Work, rest and weed: Dan Pearson and his partner Huw Morgan share their vision for the garden
There is a time each year at the end of June when the Somerset Landscaper’s Garden Dan Pearson and his partner, Huw Morgan, reached a crescendo. “There is this wonderful Japanese word to avoidthat is, when something is full of its life force, ”says Pearson. “In this peak, when the meadows are blooming, everything tends towards the solstice, and you can feel the energy flowing out of it. It’s quite overwhelming – you are aware of this special time that is slipping through your fingers and you cannot comprehend it all because it is so alive.
Ten years ago, when they discovered Hillside, they had searched for a place in the country for almost a decade and had gardened “every square inch” of their old home in Peckham. A friend living locally informed them of the stone farmhouse which is perched on a south-facing hill with a 180-degree view of the valley but, as Pearson recalls, didn’t really sell the place well: “They told us we had to see it before it hit the market, but that “it was nothing special. In fact, Pearson and Morgan made an offer on the spot. “The previous owner, a farmer who was born in the house and died on his tractor at the age of 74, was famous for saying, ‘You can’t live on the sight’. We have found the opposite to be true, ”Morgan says.
Their 20 acres, cleared for decades for cow grazing, had been stripped of all vegetation. In their first winter, they planted an orchard, then a walnut tree and a wood of cherry blossoms, wild pear, sorbus and viburnum that bloom throughout the spring, while providing shelter and fall fruit. to birds. They repair the hedges and over-seed the meadows and amplify the atmosphere in the corridors that delimit the land with bands of snowdrops and wild daffodils. They tried and tested beloved plants to see what might survive and thrive on the exposed plot before starting work on their one-acre ornamental garden, which moves away from their home and studio in the hilly landscape. While they argued over the planning permission, the couple lived on the farm with swirling rugs, tacky lino, and washable wallpapers. “We were going to wear rubber boots and didn’t have to worry about them,” Morgan says. “But there was something good about taking this time to see how the light was coming through the windows before renovating.”
The idea of time – and its passage – is at the heart of Pearson’s projects, which spanned nearly 35 years. In the vast Millennial Tokachi Forest in Hokkaido, where Japanese newspaper mogul Mitsushige Hayashi commissioned Pearson to create a series of epic 600-acre landscapes that could last for 1,000 years, the goal was to help people reconnect with nature for generations to come. His latest client is School of liberty woods, the first primary school of the Little Forest Folk outdoor nursery group, which rents sites across London to give city children access to nature.
“It’s really interesting to see the kids in January in full rain gear with mud and sticks, building shelters, playing with logs and learning a lot of life skills. It will have a positive influence – these children will have influence, ”says Pearson, who was five years old when he was first fascinated by nature after his father built a pond in his childhood home. “That’s how I got into what I do now. It’s amazing as a studio to make a tangential contribution to a project like this.
Using the transformative power of the landscape for the benefit of others is a subject close to her heart. No less to charity Maggie’s, which provides walk-in support to anyone touched by cancer, and where gardens are an integral part of their care. Pearson completed two gardens for the charity – in Manchester and in in West London at Charing Cross Hospital where, alongside the incessant rumble of Fulham Palace Road, a serpentine walk under London plane trees leads visitors through a tranquil woodland garden. There is something to see every week of the year, including the happy blooming of a group of whites Magnolia x loebneri “Merrill” in the spring.
Early in his work for Maggie, Pearson was introduced to Cath Knox, who was in remission but would later receive a terminal diagnosis. “One of the things she said was that when you’re given a life sentence or a very specific time limit that you have left, every day counts – every moment becomes different,” he says. he, reflecting on the importance of therapeutic gardens. .
Marking these moments with plants, highlighting nature’s unstoppable rhythm and the inherent sense of hope that comes with it, has resonated much more widely over the past year. Last March, Pearson began posting short videos to Instagram of the progression of spring in the garden and landscape around Hillside. “It touched people deeply,” Morgan says, “being able to observe these natural processes that happen when it feels like everything else is falling apart.” This prompted them to invest in professional quality photographic equipment. “We want to capture this sense of time in one way or another.”
The couple first met on the streets of Soho in London in the early 90s. “We just started talking to each other – it was one of those times you weren’t expecting,” recalls Morgan, who at the time was working for a Camden-based film company. In 1992, he joined the commercial branch of the French arthouse production company Ciby 2000, whose directors are Pedro Almodóvar, Bernardo Bertolucci and Jane Campion, and in three months (27 years) launches the company at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2001, he was working freelance for MGM and Pathé, and working on his own photography and film projects. Around the same time, Pearson had completed his first public work – the Millennium Dome in London – and was starting at Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, giving him a taste of the large-scale projects he could work on if he did. could expand his studio. He and Morgan put together a list of people they would need to participate – a key role was a studio director. “We were racking our brains for anyone we could approach,” recalls Morgan. “Then it came to me – I have all these skills. Dan looked horrified that we were working together, but he knew I was right. Since then, the couple have been working side by side.
Last March, Pearson and Morgan began working remotely from Hillside from a former milking barn in the field, where they regularly catch up with their colleagues from their Waterloo headquarters. Creating new landscapes while being immersed in one makes a quantifiable difference for Pearson. “You feel more connected to what you’re doing,” he admits. “Every day something changes and it makes you more aware of the need to watch and take note. Our staff who are stuck in city apartments crave this – connecting with the landscape and the world we design for gives so much hope.
In many ways, the house and garden have come full circle since Pearson’s first commission to the 18th-century family farm in Northamptonshire. Beginning in 1987, he created a three-acre garden to blend into the surrounding landscape under the direction of its owner, Frances Mossman (the designer behind the successes of Next and, later, from George to Asda), who will become the mentor of the young planter. “We designed Home Farm with no limits, and that was the seed of what we created here,” says Pearson, who had free access to Home Farm’s garden until it was sold in 2000, leaving “a big gap. in our access to landscape “.
But now, finally, they have their own plot and a lifetime’s work. “We often feel guilty for feeling so good because that’s where we want to be,” concludes Pearson. “We pinch ourselves every day for being so incredibly lucky, but we’ve also worked really hard to get here and it’s a remarkable feeling to know the place you live in is so rewarding. It’s really sustainable on every level, really. “