by Kathy Brown
In 2016 award-winning garden designer, TV presenter and planting expert, Juliet Sargeant, won her biggest accolade yet: gold at the Chelsea Flower Show. Kathy Brown caught up with her to find out about life after Chelsea and the inspiration behind her amazing work.
Growing up in leafy Surrey and being allowed to roam and play freely in the countryside with her friends, as well as being given a corner of the family garden to look after, Juliet’s love of the outdoors was sown from a young age, “I made a very early connection with the landscape and have always associated it with fun, freedom and relaxation.”
With a strong interest in the wider social benefits of gardening and landscape, in 2016 Juliet exhibited a social campaign garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, in the hope of inspiring conversation and action around modern day slavery. Its bright front doors and illustrative planting was representative of the streets where we all live, but there was a darker metaphorical centre to the garden which hinted at a hidden reality – people still being kept in captivity.
You’d think that such an impactful project, which brought national attention to a prevalent social issue, would have been stressful, but Juliet took it all in her stride. “I can honestly say that it was an amazing experience throughout and that is thanks to the fantastic team that supported the Modern Slavery Project. Doing any Chelsea Garden is the dream for most garden designers, but to have such an interesting challenge to undertake with dedicated people was wonderful.”
Now two years on from her Chelsea win and with a green-fingered career in full blossom, Juliet is involved in multiple projects and looking forward to the coming months. “I’m working with the ‘Chelsea 2020 Forest Garden’ team, who want to introduce people to the idea of growing their food in a natural and sustainable way. I’m also opening a new office in Hurstpierpoint, and my eyes have been opened to the lovely landscape of Sussex. I don’t think I’ll ever stop designing gardens: it’s what I love most about my job. Every client has different requirements and I love seeing them becoming less nervous about plants and starting to connect with their gardens and with nature.”
Juliet also continues to teach about plants at her garden school; and will be joining the panel on the popular BBC Radio Sussex gardening show, Digit. “It will be a brilliant opportunity to demystify gardening and encourage more people to get involved.”
On 21st September, Juliet will be giving a talk at South Downs Nurseries in support of much-loved local charity, St Peter & St James Hospice. You can hear more of her inspiring story and how she planted her way to gold, as well as her tips and tricks for creating your dream garden. Book your place at www.stpjhospice.org