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The Last Word

Robin Templar-Williams, Landscape Gardener
Catherine the Great had an English gardener called John Bush. Many of the great estates of the Russian aristocracy were designed in the informal English style, as opposed to the formal French garden. Now the English garden is back in fashion in Russia.
Robin Templar Williams is a landscape gardener. He has designed gardens all over the world, from small city spaces measuring only five square metres to palatial grounds of many hectares. His latest garden was created in only ten days, at the Garden Week Exhibition, held in the grounds of the Museum of Decorative, Applied and Folk Arts. Sitting in his show garden, The Haven (situated only a few steps away from the not very flower-like Garden Ring), we asked him for The Last Word.

Q: Is this your first trip to Moscow?
A: No, Ive been coming here for two years. This is my twelfth trip.

Q: For whom are you designing gardens?
A: Its a real mix; some are oil and gas rich; but most of them are successful middle class people who believe that a garden is a necessary part of living well.

Q: Why do people want an English garden. Why not a Russian garden?
A: What do we mean by English style? There are so many different styles of gardens now in Britain that it is impossible to say that there is only one look. As for the Russian tradition, I like the simplicity of pine and birch.

Q: What difference does the weather make here?
A: It makes me think laterally, about what materials are available; particularly plants. The palette here is smaller, more limited; but from a design point of view it can make it easier.

Q: Do your clients know what they want?
A: Not always. Sometimes I have to talk to them so that we dont end up with a fruit salad. Take green as a colour; it has so many forms translucent, light absorbent, light reflective. Flower has its place; but as an accent.

Q: Are the plants in your garden here Russian?
A: Unfortunately, no; theyve been imported from Germany. There are very few Russian nurseries producing home-grown specimen plants. But all of the plants here are sustainable in Russia. Its a mistake to import exotics; better to look for what is indigenous, or what will acclimatize.

Q: When will we be seeing Russian landscape gardeners?
A: Very soon; Im teaching them.

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