Colour Conversation with Clare Foster, Garden Editor
With Chelsea Flower Show just around the corner – and gardens everywhere exploding into a riot of Spring colour – what better time for a Colour Conversation with Clare Foster, Garden Editor of House & Garden magazine and owner of the website for stylish gardeners, Bud to Seed. Passionate about colour, from lime greens and purples to vibrant tangerines, Clare’s exuberant planting colour combinations create a feast for the senses. Prepare for an inspiring read…
What inspired you to pursue a career as a garden writer and editor? Have you always had a passion for plants and nature?
I was lucky. I was working in book publishing for Thames & Hudson and happened to be doing the publicity for a garden book, Derek Jarman’s Garden, with beautiful photographs by Howard Sooley. I remember sending proofs off to Gardens Illustrated magazine and a few years later I applied for a job there as a Sub Editor. I had neither magazine nor gardening experience, but I got the job and never looked back! While I was at Gardens Illustrated the editor nudged me into getting an allotment and as soon as I started growing things I was hooked.
You have written about creating a cottage garden from scratch in the pages of House & Garden. What would you say you are most pleased with?
I love creating pictures with plants. I’ve always loved art, and was diverted away from doing Art A-level by my parents who thought I should be doing something more academic. I love plants but more important to me is the effect I create when I plant things together, and the lovely thing about gardening is that the picture can be constantly changing.
Tell us about your favourite colour and planting combinations…
Colour is so important in my garden. I planned the garden with a slightly mad, very colourful front garden and a back garden with more muted colours. But I have discovered that I love bright colour more than I thought I did, and gradually shots of stronger colour are being injected into the borders in the back garden. I prefer a wild look over manicured, so the colour tends to be in dots and dashes rather than huge drifts. I love the lime green and purples of early spring, with Euphorbias and Lunaria ‘Corfu Blue’ and dashes of orange ‘Ballerina’ tulips thrown in. I have surprised myself by being partial to the colour orange – both in the garden and in the clothes that I wear. In the garden Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ is a stalwart, as well as Helenium ‘Sahins Early’ for later in the year.
What are the most memorably colourful gardens you have ever visited?
One of the most amazingly colourful gardens is the Hortus Bulborum in Holland, which has hundreds of varieties of spring bulbs from tulips and daffodils to hyacinths. They are grown in rows, so the colour effect is off the scale – a rainbow of primary and pastel colours that shine in the sun. The effect is almost kitsch! The other amazingly colourful garden is Great Dixter in Sussex, which is hugely experimental in the way it is gardened. They plant different tulip or annual combinations every year so you can visit repeatedly and see different colourful planting schemes.
Do you have a favourite season in the garden?
Definitely – it’s this time of year, when spring is in full flow, and the gardens and landscapes are that intense and beautiful green that you don’t get at any other time of year. In my garden the plants make lovely mounds and hummocks, and you can practically watch things grow. It’s so full of hope and promise.
You have a really lovely website called Bud to Seed, an online shop full of stylish garden products and handy tips for gardeners. What are your favourite products?
My shop is full of the things that I use in my own garden and home, so I love everything! But my current favourite is my new Palladian Auricula Theatre – a wall-hung plant theatre made from cedar wood that is designed to showcase auriculas and other small pot plants. They are made by a pair of boatbuilders in Dorset, so as you can imagine they are incredibly well-made.
You’ve written five garden books on a variety of topics, with Winter Gardens being your most recent. What is it about a Winter garden that you find so magical?
Conversely, I love the garden in winter because of the lack of colour. Without the distraction of colour your eye is drawn to the shapes and the structure of the garden, and you learn to focus on different things. Then once you’ve had the downtime, your eye is rested, and you can truly appreciate the amazing intensity of a British spring.
Which colours form the basis of your wardrobe? Have you ever had your colours analysed?
I wear grey-blues and heathers a lot but I also like a slightly muted orange, rust or ochre. I love certain greens too – lichen green or olive green are favourites.
And finally, if you had to choose your favourite colour…
This is so difficult! I think I’d have to say green in all its millions of shades, as it’s the colour of life, the colour of spring.
PICK OF THE PALETTE
We love these natural Autumn shades with rich, vibrant accents to reflect Clare’s down to earth personality and lifestyle.
Flint Melissa Maxi Dress | Burnt Orange Everyday Cotton Tee | Mustard Yellow Cashmere Gauze Stole | Lime Sara V Neck 3/4 Sleeve | Moss Hetta Pima Scoop | Dusty Teal Cotton Weekend Skirt | Viking Blue Supersoft Sweatshirt | Indian Teal Studio Sweatshirt | Heliotrope Lace Camisole
Ceramic Chimney Vase available from Clare's website