I live in Clapham, London and worked in digital publishing and marketing for over fifteen years until I switched to design. The path to my career change began back in November 2013 when my partner Chris and I, with our cat Rumbles in tow, bought our flat near Clapham Old Town complete with minuscule urban garden.
Since that day my childhood obsession with plants, art and design was let out of a fifteen year long bottle – I exploded out and dived back into a compost heap hands first and I’m never looking back again.
Why I am obsessed with plants
In the 1980’s, the Wallington family grew up in the Buckinghamshire countryside in a tiny idyllic thatch cottage. A short walk from the Prime Minister’s Chequers estate and the residence of actor Sir David Jason.
Surrounded by the rolling Chiltern Hills, smothered in wild flowers, woodland, farm crops and wild animals, it was a beautiful place to grow up. On a recent visit after more than a decade gap, it’s only in adulthood I realise just how magical a spot it is.
My parents loved the house and stuffed the small cottage garden full of beautiful plants, mainly with flowers. Growing up we also had more pets than I can remember, it was more like a tiny farm: cats, dogs, budgerigars, love birds, rabbits, fish, chickens, ducks, even a horse (not ours) in the neighbouring field and some terrapins.
I wasn’t particularly successful as a young lad at keeping the animals alive… but the plants thrived! At the age of nine, my granddad received a small bonus and gave it straight to me and my siblings. My bouffant toting younger self was, to everyone’s amazement, adamant I wanted a greenhouse.
This resulted in a sea of cacti, nasturtiums, fruit and vegetables. Simply, there’s something I find fascinating seeing plants grow and I love the look of fresh new growth. It’s constantly changing which makes me happy.
University, work and London life distracted me for a time. Now though, with our own little plot, gardens are back in my life big time. And I’m never letting them back out. Only Rumbles seems to like our garden more than me, especially at 5am when we’re trying to sleep!
Littlebury and a new beginning
We’ve lived in our house in Clapham since 2008, it is our first home together. Rented off of Julie and David Evans for five years before we nervously put in an offer to buy for ourselves what had become to feel like our home. Julie and David, to our delight, agreed and in November 2013 it became our home officially.
Since the day we moved in as renters, we fell in love with our tiny little plot, and in the summer, the garden was always a little haven in the city. I feel incredibly lazy now and a bit embarrassed given how much effort our neighbours put into it, but as renters we did nothing to the garden. To touch it felt too permanent when we might at any time have to leave.
Now we’re officially here to stay though, we’re laying down roots in every sense. In December 2013, we hopped on a train to Wandsworth and bought our first two shrubs (two Viburnum tinus standards for winter flowering). This was the beginning.
Big Dreams, Small Spaces
By 2015 my love of garden design was bordering on obsession and we were lucky enough to be selected by Monty Don to take part in his BBC programme, Big Dreams, Small Spaces. It documented us transforming our garden into a Victorian Botanist’s tropical wonderland. It really was a dream come true and you can read all about it here.
Career change to garden design
During the year Big Dreams, Small Spaces was filmed I studied RHS Level 2 and on the final day of filming I learnt I had passed with all eight commendations. These two moments confirmed to me that my love of gardening was worthwhile and I pursued the next courses to push my knowledge. It was during Level 3, an in depth course teaching me the garden design process – from surveying, level changes, scale and planting plans etc – I realised I might be able to help other people with their gardens.
I put a shout out on Facebook asking if I could design a friend’s garden for free if they pay for paving and plants, Nic and Angela Howell stepped forward – a key moment and Angela, an interior designer has become something of an unofficial mentor to me. This design went really well and my desire to design gardens was stronger than ever so I tentatively opened my blog to a few paid commissions. From this point, the rest is history as I began receiving enough requests and recommendations to allow me to give up the day job and make the switch.
Thanks for reading this far and I hope you come back to see how our Clapham urban garden evolves over the coming years. The blog on this site is a record for myself of what I’ve been doing and I’ll be sharing what I learn as well, so hopefully it will be useful for any random visitors who land here.