth the read!

  • Genius loci: the protective spirit of the place, every place has an atmosphere
  • He was greatly inspired by the story of King Arthur, the Excalibur, and the Lady of the Lake in his younger years as reading was an escape (I believe it's still his favorite story), and that's partly why he loves to work with the enchantment of water. It is his penchant.
  • On growing up in NZ (and not being into Rugby at all) "I learned to appreciate space and solitude. To walk for miles on empty beaches looking for seabirds or observing the beauty of lonely places where the sky meets sea."
  • Plants have a history, read up about plant explorers
  • He's a fan of Captain Cook
  • Find your own north arrow, a spiritual connection or contact
  • Biggest mistake of new designers is that they over-design
  • Gimmicks are out - find the magic
  • Inner strength, passion, come from the heart
  • Garden design is gardening, you need a knowledge of horticulture
  • Where did your life begin? Draw from that
  • Don't copy other designers, have an opinion
  • It's all about imagery
  • "I want to be tender with my space, treat it like it is totally precious" 
  • You plant as you paint
  • "Sometimes it is important not to think, but to feel" 
  • "I am not looking to copy nature, otherwise, why build a garden at all" 
  • Swimming pools are water features, think of them that way
  • Placement is so vital to the structure of a garden - it's all about placement, that's what garden design is
  • On Lake Luzern, "If you get up early enough in the morning, you can hear Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries coming across the lake."
  • Every garden has a narrative, you are the story-teller
  • Look first at what is already there
  • Find artists, painters and sculptors that you love - be inspired by them
  • "Each tree is a little seed that's held it's ground"
  • How much can you deduct from your design
  • "I do believe a society grows great when old men plant trees that they will never sit in the shade of" 
  • "I want my gardens to be looking out where possible, rather than looking in." 
  • People seldom know what they want until you give them what they don't want
  • Too many varieties of plants are unnecessary in your design
  • No more lawns! Unless it's absolutely vital
  • Choose/combine plants that have a similar language
  • Water spouts only need to be simple
  • Why be a garden designer? 
  • Why does the world need us? 


I think when 4 o'clock rolled around he was pretty worn out - I think we all were, but it was in the best way possible. What an honor for me to be able to experience this day! And how awesome of Anthony Paul to take the time to share with us! It was enlightening, encouraging, hopeful, motivating and insightful. I really appreciated the day and it gave me the courage to hold on to my dream of becoming an international designer.

It is so satisfying to be around people who, no matter how exhausted and tired you/they are, physically or mentally - you still want to talk about garden design. So you do. 

And for that reason alone, I belong here. 


Ah, Anthony Paul did tell me I have beautiful eyes. :)