The Rich Brothers

The 'cool guys' of the gardening world, these brothers hark from the Brecon Beacons but now work from a studio in edgy Old Street. Together, they run garden design business Rich Landscapes and have created awe-inspiring green spaces for the likes of Chanel. Tres chic. They're also the much loved presenters of BBC1's Garden Rescue and are working to make gardening cool. TGLL spoke to them about their new book, the working day and how they live green city lives. 

How does it feel to be the cool guys of the gardening world?

We love it! The gardening world can be perceived as being quite boring but we want to rival that view. It’s great to be able to show that you can have a good fun city in London and go surfing still love the outdoors. Gardening isn’t uncool, it’s actually so much fun and gives you the opportunity to get creative because there are so many different angles you can take. I love the idea we can pave the way for the younger generation to get involved in garden design: we want people to see that it’s just as cool as architecture.

What was the inspiration behind your new book?

Rather than just creating a book showing pictures of what we’ve done, we wanted to be able to give people the opportunity to really take inspiration from their local landscape. A garden, in it’s own little setting will have the characteristics of a natural habitat: if your garden is shady you can take inspiration from the woodland section. If it’s a stoney or a bit higher and windy, then the mountain section comes in really handy. All gardens have different attributes and conditions. In this book we look at how nature can be intertwined with garden design really beautifully. It’s a way for us to show people how to break down different environments into designer terms. We don’t completely recreate a landscape but we take inspiration from the atmosphere and mood and local materials. We also advise on what to plant in each area. Ultimately, the book gives people the ability to look at a space, understand it and then take from it what they think they want.

How does it feel to work with your brother everyday?

Each of us says we could never do it without the other one. We’d never have started our own company. It would have been a very different journey. Working with a family member makes things so productive and positive – because we can be very honest, there’s no sugar coating anything. We both have similar style and taste in design, with subtle differences. It’s just like having two heads really, on one body. The design process is strengthened by the fact we’re always challenging each other. It’s a really organic, happy process, although there are a few stressful arguments – of course we’re not perfect!

How do you live a green London life?

London is really green. One of our favourite little spots to go is in Dalston: it’s called the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden. It’s just a little way off the main road but you walk in and realise it’s a really long garden. It’s community run and you can sit beneath a canopy of trees and have a hot toddy and hot water bottles and blankets. There’s so much opportunity for that kind of thing in this city. As lovely as it is to get out into the wilderness and be completely alone, it’s really amazing to be able to be a part of this community of people who live in a city and still strive to be outside and get real joy from being in nature. You can just as much richness from the city as the country, which is great.

We cycle everywhere too. We love being outdoors, so even if we’re in the city, if it’s sunny we’re outside. We’ve only been here for two years, so we’re still really exploring. You can tell that we’re Welsh and out of our comfort zone – we don’t look like we’re from London, put it that way! And although we have to use apps to get around, it’s been a welcome transition. As nice as it was in Wales, it was time to see new places and meet new people and just broaden our life a little bit. We were popping up now and then for work, so it made sense to move here. There’s so much opportunity.

For a day trip, we like to go to Epping Forest when we can. It's about 40 minutes outside Central London. That’s a great little escape and a lovely place to walk the dog. 

 Photo: Dalston Eastern Curve Garden (credit http://dalstongarden.org/about-2/visiting-the-garden/)

Photo: Dalston Eastern Curve Garden (credit http://dalstongarden.org/about-2/visiting-the-garden/)

What are the best things about your job?

Harry: Walking into the office when Dave’s in! Also, the complete creativity and freedom. It’s important to be able to exercise your creativity, so it’s amazing we get to do that on a day-to-day basis, as a job. Beginning with a blank sheet of paper and working together to come up with a design that will become a living-breathing garden. And actually creating the garden, which was not so long ago just a sketch on a piece of paper. It’s so exciting to see it come to life. It feels like we’re giving spaces heart and a sense of atmosphere.

Dave: During our international projects, we’ve had to think really hard about which plants would work in the situation and the sense of place – that variation and variety is really fun. If you keep doing the same thing it can get a little monotonous, whereas we’re kind of doing the same job but in a completely different setting. That’s really fun because we’re having to learn about somewhere else in the world. For me that’s a really cool part of it.

How can we encourage more people to get gardening?

Read our book! A lot of people are obsessed with the idea of ‘lifestyle’, which is something Instagram enhances. We like going on walks and camping out under the stars – but you can’t do that everyday. Instead apply those ideals to everyday-life and think about providing a space for yourself where you can stargaze or put a fire bowl and a couple of shrubs to mimic that feeling of being out in the woodlands.

It’s important to show people you can really enhance life and the way you live it through getting outside. Perhaps the word 'gardening' has become a bit old-fashioned – instead call it ‘creating an outdoor space’. It doesn’t have to be complicated – in fact gardening should be all about keeping things simple and not stressing out about making sure the plants are always flowering. It’s great just to have a few shrubs and a couple of plants that are going to give a bit of interest. Plant something that’s going to get you outside on a summers day or a nice evening.

If you’re short of time is it possible to create an amazing garden?

If you choose the right things, gardens don’t need to be hugely managed: things like box?, shrubs and grasses require minimum maintenance. It’s about designing the garden to fit your need and doing a bit of research before starting. It’s easy to have a really high maintenance garden but really you can create an absolutely magical space – that you can even let go a bit wild and unkempt that will give you just the same feeling.

People also often make the mistake of thinking they can only get colour from flowers, but some shrubs are so gorgeous and take very little maintenance. Plus they actually give you more interest because they’ll flower for a long time. Specifically, things like dyburnam opulis; which you’ll find in the hedgerows –give an ornamental flower. Cornus or a dogwood are lovely too and also have a lovely ornamental flower. Honeysuckle or even elder – are things you’ll find in hedgerows or in fields. Elderflower is a real tough old guy: it tolerates shade and a bit of sun, plus it gives you flowers and scent AND you can make stuff from it too. So, if you’re short of time, think about planting more shrubs because they need less maintenance. Go for ornamental shrubs and things you can have in pots. Rambling roses – rosa regosa is another hardy plant you’ll often see in fields scrambling over things. That has a nice scent and lovely little flowers but is something that you don’t have to fuss over too much. Shrubs are definitely underused.

You don’t have gardens. Being outdoorsy folk, how do you cope with that?

(Dave) We have lots of plants indoors. We flood the house with them. We’re obsessed! Any way to pretend we do have gardens. I’ve got a little balcony where I have dogwood, a fig tree and some ivy trailing over and some heliboress, plus some ferns in a shady corner. We’ve got a little table and a seat too. It’s amazing that by just having a few plants there, you can make it feel so different. I go and sit outside in the morning to get a little sun. Having that bit of greenery makes all the difference.

Harry: Dave loves his indoor plants so much he showers with them. He waters them in the bath.

Let's nip this in the bud shall we? Thanks guys and happy gardening! 

Sarah Barratt