Gardens Illustrated Festival 2017: 5 minutes with Troy Scott Smith

Troy Scott Smith is head gardener at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, which is famous for its stunning display of roses. You can catch Troy speaking at the Gardens Illustrated Festival 2017, 25-26 March. 


On his very first visit, Troy Scott Smith found himself captivated by the romantic beauty of Sissinghurst Castle in Kent. He worked as a gardener at Sissinghurst for five years in the early 1990s and came to love the garden even more but when he returned as head gardener in 2013, Troy realised something was missing from the garden; where were the roses planted by celebrated writer and gardener, Vita Sackville-West?

Ahead of his talk, 'Vita's roses at Sissinghurst' at next year's Gardens Illustrated Festival, we caught up with Troy to find out more about his love of Sissinghurst and gardening. 




Q: What is it about gardens and plants that you love?
A: Gardens as a work of art are constantly changing. Unlike a painting on a wall that is finished, gardens change and we, as gardeners or garden visitors are part of the composition.

Q: Who or what inspires your approach to gardening?
A: I love the natural world. The intricate pattern and detail of nature never fails to amaze. I bring an inquisitive and instinctive approach to my gardening.

Q: Is there a style of planting you particularly love? Name a garden or place where this style can be seen.
A: I love Sissinghurst. As Vita Sackville-West put it, “There should be the strictest formality of design, with the maximum informality in planting”. For me, a garden that marries these two qualities successfully, is the best.

Q: What one plant could you not be without in your garden?
A: I love bulbs in all their types – the generosity they give for very little effort is very welcome flowering as they do after the barren days of winter.

Q: Why should more people be encouraged to take up gardening?
A: I’ve worked for 30 years in gardening and have never really felt I’ve worked a single day.

Q: Name an essential task we should be doing in our gardens in March?
A: Make a commitment to really look at your garden through the year, analyse it and be honest about what works well and what doesn’t, making notes and taking pictures with action points so that come the autumn/winter you can make the improvements for the following year.

Q: What are you most looking forward to at the Gardens Illustrated Festival?
A: It is such a great thing to share our love of gardening and plants with others. The best thing is that everybody in the gardening community seems to be at the festival.

Q: Which talk would you most like to go to yourself?
A:  I enjoy listening to anyone who shares their love and passion for plants and gardens. At the previous festival, I listened in on four lectures, all brilliant; this year the choice is just as tempting.

Q: What can we expect from your own talk?
A: No other plant evokes a sense of the English garden more than the rose. Vita’s collection of old fashioned roses at Sissinghurst is a horticultural must see; it’s beautiful, romantic, immersive and emotional. In my talk I will tease out these qualities and take you on a journey through Vita’s roses at Sissinghurst (in addition to sharing practical tips and insight into how to look after and prune your roses).

Aside from a year as curator with the RHS, Troy has worked exclusively at National Trust gardens, including Bodnant Garden and Sissinghurst Castle, where he has been head gardener since 2013. 

Troy Scott Smith will be speaking at the Gardens Illustrated Festival 2017 which takes place 25-26 March at Westonbirt School in the Cotswolds. To find out more about the festival and to book tickets to Troy's talk, 'Vita's roses at Sissinghurst' go to





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