One Magazine’s Jake Tucker meets RHS Chelsea Flower Show’s youngest ever gold medal winner hailing from Exeter to find out more about his passion for garden design.

Q: Have you always been a keen gardener? What’s your earliest memory of becoming green-fingered?
Having been brought up in the Devonshire countryside and spending most weekends helping my dad in our garden, I have always had a passion and interest for the outdoors. I have always been practical and growing up in a very artistic family, it felt natural to combine my two skills/interests together and study Garden Design at the art and design based University College Falmouth.

Q: What is it about garden design specifically?
I love nature and being outdoors, so it was simply the combination of creativity and nature. I had always wanted to do a degree that was creative and art and design based, and so coupling this with my passion for being outdoors just seemed to make sense. I’m also a keen traveller – the world around me is a huge inspiration.

Q: It’s a common misconception that gardening is for the older generations. How do you feel about that stereotype?
Although I think it is sad that there aren’t more young people getting involved with gardening and looking for careers in this industry, I do feel this is partly due to the path of life. I think most people get into gardening when they have their own garden and their own house. However, this is not an excuse for not getting more children into growing and horticulture. It’s great to see schools getting involved to give young people a chance to try gardening and I hope this continues.

Q: What would you say are the key ingredients for a striking, well thought out garden?
The key ingredients for me are light, space, form and texture. Designing a high-quality garden is designing an environment with good proportions and structure. It should take inspiration and influence from the surrounding landscape and architecture so that it fits in with what’s around it. Attention to detail and intriguing planting makes a garden stand out. A seamless connection between indoors and outdoors, or perhaps two different aspects of a garden, using interesting, yet complimentary materials is key.

Q: Of course, these days gardening is largely about sustainability. How do you combine aesthetics with efficiency?
We are lucky that there is a lot of choice out there for materials that are interesting to use, look great and are also sustainable. Using local materials and striking a careful balance between hard and soft landscaping, as well as choosing materials that harvest water and allow free draining makes for a garden that is both aesthetically pleasing and great for the environment.

Q: At just 27 years of age you became the RHS Chelsea Flower Show’s youngest ever gold medal winner – an amazing accomplishment. How did that feel?
Fantastic! When building a show garden you build it with hopes of getting a medal, but when you actually get it, it’s a mix of joy, relief and surprise. It’s pretty strange, but amazing. My team and I worked on that garden design for a year and everyone worked as hard as possible for the best result. You focus for so long and then it’s not until the show that you get to take a step back and appreciate what you’ve done. Winning the award was an acknowledgement of all that work put in, which felt incredible.

Q: What do you think set your winning design apart from the rest?
My dynamic rainwater garden replicated nature in how it copes with storm water, but in a contemporary, striking design. The mix of materials and the bold cracked earth paving gave the garden a unique look with a lot of crisp lines and angles. It was a complex process trying to make it pleasing to the eye, yet dynamic and offer lots to look at. I think what set it apart was that it was a fresh approach to Chelsea – it hadn’t been seen before.

Q: What advice would you give anyone looking to get into garden design?
Broaden your horizons and don’t shut any doors. It takes time and passion to make money from garden design, and it can be tough starting as clients want to see a portfolio of real projects and not just drawings. Take opportunities to work for friends and family, or take other work that might open the door for the future – don’t be too picky.

Q: What local gardens in the area would you recommend to our readers?
I’m a big fan of Rosemoor – the planting combinations are lovely and it’s a quiet, relaxing place to go with lots of sections to explore, sit and experience. It also gives me a lot of inspiration for planting.
I also like Stonelane in Chagford, which offers a lot of inspiration in terms of sculptures.

Q: Finally, what can we expect to see from you at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show?
We’re currently working hard on our garden for Chelsea 2016 which is an advanced version of the 2014 garden, playing further with the geometry of water. This year we’re exploring a drier, arid environment with Mediterranean plants, some of which are native to the Middle East which was inspired by a recent trip to Jordan. It’s a risky move but one I hope will pay off.

Find out more about Hugo and see more of his work online at:

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