The practice

Tom Stuart-Smith Ltd is a landscape design practice with an international reputation for making gardens that combine naturalism and modernity. The practice was established in 1998. Work since has ranged from large gardens and parks open to the public, to smaller private gardens. Tom Stuart-Smith Ltd has also designed a number of gardens for the Chelsea Flower Show. Eight of these have been awarded gold medals, and three have won ‘Best in Show’. Most projects are located in the UK and Europe, with a few undertaken further afield. Despite the scale and complexity of our work we remain a medium-sized practice, with fourteen landscape architects and designers at our office in London a well as three overseas consultants working under the direction of Tom Stuart-Smith, who is closely involved with each project.

Our philosophy

We seek to create landscapes that offer a rich and multi-layered experience - places with an emotional depth that derives from the ideas behind their design. Juxtaposition and contrast is a theme that runs through much of our work: between simplicity and complexity; the modern and the romantic; between subtle intervention and decisive statement. Our work has a richness of form and texture which belies the economy of means by which this is achieved.

We look to forge connections between people and place. We bring an analytical design approach together with a detailed understanding of the nature of a place, and the wishes of our clients.

We follow an ethic of sustainability and seek to increase the ecological diversity and richness of any landscape in which we work. We use local materials wherever we can and select plants fitted to their surroundings, which will endure over time.

We are particularly interested in planting schemes inspired by plant communities as they occur in natural and semi-natural landscapes.

As important as these principles, is the idea of the garden as a place that quietly articulates emotions and ideas. The designer's role is to set the scene without imposing a story. A garden should not bind its inhabitants to a narrow vision. Rather we want to make it a place of imaginative possibility.

The Serge Hill Project for Gardening and Health

The Serge Hill Project for Gardening and Health was granted planning permission in January 2020. The aim is to develop a community garden on a one-acre site known as The Orchard, at Serge Hill in Hertfordshire, where Tom and his wife Sue Stuart-Smith have lived together since 1987, and where Tom was born. The project draws on Sue’s work as a psychiatrist, psychotherapist and author of The Well Gardened Mind, a book that investigates the origins of gardening and its power to transform our lives. This not-for-profit initiative will offer resources to local schools and charities as well as local residents who want to get involved in gardening.

The proposed building in The Orchard has been designed by architect Ben Stuart-Smith and will function as an education and resource centre. The vision for the garden is diverse, with food production and allotments, a sensory garden and experimental planting for learning.

Sunnyside Rural Trust, a Hertfordshire based charity which provides horticultural training for people with learning disabilities, has started growing perennial plants in a small nursery on The Orchard site. The plants they grow will be sold to landscape designers and at garden open days. They are also growing a large number of plants for an exhibition garden proposed for the delayed Hampton Court Flower Show in September. This has been designed by Tom who has been nominated by the RHS as their Iconic Horticultural Hero 2020.

Tom is also proposing to move the landscape design studio from London to Serge Hill, to be closer to the project. This will allow the team to use its design and horticulture experience to curate the garden, develop the project and learn more about plants and gardening.