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Arit Anderson: what’s hot in garden design for 2022

The do's, the don'ts and the garden must-haves! Muddy nabbed BBC TV garden designer, Arit Anderson, for all the intel (and where she gets her fab frocks).

Arit rocks a fabulous Ridley London dress while presenting the BBC’s RHS Chelsea Flowershow coverage in 2021

Here at Muddy, we’re total fan-girls of garden designer Arit Anderson, not least because half the fascination of watching her presenting BBC coverage of RHS flowershow coverage is her stylish oufits. “Yes, we like those alliums, Arit, but WHERE DID YOU GET THAT FAB FROCK?!” 

That’s because before trading Dior for dahlias and retraining as a garden designer in 2012, Arit worked 25 years in the fashion industry, along with stints in wellbeing and events. She subsequently snaffled a clutch of prestigious awards at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show and is now a familiar Friday night face on BBC’s Gardeners’ World and Garden Rescue.

Now, when she’s not busy designing gardens as put-together as she is – think feminine, flowery, with a strong geometry – she has a new project: Growing Greener, a BBC Gardener’s World Magazine series of 8 half-hour podcasts, with a mission to help us grow, eat and garden with the planet in mind. 

We nabbed Arit for a quick chat…

Hey Arit! What’s big in garden design for 2022?

Gardens can look high end and be good for wildlife, if you plant wildlife friendly plants, such as verbena, agastache, and butterfly landing pads of sedum

We’re recognising we don’t garden in isolation, our gardens are our connection with the environment. Let gardens be gardens, don’t worry about the birds poo-ing on your Portland stone! They are allowed to eat the berries, that’s what they do. Slugs, well if you will plant out a hosta…

We need to let go of this idea of magazine pristine-ness. Be more observant about what’s going on, but try to intervene less. Think of your garden as how many habitats for wildlife it can create. 

How do you describe your garden style? 

Lovely late summer perennials, purple agastache and peachy dahlia make perfect bedfellows 

I think my style is quite simple. I like natural materials, lots of flowers and gardens over gadgetry – I’m not into outdoor kitchens. 

No outdoor hot tub in your garden then?

My garden is a mess right now but that’s because I’m having a garden studio built! It’s quite soft and small, with a leafy canopy of shrubs and trees, which the birds love, including a eucalyptus which I have to keep reined in, a cercis, pittosporum and pseudopanax. We’re the only ones in our group of terraces with trees, but for me, more is more

Is that a thing, then, people not planting trees?

I think people do worry they’ll get too big, cast too much shade, or its roots might come up through their beloved lawn but we need to consider all the many benefits, like the shading and cooling trees can bring, and all the habitats for insects.

Plus, there’s the sense of wellbeing trees bring. Most us can remember a special tree from childhood, which we played around or sat under. Trees orient you and give you a sense of place, and from a climate perspective, they take in carbon dioxide and store it in the ground.

Where do you start when designing a garden sustainably?

Grow a crab apple tree, says Arit, great for jam, and brilliant for birds 

Rather than slash and burn, look at you’ve got and re-use it, say, lifting existing paving and laying in a different pattern. Think about precious resources like water – avoid the tap and collect in a waterbutt. Water less often by putting down mulches on borders. Can you squeeze in some veg or a crab apple tree (above)? Anything to reduce a little bit of shopping.

Think about all the users of your garden and how much time you spend in your garden compared to them. Wildlife is in it 24/7 and every time we mow, spray, clip or take out it’s hugely disruptive to the diversity.

Any total no-no’s?

Paving over your driveway! it contributes terribly to flash flooding due to the rainwater runoff into drains. Go for permeable materials or gravel instead.

What flowers we should get on our hit list?

Echinacea, short-lived perennials, are great for bees 

My natural palette is high summer to autumn (maybe because I’m a Virgo!). I love grasses and dahlias, and stalwarts like salvia, echinacea and achillea for the colour pops. Agastache for bees! Umbellifers for pollinators. Their season lasts well into winter because you come off all colour into all the beautiful seed-heads.

Can a knowledge of fashion feed into garden design?

Yes, if you have a love of fashion, interiors or art – all those creative modalities feed back into the garden. Trees and shrubs are like your statement pieces, the coats and boots which provide structure, you don’t buy them every year, while your jumpers and trousers, like herbaceous perennials, bring the colour, so you might add a few new ones every year. Your accessories, say a scarf or a bright pink party dress – are your annuals where you can have some fun and go a bit crazy. 

Any sculptors or artists we should get on our radar?

Arit featured Charlie Whinney’s steam-bent sculpture in her design for the BBC One Show and RHS Garden of Hope at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021

I’ve used Charlie Whinney and his incredible steam-bent sculpture (above) in my show gardens and I love John O’Connor with his over-exaggerated figurines. Anything artisan over mass-produced is going to give your garden individuality and personality. It needn’t have a high price tag – reclamation yards are a great place to look for inspiration.

Do you have any fave Devon gardens we should visit for inspo?

Pic credit: The Garden House

Yes! Two – The Garden House at Buckland Monachorum and Wiley at Wildside at Yelverton. Keith Wiley (The Garden House’s former Head Gardener) is brilliant at imagined landscapes, inspired by Nature but not trying to mimic it.

And last but VERY not least, where do you get those dresses?

I go for small, sustainable designers like Kemi Telford (above), and Ridley London. I love Lisa Taylor who makes dresses by up-cycling vintage saris, – each one is unique so you’re never going to meet anyone in the same outfit.

See Arit at Toby’s Garden Festival in April

Meet Arit at Toby’s Garden Festival hosted by Devon TV gardener Toby Buckland (above left)

Arit is speaking at Toby’s Garden Festival at Powderham Castle, Kenton, near Exeter, on Saturday 30 April where she’ll be sharing her garden design advice and advice on gardening with climate change in mind. Tickets from £12pp, kids under 16 free and you can WIN VIP tickets for 2, worth £150!

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