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Gardening: designer Sarah Russell

PUBLISHED: 00:16 09 February 2011 | UPDATED: 20:37 20 February 2013

Gardening: designer Sarah Russell

Gardening: designer Sarah Russell

Leigh Clapp visits garden designer Sarah Russell at her cottage garden in Mannings Heath and learns more about her very hands-on style

The seed for gardening was planted at a very young age in Sarah Russell and has led to a career in designing and restoring gardens around Sussex. I was raised in the middle of the countryside on the edge of Exmoor in North Devon, she explains. My parents have always been passionate plantspeople and each of the three houses I remember as a child had beautifully creative gardens. I was enveloped in a world where gardening was a way of life. Bowls full of roses and lilies adorned the tables, packets of seeds were neatly stacked on window sills, ingenious home made watering systems were created by my ever inventive father and every gardening book would have a few plant labels in it where my mother would have been looking up her latest acquisitions. I would help my mother to prick out seedlings, and would try and memorise the complicated Latin names just to prove that I could.
After initially doing a degree in modern languages at Exeter University, Sarah worked as a secretary and in administration. A new path started emerging on moving to the characterful Edwardian cottage in Mannings Heath with its traditional long narrow garden. Her interest in gardening was reawakened and given expression. It had marvellous soil which could grow anything and so I started to dabble. Every trip to visit my parents would end with me returning home with a bootful of plants which would start to embellish the plain garden and the latent knowledge that I had acquired as a child started to make itself known, recalls Sarah.
Once her youngest child started school Sarah retrained in horticulture and set up a part-time gardening business to, as she puts it, fund my growing habit. With her passion for gardening blossoming she decided to also take a two-year garden design qualification and she was well and truly hooked into making gardening her new career.
Although Sarah works in different styles for her varied clients, at home her garden fully expresses her personality and love for cottage garden abundance. I allow the luxury of untidiness in my own garden. I work on the principle that if the garden is full of plants, there are fewer gaps for weeds, she smiles.
The original lawn has been removed and filled with borders and gravel pathways. Plants in soft waves of colours and textures spill over paths in joyous exuberance. My favourite plants are roses, lilies and peonies and I love the old fashioned favourites that self-seed and reappear year after year quite often in all the wrong places! Sarah comments.
You can visit one of the gardens Sarah has been renovating, Sedgwick Park near Horsham, which I have featured before in my column, and which plans to open to the public again for a few days this summer. It is my biggest project to date, where the restoration of the 15 acre historic gardens has been a joy to carry out not many people get to have their own personal Heligan! On the opposite scale, the smallest plot has been a pretty little town courtyard which I created from an unpromising plot of weed and builders rubble. Several clients have come back to me a second time after moving house, which I feel is a real compliment to my skill as a designer. It is always nice to have positive feedback, Sarah concludes.

Contact details
Sarah Russell, Pots and Pansies,
Mannings Heath, Horsham,
West Sussex
Garden design, restoration, maintenance, planting plans, advice and problem solving
tel: 01403 266725


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