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Chris Woods Profile for Garden Marlborough

Chris Woods


“Even though most of my work is done in the public arena, I am a private person. If you want to find out who I am, look at the gardens I’ve made.”

So says distinguished garden designer and horticulturist and intrepid explorer/traveller Chris Woods, the international guest speaker at this year’s Rapaura Springs Garden Marlborough. He may be a private person, but that hasn’t stopped Chris being a hugely popular public speaker around the world, so we are lucky to have this opportunity to meet him.

In this illustrated talk he will be showing us some of the gardens he has made and discovered over an illustrious career spanning more than three decades since he first trained as a horticulturist at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.

Chris’s thirst for travel and his eye for the beautiful and innovative have seen him journeying from the Americas and Europe to Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, from Asia to Australia and New Zealand seeking out the very best of today’s modern gardens, many of which feature in his latest book. They include a steep hillside garden in Singapore; a garden defined by shape and light in Marrakech; a haunting tree museum in Switzerland; and a formal garden of native plants in New Zealand.

Along the way he came across fascinating people, plants and stories. “It’s amazing what you can do with a shovel”, says Peter Korn, garden genius in Sweden. Carrie Preston in the Netherlands speaks about her style, “I work in a way that I would identify as female. I don’t want control. I don’t want to dominate the space, I want to dance with it.” And the director of Pha Tad Ke botanical garden in Laos quotes, “What would garden design be without a palette of color, a sense of composition and structure, a playful line between nature and culture?”

Chris will not only tell us why he chose the 50 gardens he has included in his latest book, and tell us about the people and plants that bring these gardens to life and the stories that make them memorable, but he will talk about garden design, unusual plants, the essential eccentricity of a good gardener, the problems with modern landscape architecture, and much, much more.


Chris Woods was born in London and trained as a gardener at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. He worked in three other gardens in the UK – Portmeirion in Wales, Bateman’s in Sussex, and Cliveden in Buckinghamshire – before moving to the USA in 1981. Here he became director and chief garden designer for Chanticleer – a private estate in Wayne, Pennsylvania and sister garden to Great Dixter in Sussex – which he transformed into a world-renowned public garden. Under his guidance it became one of America’s most exuberant, romantic and flamboyant gardens and its glorious 47 acres have been celebrated by gardeners and horticulturists from around the world.

After 20 years at Chanticleer, he became vice president for horticulture at the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden, later director of the VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, Canada, and executive director of the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden. In 2012, he was lured back east and now lives mostly in California.

In 2003, he was awarded the Professional Citation for significant achievements in public horticulture by the American Public Garden Association.

Chris is a highly sought-after public speaker, knowledgeable, funny and entertaining. He’ll be talking on Friday and Sunday, make sure you don’t miss an opportunity to meet him.






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Chris Woods Profile for Garden Marlborough