An Interview with Anthony (Tony) Robert Skinner

Tony what’s your earliest memory of gardening?

I have warm memories from about the age of 5 of both my maternal and paternal Grand-Parents’ gardens. Climbing the Persimmon Tree, admiring the mass of bright blue Polyanthus planted under a magnificent ‘San Jose’ Magnolia and the sweet smell of Camellia sasanqua in full bloom in autumn.

What are your personal favourites in the plant world?

Oh that’s a hard one to answer but I’ll give you my top 10:- Cedrus libani is probably my favourite tree – there was a magnificent 200 year specimen growing at ‘Highgrove’ Prince Charles’s garden which sadly has now been felled but part of the trunk remains as a quirky base to an open sided pavilion. The Cedrus would be closely followed by Araucaria araucana the Monkey Puzzle tree. Next would be almost any variety of Quercus (Oak). I’m very fond of Rhododendron nutailii and other fragrant plants such as Chimonanthus praecox (Winter Sweet), Gardenia and Daphne. Little treasures such as double Primula cultivars and Cyclamen neapolitanum are lovely in pots and my favourite bulb would be any kind of Galanthus (Snow Drop). Of course when choosing plants for clients I have a much broader palette.

What excites you most about landscape design?

Creating a garden which exceeds the client’s expectations and that gives them a unique and individual reflection of their particular garden style.

Is it easier to design a small or a large garden?

Both have their challenges but a small garden has to be very well thought out as every plant has to perform and prove its worth. With large gardens it is important to balance the design with the surrounding landscape. Often you are using more permanent planting material which will ‘grow’ on to be enjoyed by future generations so choosing the right tree for the right space is critical.

What style of gardening is currently the most popular?

Structured, uncluttered gardens with clean lines created by hedges and open clear spaces for balance are very much in demand. Large gardens tend to be more park-like. It is unusual for clients to want masses of floral display. However, most want a potager of some kind where they can grow vegetables and fruit. These days every one wants to grow some kind of food and ‘heritage’ fruit and vegetables have certainly made a come back.

When you’re not busy designing other people’s gardens what do you do with your leisure time?

I mainly enjoy outdoor activities such as cycling or walking on the beach with my dogs, just generally embracing nature. However my artist’s eye can easily be distracted when I find the perfect scene I want to immediately put on canvas. I do like to get creative in the kitchen from time to time and sharing my culinary delights with friends and family. A study of architectural styles is something I particularly enjoy when I am travelling and I have been known to collect the odd antique or two. Naturally I always enjoy being in the garden, no matter what the season there is always something to delight.