Life Tips #19: Rowland Byass, 35, Landscape Architect

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‘Relationships are like plants. You need the element of time, the shared history’


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1. Plants can teach you patience. They have a slightly different timescale from our frantic one, take us out of our day-to-day concerns. Trees are on a longer timescale still. But most clients simply want to know: will it look good next week?

2. It was only in the 18th Century that the word landscape came into the language. When Samuel Johnson crossed the highlands with Boswell they pulled down the blinds of the carriage as the wilderness was to be feared.

3. Gardens are about a fantasy self. I like to work with clients who know the value of what they’re spending money on – not as a status symbol but as an expression of their ideal inner world. But either way, you’re being invited into a private part of their lives.

4. Zero maintenance is not possible. Even a concrete patio requires upkeep. And a fake lawn contradicts what you go outdoors for.

5. Look at the space you’ve got. There’s always something that would grow there. Every place represents an ecological niche. A shady basement garden is like a woodland floor, whereas a rooftop balcony is perfect for Mediterranean flowers and shrubs.

6. Plants have a consciousness. It’s different to ours. They shift position, politely find their own space under canopy of wood. But do trees teach us thrift? That’s a bit laboured but they do what they do to survive. And the most extravagant flowering of a tree is when it’s about to die.

7. Consumer values infiltrate everything, even relationships. Everything must be perfect from the outset, the opposite of the aristocratic or old-fashioned model of marriage, where you’d learn to love each other. We’re deluded by the fantasy of choice. Yet relationships are like plants. You need the element of time, the shared history. There’s no such thing as instant maturity.

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Catch Rowland this Thursday 21 June at the Garden Museum, telling the story of the Lost Gardens of Khajuraho. Tickets £15 here. More info here on Rowland Byass.

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  • David

    He’s in Vauxhall!!

    • Kentishtowner

      Correct! We do go south of the river occasionally y’know.