WES SHAW Design & Horticulture


Design & Horticulture


Horniman Museum’s Wes Shaw
Simon Ecob

By Wes Shaw

Portrait Andrew Montgomery

As head of horticulture at the Horniman Museum, Wes works closely with its curators to make connections between objects in the museum and what visitors see in the garden.

Earliest gardening memory As a child, getting dragged along to garden centres every weekend by my mum and hating it. Now I love it.

Who has inspired your career? It would be my mum. After I got my HNC she was the one who persuaded me to apply for a job at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. I started as a botanical horticulturist and went on to become keeper of the Palm House.

Favourite garden The last place that really blew me away was Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. Amazing conservatories, landscaping and planting taking horticulture to a new level. While I was there I saw gardeners abseiling down the side of green walls and volunteers using tweezers to pick over the beds.

Most valuable training I did a stint years ago working for a landscaper who was a bit of a cowboy, but I found it really useful in seeing the results of taking shortcuts and how NOT to do things.

Favourite planting style The New Perennial Movement, although not so new anymore; I love the combination of perennials and grasses to create naturalistic plantings that connects to nature. I recently worked with James Hitchmough to create the Grasslands Garden here at the Horniman, designed to complement the opening of the Museum’s new Anthropology Gallery in 2018. We look at indigenous peoples’ relationship to their landscape and help visitors learn more about the endangered grassland habitats.

Biggest challenge facing gardeners today The biggest challenge for gardeners or managers of public parks and gardens is the cuts in funding. Green spaces are so important to society, and keeping them looking good and fit for purpose is hard without proper funding.

Something every gardener can do to be more sustainable in their gardening Plant more trees; choose plants that are more drought tolerant and everyone should be composting.

What principles have guided your attitude to gardening? Gardens should constantly change and evolve, I never see the point of keeping something looking the same as it did at some point in the past. What’s the next big project task you’ll be tackling in the garden We are planning a Winter Garden for an area of the Horniman Gardens that needs a bit of a refresh.

Original article on the Gardens Illustrated website

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