Blog: Thoughtful women: Lottie Delamain, gardener
We’ve been delighted to feature Lottie Delamain on our blog recently, sharing her tips for more sustainable gardening. If you loved her ideas for an eco-friendly garden, read more about her here - how she got inspired to do what she does, how it feels to have a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show and the advice she has for anyone keen to get into a little earth-kind garden design of their own. Be sure also to check out Lottie’s website and her Instagram @lottie_delamain.
Q and A
Tell us a little a bit about where your love of gardening came from
I was lucky to grow up with a very green-fingered mother and therefore was always surrounded by lovely gardens and I also grew up in the countryside. However I definitely didn’t always love and understand it – in fact I remember my mum saying to me when I was being dragged round a plant sale, “You’ll get into it one day”! It wasn’t until I lived abroad and had much less access to gardens and the outdoors, that I realised how much I missed and needed them. I found myself seeking solace in the natural world after I had my first son – the colours, forms, patterns of the plants around me were a daily tonic in those exhausting, confusing early days of motherhood.
When we moved back to London, I had an opportunity to retrain (I had been working as a designer for restaurants and hotels in textiles in Vietnam) and I decided to fast-forward to the “when I’m older career” and just start again so I signed up to a garden design course at Inchbald. As it happened it wasn’t as much of a start again as I thought as so much of my previous design experience has been so useful.
You’ve designed gardens for the Chelsea Flower Show (wow!). Would you say something about the process of creating your garden for the show
It was a true once-in-a-lifetime experience and I still can’t really believe it happened. It’s is such an extraordinary privilege to be able to tell a story of your choosing, on such a prestigious stage, working with the best the industry has to offer, it really is. My garden (A Textile Garden for Fashion Revolution) was exploring the relationship between plants and fashion, how we grow what we wear – or not as the case may be these days. It was inspired by a trip in northern Vietnam where I saw women growing everything they needed to make their clothes, outside their homes – it was a real “eureka” moment, they had such an intimate understanding of what was in their clothes, the materials required, the qualities of those materials – such a stark contrast to our relationship with clothes in the west.
So the goal of the garden was to give visitors a similar eureka moment – the garden was designed to look and feel like a textile, and all the plants in the garden could be used as either dye or fiber to make clothes. We also had a 6m textile installation made entirely from plants, inspired by Anni Albers who is a bit of a design hero of mine. I did it in aid of Fashion Revolution who were pioneers in bringing the climate and social injustices of the fashion industry to a bigger audience.
You love sustainable gardening: can you say a little bit about what sustainable gardening means to you, and why it’s so important?
As far as I understand it, sustainable gardening is largely common sense – be respectful of the resources we have, get to know your garden and its unique requirements and conditions, and try not to be too precious about things – gardening has become quite serious, and it shouldn’t be! It should be enjoyable, and like nature, a bit messy and unpredictable.
I think people are put off gardening by the idea of perfection, and getting it wrong – we live in such a visual age, where we are bombarded with images of neatly mown lawns and perfectly synchronised borders, when the reality is just not like that. I think the most important thing is to get stuck in and enjoy the fleeting moments of beauty and triumph – as well as all the mess and disasters!
Are there any gardens you have seen that really stand out to you?
I am quite a broad church when it comes to gardens – love them all! There is definitely a place for formal and structured gardens, but they probably belong to a bygone era where gardens were looked after by armies of staff and we had a lot more rain (or cared less about water!). But there is something about a classic grown-up English country garden that I really do adore – especially those that are a bit frayed around the edges, like Charleston. Bourton House in the Cotswolds is a lesser known gem.