His knowledge is much more than garden variety

Robin Templar Williams, a top British landscape designer, has lately been working a lot in Eastern Europe. Robin Templar Williams, a top British landscape designer, has lately been working a lot in Eastern Europe.
By Carol Stocker
Globe Correspondent / March 25, 2010

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Noted British landscape designer Robin Templar Williams recently phoned us from his Wiltshire home to chat about his upcoming appearance at the new Boston Flower & Garden Show, his new garden design school in Massachusetts, Chernobyl tourism, and an invasion of mini-deer nibbling English gardens. Williams, something of a rock star in the garden design world and known for his magnificent formal gardens as well as more naturalistic designs, will be one of 20 speakers at this week’s flower show, which runs through March 28 at the Seaport World Trade Center. He’ll talk about great garden design Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

Q. So you’re lecturing on “Great Garden Design’’ the last day of the Boston Flower & Garden Show.

A. I’m showing pictures of gardens I’ve designed and unraveling the process of creating them. I do residential gardens, a lot of them lately in Eastern Europe where there’s a huge amount of new money and a huge rush to engage Western designers. . . . I’ve worked in Ukraine and what I find mind-boggling is there are now tourist trips to Chernobyl.

Q. Why do people like flower shows?

A. They inspire people and lift spirits in the winter. Gardening is a great hobby.

Q. You’ve also started a school to train landscape designers here at Tower Hill Botanic Garden near Worcester?

A. Yes, it’s called Garden Design School USA and you can read about it at It’s a very intensive nine-month program you can combine with your family and work life. We’ve run it in the UK for eight years but we’re just finishing our first year here. Our market is predominantly people making mid-life career changes. They don’t have to have previous experience.

Q. Are young people less interested in horticulture?

A. They’re coming back. A few years ago it was not trendy. Kids wanted the fast buck in the Internet and banking. But now many sharp young people are more aware of the environment, organic food production, even biofuels. I think the green industry is about to explode.

Q. How did you learn horticulture?

A. I grew up with it. My father was a landscaper. It was a trade I picked up by osmosis, and I ended up with an amazing education without ever having studied. But after I landscaped for 10 years, I went to school for design.

Q. What’s your favorite flower?

A. Iris Siberica and irises in general. They’re stunning, tall, fresh, and yet delicate and simple. And so easy. They’re good “doers.’’ We plant them in masses. I particularly like the varieties Papillion and Caesar’s Brother.

Q. What kind of tree would you plant for 100 years from now?

A. I can’t say. There’s always new diseases, now our horse chestnuts are having problems.

Q. You don’t have any of our trouble with wild deer eating gardens, do you?

A. Actually we have a big deer problem in England. Ever hear of muntjacs? The stags only stand 4 feet tall. They were introduced from the forests of Southeast Asia for hunting by our landed gentry. Now they’re an invasive species here.

For more information visit or call 781-237-5533.