Interview with Tony Smith

The Harrogate Spring Flower Show feature, sponsored by Rolawn, takes cues from the landscape style developed by Capability Brown. Sales and Marketing Director, Jonathan Hill, posed a few questions to designer, Tony Smith…

Q: How do you link modern day landscaping and design to the legacy left by Capability Brown?

A: In Brown’s day, things were obviously very different and we can’t do what he did as most people don’t have vast swathes of land to work with nor do they have the people to make his ideas reality. So, these days, for most people, there’s very little relevance – other than a nice day out in a country park! 

Blog - Jonathan Hill and Tony Smith

However, what does remain are Brown’s principles of design, proportion, scale and, with a bit of thought and imagination, we can play around with these elements. At the show, we’ve created a mini landscape within a giant black fence, accessed by large golden gates – we’re making a virtue out of necessity. 

Q: Why are the gates golden?

A: That’s an easy one for me to answer! The golden gates represent the ‘pure gold’ we access when we go through a gate and into the landscape and this also ties in with the show theme of the link between plants, people and the landscape.

Q: Where do you get your ideas?

A: Hmmm. How long have you got? As a designer, I am constantly looking for cues and ruminating on the experiences and things I encounter in my day to day existence and, at some point, when my brain is in neutral, an idea will just pop out. My hit rate isn’t great – for every 300 ideas I get, only a handful will make it to the final cut but that doesn’t matter. There’s so much out there to have fun with and I’m fortunate enough to work with and alongside people who ‘get’ that – or at least trust me to make it work.

Shows - Harrogate flower show 2016 feature

Q: How do you choose your suppliers?

A: Carefully! They’re a very large part in the success or failure of a show garden and for soft landscaping materials, I never look further than Rolawn. The quality of their turf, topsoils and bark is borne out of a passion and desire to supply top quality, durable and beautiful products. Very often, I’ll end up with offcuts of turf or whatever and there’s always someone working on a garden that needs a bit extra. And without fail, they are always very impressed with the quality of Rolawn products. It speaks for itself.

Rolawn also understands the importance of deadlines and flexibility within the show garden arena – if it’s not there on time, it causes massive headaches. Equally, if I have a bit of a disaster and I need more stuff on the hurry up, they pull all the stops out to make it happen.


Q: What’s next?
A: My next project is for Rolawn at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show and it’s a conceptual garden entitled ‘Why?’ At its heart, the concept behind it is to constantly ask questions. In my opinion, the things we do know are quite boring – what we don’t know is where the interesting stuff is found.


The garden is very strong, visually striking and forces the eye up into the light and down into the darkness. It’s also quite ‘out there’ and is a bit different to the traditional gardens that can be found at flower shows. You have been warned!