January 31, 2013

Introducing garden designer, James Alexander-Sinclair…


Today, I’m delighted to feature an interview with garden designer, journalist and TV presenter, James Alexander-Sinclair.

Could you tell us what prompted you to become a garden designer?

To be honest, it was a well-directed kick administered by my sister!

Up until that point, I had spent an inordinately long time lying on her sofa, smoking.

I was not at all sure what I wanted to do having tried a number of different careers from ice-cream salesman, washer-up, shop worker, toy demonstrator and waiter.

She got me to go out and dig the garden.  And from then on, I was hooked.

I was a landscaper for many years (laying paving, building fences, etc.) before turning to design.


When did you start your business and where are you based?

All of the above began in about 1984.

I moved to Northamptonshire with my family in 1992. We built a house and are still here.  

Although a move might be quite exciting…. a new garden to get my teeth into.


What kind of garden design services do you offer?

Most of my work is in larger private gardens, but I’m always delighted to look at anything.

Where do you get inspiration for your designs?

In any garden, the inspiration should come from three things: the people who live there (how they are going to use the garden), the style of the building (Tudor knot gardens look very silly outside modern houses) and their surrounding landscape.

Once you have those three things reconciled, then you can let the imagination fly.

I have done gardens inspired by such diverse things as an unfurled paper clip and a jewelled scarab beetle.


How would you describe your style?

Controlled anarchy.

I like a lot of energetic plants rumbling around just on the edge of being completely out of control.

Beneath them should be a solid framework of hard-landscaping.  But the plants should always be paramount.


Could you tell us about some of your recent commissions?

The best commissions are the ones that last a decade.

I like to make gardens slowly, rather than blasting in and out like a dervish in a landscape frenzy.

That way it becomes much more of a relationship between garden, client and I. And we can change and move things around as we go along…exactly the same as we all make our own gardens.

Recent commissions include an industrial estate in Corby, a brand new walled garden in Oxfordshire, a conservatory garden in Worcestershire, a complete remodelling in Devon and a few others. Variety is fun.


I understand that you’ve recently developed a new app. Could you tell us more about it?

It’s called intoGardens and is extraordinarily lovely.

I’m very proud of it and all the people who have helped me pull it all together…especially my family who have had to cope with me stumping around worrying!

It’s designed for iPad and is part app and part magazine.

I think it’s completely unique and I’m excited that something as basic and earthy as gardening is leading the way in technology as well.

It has glorious gardens, great writing, fab pictures, audio and video.

You can also buy plants and other things by just touching a picture…all this without leaving the app.

It has enormous potential and I hope that lots of people download and enjoy it.

Download a copy from the App Store.  It’s a snip at £2.99.  You won’t regret it!

Here are some screenshots from the latest episode…






You’re on Twitter, have a blog and write for other blogs too. What impact do you feel social media has had on the garden design industry?

I love social media.

When I started my blog in 2006 it was very refreshing to be able to write whatsoever I wanted…even though I don’t think anybody read it until about 2008!

Twitter is fun and diverting. And social media has an impact on everything. There’s no reason why garden design should be any different.

I also have an absolute ball making YouTube films with my friends Joe Swift and Cleve West as Three Men Went To Mow.


Have you any tips for home owners thinking of employing a garden designer?

Go with one you like.

The same for garden designers…the bit of advice I always give students and people just starting out is ‘Never ever work for somebody you don’t like’.

If you do, then they probably won’t like your work, the relationship will be uneasy and you may well not get paid!


What are your plans for 2013?

To design more gardens, to write more stuff, to make intoGardens even better, to do my bit at the RHS, to give lectures and to make more Three Men films.

I find it best to keep busy.

Thank you so much to James for all his help in compiling today’s blog post.

If you’d like to keep up-to-date with his news, he’s on Twitter and Facebook, plus has a blog.

(Images : James Alexander-Sinclair & intoGardens)


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