Industry Profile: Matthew Wilson


As a well-respected garden designer, writer, radio broadcaster, television presenter and lecturer, Matthew Wilson has certainly earned his title of ‘the Landscape Man’, bestowed upon him in his Channel 4 TV series. Speaking as part of this year’s Outdoor Living seminar program, Matthew is sure to deliver experience, innovation, and passion. Add to this his wonderful mix of charm and enthusiasm, and we are definitely in for a bit of a treat.

Clifton Nurseries, London’s oldest and most respected high end garden centre, of which Matthew is Managing Director,  will also be dazzling us with a rather special show garden feature in the tent, with details to be released very soon.

We are also excited to announce that we will be having a tweet chat with the Landscape Man himself as part of our #DecorexChat this space for the date announcement!

How did you start out in the industry?

I grew up on a market garden nursery in Kent, owned by my parents. I showed absolutely no aptitude or interest in gardening though, and embarked on a varied career that ended up in journalism. In my mid twenties I had a Damascene moment and retrained as a gardener.  For the last 12 years I've been fortunate enough to combine by previous career with my present; I now write for many of the gardens/homes magazines and am a regular contributor to the Financial Times.

garden design by Clifton Nurseries

What has been your proudest career moment to date?

In gardening terms probably the Dry Garden at RHS Hyde Hall in Essex.  It's a zero irrigation, low input garden of 8000 plants over an area about the size of a tennis court.  I co-designed it with a landscape architect called Chris Carter way back in 2000, when I was still learning my trade.  I'm very proud of it because it has stood the test of time - the garden still hasn't been watered, even during the three droughts that we've had since then - and it's inspired a lot of other people along the way.

Who or what inspires you?

Nature, architecture, colour, music, space, history, literature - I think the best designers are interested in and take notice of all these and more.  Gardening also teaches you about climate, wildlife, and most importantly patience.

Rudding Park garden design by Matthew Wilson

Can you tell us a little about your own home and garden?

It's a typical small(ish) London garden which was an almost blank canvass when we bought the house 2 years ago.  It's now divided into four 'rooms', which makes the garden feel much larger and more interesting as you journey from one room to the next.  The planting is relaxed, naturalistic, lawns are small - small lawn = more plants - and I spend very little time maintaining it, so plants need to be tough.  Our house is a mid sixties town house with huge expanses of glass and big open plan rooms, so the views out into the garden are important and something I spent a lot of time considering when I designed the garden.

Rudding Park garden design by Matthew Wilson

What are your thoughts on the new Outdoor Living tent at Decorex?

It's great!  I think it will be a real asset to the show.  People always grumble about the British weather but most years we have plenty of opportunity to use our gardens for long periods of time, and I'm a firm believer in the adage that the garden is 'the outdoor room'.  We should design it and use it with more thought and care.

Rudding Park garden design by Matthew Wilson

As a seminar speaker in the Outdoor Living tent, can you tell us a little about your plans for the show?

I'm still writing my presentation but I hope it will inspire the audience to consider the value of the outdoors more carefully.  It's funny, but the clients we work with are often carrying out major rebuilding or refurbishing work to their homes, with all the upheaval that goes with that.  I see my job as getting them excited about the possibilities of the garden - to discover their inner, latent gardener!  So that will be my mission at Decorex - to discover all the latent gardeners!

Rudding Park garden design by Matthew Wilson

How do you collaborate with interior designers when coming up with garden schemes? What are the biggest challenges?

In the last 12 months we've worked with interior designers such as Oro Bianco, Pembrooke and Ives, Helen Greene and Michael Lewis.  It has to be a collaboration to work well, or opportunities get missed.  The outdoor space can be a picture that the indoor space can frame, but only if both sides work together.

Garden design by Clifton Nurseries

Do you find interior trends influence garden design? If so, how?

Colour is probably one of the biggest crossovers, and there are some innovative ideas in interior design that are beginning to creep outside.  The reverse applies too; living walls are now becoming popular interior features.

What are you working on at the moment?

We've just finished two large projects, one in St John's Wood and another in Kensington, both of which have taken up a big part of my life over the last two years.  We have design projects on the go in the Midi Pyrenees, Saudi Arabia and Athens along with almost a dozen live projects in London, so there is a lot going on!

Rudding Park garden design by Matthew Wilson

As the MD of the renowned Clifton Nurseries, what does the future hold for the brand?

In the last two and a half years we've moved up several gears, working on very high end domestic garden design and build and it's an area I will continue to develop.  Our retail garden centre is second to none in my opinion, with a superb range of mature specimen plants, pots, garden furniture and so on.  We're finding more and more interior designers are coming to us because of that, and because of the excellent service and knowledgeable staff.  Also, our cafe has bloody good cakes.

Register for Decorex to hear more from Matthew as part of the Outdoor Living seminar program at the show.