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Tony Smith

Tony Smith Artist and Garden Designer

  • Date Joined: 13 Mar 2009

Recent Comments

  • Captains Log Star Date 2010...

    Tony Smith on 26 Jul 2010 at 09:32 PM

    Well, who would have thought it, a gold medal from the RHS for a crater made entirely of lettuces and an alien from who knows where and made of who knows what. It was great fun telling everyone, including the judges, that as our garden was all about perspective, and as humans simply don't possess a sense of perspective, the whole exercise was completely pointless!!

    Despite this, we still got a gold medal and this in itself leads me to question whether the judges... oh no, I don't want to go there!!


  • Finished - that's both the garden and me!

    Tony Smith on 18 Jul 2010 at 09:23 PM

    Having planted 12,000 lettuces over 3 days I have had enough. Knees, legs and back are all complaining. However, standing back and admiring our luminous green crater with its otherworldly inhabitant, I think it's been worth it. If nothing else, it's got to be the brightest exhibit at the show!

    Now all we can do is to wait for the verdict of the judges and the reaction of the public. It should be fun if it ever stops raining.

  • It's Gardening Jim, But Not As We Know It

    Tony Smith on 13 Jul 2010 at 04:27 PM

    We arrived, or should I say landed, at Tatton yesterday morning at 8am Earth time! When I say we, that's me and Rob with his digger. Having marked out the site we spent the day creating the most realistic impact crater I have seen in ages!

    Now I am back in Sussex preparing my garden for a film shoot that will hopefully form part of a new Alan Titchmarsh series to be broadcast on BBC2 in the autumn


  • A View From The Other Side

    Tony Smith on 10 Jul 2010 at 09:32 PM

    I visited Hampton Court Show on Tuesday as a visitor rather than an exhibitor for the first time in 5 years. I have to say it felt strange not to be exhibiting, but at the same time enjoyable not to have the pressure and stress that comes with creating a show garden.

    The conceptual gardens were a revelation; by far the most impressive element of the show this year. The quality of both the finishing and the thinking behind the gardens was great to see. Well done to all the conceptual designers for putting on such a quality show. Truly inspiring!

  • Eyes Wide Shut

    Tony Smith on 26 Jun 2010 at 08:47 PM

    The fact that the last 6 months have been extremely dry is just starting to make an impression on the public consciousness. Gardeners of course are pretty aware of what's going on in the real world. The rest of the population, however, seems oblivious to anything that happens beyond the confines of their centrally heated homes, air conditioned cars and offices.

    I have come into contact with numerous people for whom it comes as a complete surprise when they are told that it's been unusually dry. But surely it's only the last week that the weather has been fine they say, as I show them the dust like soil that they are surprised their plants are dying in. It never seems to astonish me how disconnected we are from the things that really matter


  • With a Little Help From My Friends

    Tony Smith on 16 Jun 2010 at 08:29 PM

    I know it's asking for trouble to say that everything is under control, but in respect of my visionary garden at Tatton Park it seems to be true. We have dug a test crater at the nursery, 12,000 lettuce seeds have been sown by my collaborator, Derek Smith, at his nursery in Lymm, and the Alien is residing in my spare room having been created by my other collaborator, sculptor, John Humphreys.

    From this you may, if paying close attention, surmised that this is a joint project bringing together several disciplines. Not sure how to describe my part, but Derek runs a first class bedding plant nursery and John is a well respected sculptor who trained and exhibits at the Royal Academy. Oh, and I had the idea


  • Over but not out

    Tony Smith on 01 Jun 2010 at 09:46 PM

     Well, that's it for another Chelsea; a rather disappointing silver gilt medal in the bag, but more importantly a very happy sponsor. It has been a great week for Easigrass at their first Chelsea. The reaction of the public has been universally positive, both in respect of the quality of the latest artificial grass, and the way it worked within my design.

    The most common comment was where is the artificial grass; many people found it difficult to tell it from the real stuff only inches away


  • Crawling over the line

    Tony Smith on 23 May 2010 at 11:50 PM

     In my last post (written some time ago now) I talked about us having made a flying start. Well, it just goes to show how much can change in a day or two because after erecting the main structure and rendering it in three days, progress started to slow down. Not a lot, but one thing led to another and before you know it you're under pressure.

     It was while under pressure that I made a near fatal mistake in that I tried to stick to my schedule instead of adjusting the schedule to fit the new reality. I rushed into planting the ferns in the grotto (or should I say Kerry and Steven of the Fernatix did) before I had fully tested the rain curtain that falls across the entrance, thus making it extremely difficult to fix the inevitable leak that developed


  • Flying Start

    Tony Smith on 13 May 2010 at 09:36 PM

    Our first day on site today. Arrived at 6am for a 7am start (that's when they open the gate). Perhaps one whole hour early is a little on the enthusiastic side, even for me. Still, we were first in and hit the ground running. All the preparation paid off and we made great progress. The outer shell of the structure is now up and ready for rendering tomorrow so we are on target. Another couple of days like today and I may even start enjoying it!!!


  • A Sense Of Proportion

    Tony Smith on 09 May 2010 at 02:42 PM

     My new improved batch of bronze fennel looks great, although I am still concerned that they may grow too tall for the tulips in the two weeks that separate us from judgment day. This however will be managed by sending them to Burston Nurseries where they will be kept in cold store, effectively suspended animation, until we plant them three days before judging.

    I should have mentioned Woodcote Green Nurseries in my last post as they were the source of the finest batch of fennel plants. Thanks to James and Lara at Woodcote; I am now sleeping much better


  • Blind panic

    Tony Smith on 06 May 2010 at 06:33 PM

    Well, perhaps not quite blind but definitely a hint of panic.

    With the larger gardens underway on site, the urban gardens have another week of preparations off site before it gets really serious


  • The sun is out, the sky is blue, It's beautiful and it's raining!

    Tony Smith on 29 Apr 2010 at 02:02 PM

    Oh yes, it's rain, on demand whenever I want it!

    It does, I admit, seem a little perverse that after such a long and wet winter I should want it to rain but I do


  • A New Hybrid at Chelsea

    Tony Smith on 22 Apr 2010 at 01:50 PM

     The Easigrass Garden is almost finished, well in kit form anyway. It is being built in the yard and then dismantled into manageable sections. From here it will be transported to the show where it will be reassembled in double quick time thus allowing us to plant well before judgement day. It's important to allow several days for the plants to settle into their new surroundings. This really makes a difference.

    While I was at the Easigrass office today discussing the finishing touches with Michael, who is in charge of the construction, Easigrass MD, Anthony Gallagher, read aloud a poem by his good friend and renowned poet, John Armstrong. The poem, entitled The Orchid, was commissioned by Anthony as a complement to the garden


  • Sleepless in Sussex

    Tony Smith on 15 Apr 2010 at 08:01 PM

    How many people, I wonder, are kept awake at night worrying about work? Quite a number I suspect. However, if I narrow the question down a little to say, how many people wake in the night terrified by a vision of pink tulip petals falling onto a carpet of flowerless verbena? I may now be on my own.

    Perhaps this may be just a little over dramatic, but when your reputation stands or falls on some flowers opening on one particular day in May, it’s easy to get twitchy and I am! Read More...

  • What's in a Name?

    Tony Smith on 07 Apr 2010 at 08:01 PM

    I am afraid it has been pointed out to me that I am guilty of hypocrisy.

    In my last post I complained about the impenetrable names given to ferns at the same time as producing a garden at Chelsea with probably the longest and least catchy name ever given to a garden


  • Enthusiastic Fernatix

    Tony Smith on 31 Mar 2010 at 09:59 PM

     Ferns are ferntastic (sorry) and I love them, always have. But they are not the easiest group of plants to get to know, not because they are difficult to grow or particularly temperamental in any way. They are for the most part fairly easy going and definitely not unreasonable in their demands.

    No, it's not they themselves that are difficult, but their often impenetrable names, that and the mind-boggling number of selected forms


  • To Prune or Not to Prune, Me and Mr Darling in the Same Bed

    Tony Smith on 25 Mar 2010 at 12:52 PM

     I, like many people around the country, spent yesterday afternoon listening to what may well be Alistair Darling's last budget. What strikes me as possibly the most interesting aspect of the budget is the way it mirrors what's happening in my garden, both in timing and content. To prune or not to prune, that is the dilemma, both for Mr Darling and my humble self. Furthermore, it seems we have both come to the same conclusion:

    Sometimes the wise thing to do is not to do anything at all


  • Specialist, Generalist

    Tony Smith on 18 Mar 2010 at 10:10 PM

    One of the joys of being a designer, and in particular designing show gardens, is that it always seems to lead you to something new and interesting.

    A designer needs to know a little about a lot of things, and then to be able to track down specialist assistance when his own knowledge runs out. 


  • A Week is a Long Time in Horticulture

    Tony Smith on 08 Mar 2010 at 08:53 PM

    Today I visited James and Roger at Burston Nurseries in St Albans. A week ago they had expressed concern that my Verbena Silver Anne wasn't going to make it in time for Chelsea.

    What a difference a week makes especially a week of sunshine. The problem has been the almost complete lack of sunshine over the last two months since my Verbena arrived at Burstons. As soon as the sun came out so the plants started into growth


  • Easigrass, Tricky Verbena

    Tony Smith on 02 Mar 2010 at 08:41 PM

    Work will resume on the Easigrass Urban Plantaholic's Kitchen Garden at the end of this week. We will be finishing the plywood frame and constructing the kitchen that will house our orchid collection at Chelsea. Lots of other elements will hopefully come together over the next two weeks.The seat needs to be upholstered, lighting and water works will be installed and we have to choose floor and wall coverings for the kitchen area. 

    Meanwhile, the bedding plants are causing some concern. After much detective work I purchased a good number of Verbena 'Silver Anne'. These small rooted cuttings I then delivered to my favourite grower, Burston Nurseries in St Albans. Having worked with them before I have every reason to trust Burstons with the task of growing and flowering my Verbena and Tulips on time. However, they tell me the Verbena are not progressing as well as expected and may not make it to Chelsea.


  • Come on Spring!

    Tony Smith on 24 Feb 2010 at 04:31 PM

    At about 11am today I stepped out of the garage and onto my newly gravelled drive. The witch-hazel, Hamamelis intermedia 'Arnold Promise', is flowering and I could feel the sun on my back as I savoured its sweet fragrance. This was an all too fleeting glimpse of the spring that I hope will arrive soon. Now it's getting darker and the rain is hammering on the window as it seems to have been doing for months.

    Thankfully my plants for Chelsea are all safely tucked up under glass. The Easigrass garden will have three distinct planting areas. The first, and most challenging from the growers point of view, is a bedding scheme consisting of Tulip China Pink, Bronze Fennel and Verbena Silver Ann; the flowering time of the tulips being our main concern


  • Show Garden Junkie

    Tony Smith on 21 Feb 2010 at 10:18 AM

    Last year I spent 10 months working on or at flower shows, and having completed a trio of show gardens for Quilted Velvet I think I may be addicted to them!

    For me it's all about escapism. I love the unreality of it all, so much so that however exhausted I was last autumn I wasn't content with the prospect of designing only one in 2010 (the Easigrass garden at Chelsea), but wanted more. To this end I submitted conceptual designs to Hampton and Tatton in the hope that this would satisfiy the cravings


  • Preparation and Anticipation

    Tony Smith on 14 Feb 2010 at 03:20 PM

    Show gardens are all about planning and preparation, and to this end we have spent the last couple of weeks constructing The Plantaholic's Kitchen Garden in kit form so that it can be quickly reassembled at the show, when time is of the essence. We will also tweak, and hopefully perfect, the finer details that we hope will impress the judges.

    The studwork frame is now finished and the roof on, allowing us to get a feel for the sheltered, secluded atmosphere we want to create at Chelsea


  • The Urban Plantaholic's Kitchen Garden

    Tony Smith on 10 Feb 2010 at 11:36 AM

    I said in my last post back in August that we may return, and that has proved to be at least partly true. I am back with a new sponsor; Quilted Velvet having decided not to participate in the shows this year. Not, they assure me, a decision that had anything to do with my slightly eccentric designs. Everyone involved agreed our three show gardens were a great success.

    Now it's time for something completely different. As I announced on my personal blog, Pea Soup and Pork Pies, to be found at, I am now working on an Urban Garden at Chelsea for Easigrass, the artifical grass company


  • That's all folks!

    Tony Smith on 03 Aug 2009 at 12:43 PM

    Three Quilted Velvet show gardens in one summer! It did seem like a tall order back in the autumn of 2008 and believe me it has been extremely hard work. I have only had two days off since March and it’s starting to show!

    However, despite the stress it’s been a fantastic experience made all the better by having in Quilted Velvet, probably the best sponsor in the history of flower shows. Thanks also goes to my Hortus infinitus team who have built and planted all the gardens to such a high standard and tolerated, mostly with a smile, my eccentricities.


  • What a week

    Tony Smith on 16 Jul 2009 at 12:46 PM

    We received our Gold medal for the Quilted Velvet Garden at Hampton Court Palace last Monday evening and started building the third Quilted Velvet Garden at Tatton Park at 8am the next morning! No time to bask in the glory and enjoy the garden. This was the strangest feeling of the whole campaign - never before have I left a show garden as soon as it was finished.

    Tatton Park has been a revelation; it is so relaxed and friendly. It may be because our first week’s work (ground work) went so well. Indeed so well that I was able to get home on Sunday to see the family, drop in to Hampton Court Palace to say goodbye to the second Quilted Velvet Garden, and catch up with friends


  • Warming Up

    Tony Smith on 02 Jul 2009 at 10:43 AM

    The last two and a half weeks at Hampton Court have been spent erecting green oak structures and planting thousands of oak seedlings, as well as over a thousand purple heather plants. All of this and more in order to create the second Quilted Velvet garden of the summer. This garden is much easier to put together than our Chelsea design, but it’s still hard work, seven days a week starting at 7am and finishing at nine in the evening. The extreme heat has affected both us and the plants, with the danger of grass turning brown and oaks shrivelling in the scorching sun. We have had to devote a lot of time to watering, and this has slowed the rate of progress.

    We are, however, nearly there with just the final tweaks to attend to, as well as the watering of course. Having the garden all but finished should allow for a certain amount of relaxation, but this is not how it works out. I am finding smaller and smaller imperfections to correct and also worrying as to whether the heather will be in full enough flower for the opening of the show. The heather, a variety called Pink Star usually flowers around mid-summer and is slowly but surely turning a lovely Quilted Velvet shade of purple so should be just about perfect. Fingers and everything else crossed!


  • The Pain and the Glory

    Tony Smith on 28 May 2009 at 09:42 AM

    Well, rather a lot of the former and a small glimmer of the latter.

    Just after posting my last blog, rashly entitled Turning the Corner, my neck and shoulder seized up; a consequence of a minor cordyline-induced injury and a considerable amount of tension. Can’t think what came over me, after all it is only a flower show


  • Turning the corner in purple slate (Welsh naturally)

    Tony Smith on 12 May 2009 at 03:17 PM

    I hope I don’t live to regret saying this, but it feels like we are turning a corner. As usually happens at a certain stage of a project, I start to see encouraging glimpses of the vision that until now has only existed in my head.



  • Bank Holiday Weekend

    Tony Smith on 06 May 2009 at 04:53 PM

    We started on Friday; marking out and then digging out, followed by setting out and on Saturday afternoon we came out of the ground. As I can’t think of any more outs, well not appropriate ones anyway, I shall now talk about the weather.



  • Waves

    Tony Smith on 30 Apr 2009 at 09:49 AM

    There is usually a point in a large project when the full gravity of the undertaking hits home. This time it’s been a bit different. Perhaps waves would be a good description; small waves of concern interspersed with larger waves of panic, all wrapped up in an extremely thin veneer of total confidence and self assurance.



  • Soft, Quilty, Velvet and Luxurious

    Tony Smith on 28 Apr 2009 at 10:19 AM

    With less than a week before we arrive on site it’s a case of checking and double checking all the plans. No matter how many times I go over the build schedule I still feel there’s something I have forgotten. You try to think of everything, knowing full well that something unexpected will come along and test you at some point.

    Have given several interviews recently there is one question I dread being asked; it always crops up and I hate it.


  • Head above water, just!

    Tony Smith on 17 Apr 2009 at 10:37 AM

    There are some things in life that only those who have actually experienced them can truly comprehend. Amongst these I would imagine looking at the Earth from space, being the Queen, and becoming a mother, ouch! One that I don’t have to imagine is designing a garden for Chelsea. If you add to this that I am repeating the process at Hampton Court and Tatton Park there are only very few people who could possibly empathise. Help!!! I could shout, but I know there is no one out there.



  • Blog Paper: Quilted Velvet Naturally!

    Tony Smith on 15 Apr 2009 at 11:40 AM

    I have long held the view that a great deal can be told about people and organisations by examining their lavatorial arrangements. This is not a view I have arrived at hastily or without a great deal of research!

    For example, the lavatories at my secondary school were totally in keeping with my overall experience of the establishment. However, on a recent trip in search of Cordylines, I found myself at the other end of the scale. I had never visited Europlants before so had no idea what to expect. On arrival I naturally made for the loo. A few minutes later I emerged enlightened. They would have the plants I wanted, in good condition and the staff would be both polite and helpful. They did and they were.


  • Extra Mile

    Tony Smith on 31 Mar 2009 at 12:45 PM

    If you see humanity as a broad spectrum, with malevolent monsters (can’t think of any off hand!) at one extreme and saint like figures at the other, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Sir Bob spring to mind, then what we deal with every day are the many shades of grey in between.



  • Cordyline Crazy

    Tony Smith on 26 Mar 2009 at 04:19 PM

    It seemed like a good idea at the time … a phrase I find myself using with increasing regularity since taking on the task of designing three show gardens for Quilted Velvet. Chelsea alone would be a challenge but to take on Hampton Court and Tatton Park is bordering on the insane.

    That said, after exhibiting a small self-funded art installation at Chelsea last year and bearing in mind the state of the economy, it’s fantastic to have a sponsor at all - let alone for three shows and with the amount of artistic freedom Quilted Velvet have given me. I have every reason to thank my lucky stars and not moan on too much about all the hard work and stress that a show garden demands.