1969 Dan creates his first gardens for his collection of beloved trolls; a series of roof gardens constructed from bricks and roofing slates planted with sempervivums and alpines.
1970 Dan spends the summer watching the plant and animal life in the pond made by his father in the orchard of their family home, Upyonder. Though small and plastic-lined, its evolution initiates a life-long love of the natural world.
1970 A neighbour, Geraldine Noyes, is a keen gardener and naturalist and sees garden plants and weeds as equals. She brings wildflowers back from her travels to Europe in the boot of her car. She invites Dan to visit her and her garden whenever he wants. He goes to see her daily. They become firm friends until her death in 2008.
1974–75 Dan’s parents acquire Hill Cottage, the overgrown house at the end of their road known to them as Miss Joy’s. After forty or fifty years of neglect the garden overwhelmed Miss Joy but, lurking within the undergrowth, are the remains of a magical garden. Dan finds the ruination, wilderness and sense of discovery compelling and he and his parents set about its restoration.
1975 Dan starts a weekend gardening job for Mrs. Pumphrey at Greatham Mill. The garden is open to the public and is much loved in the area and widely known. Mrs P. is a talented gardener, combining plantsmanship with a painterly planting style. She is generous with her time and support and introduces Dan to specialist plantspeople such as Elizabeth Strangman and Peter Chappell and nurseries such as Hilliers and Notcutts. Dan spends all of his earnings in Mrs P.’s nursery.
1976 Geraldine encourages Dan to compete in the local Liss Flower Show. He quickly graduates from the children’s section with plants and flowers he has grown in the garden at Hill Cottage.
1976 Geraldine and Dan start growing plants propagated from their gardens for an annual Christian Aid plant stand, every year aiming to outdo the next.
1976 Dan starts work on the new borders at Hill Cottage with his father. Dan has the yellow border and his father the white. On the quest for new plants they become keen garden visitors and travel regularly to Sissinghurst and Great Dixter, where he meets Christopher Lloyd for the first time.
1976 Dan and his father start to make annual trips to the Chelsea Flower Show, where Dan first sees Beth Chatto’s stands in the Floral Marquee. These make a significant impression on him and become an annual high point of every show.
1976 He starts to read Vita Sackville-West, Margery Fish, Gertrude Jekyll, Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd and to make the connection between the worlds of plants and words.
1980-82 Whilst studying for his Certificate in Horticulture at RHS Garden Wisley Dan attends a lecture about nearby Painshill Park. The following weekend he jumps the fence and is delighted to find another wild and forgotten garden. He is caught trespassing by the curator Janie Burford who befriends him and supports him in his studies for his graduation thesis. The garden is pre-restoration and feeds his love of wilderness and ruination.
1980-82 Dan's interest in Painshill also leads to his discovery of the 18th century Landscape Movement and the work of Kent, Brown and Repton.
1981 Dan is introduced to Frances Mossman, who Dan’s mother has invited to be a guest tutor at Winchester College of Art. Frances drives Dan from Wisley to see his plantings at Hill Cottage and gives him his first design commission for her garden in Barnes. Frances becomes his design mentor and helps to develop his artistic eye. Dan uses John Brookes’ Room Outside as inspiration for this first commission and starts to learn the language of garden design.
1982 Dan writes to Christopher Lloyd to ask if he can come and speak to him about the naturalisation of meadow and ornamental species in the grass at Great Dixter. Christo gives him a guided tour of the garden and imparts his experience of meadow gardening. Dan reads The Wild Garden and The English Flower Garden by William Robinson and relates strongly to his philosophy of the use of native plants and natural, informal planting.
1983 Whilst studying and working for a year at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Dan falls in with a group of students who make regular excursions to the wild, West Coast gardens of Crarae, Inverewe and Arduaine. Encouraged by Ron McBeath, head of the Rock Garden, four of them win a scholarship to go plant hunting in the mountains of the Picos de Europa, Northern Spain. Seeing garden plants growing in the wild is a revelation and Dan sets out on a decade of travels to study plants in their natural habitats.
1983 While working at Edinburgh Botanic Garden Dan continues to keep detailed plant diaries and sketchbooks.
1986 Dan is accepted as a Diploma student at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and becomes further immersed in learning about plants from far afield. His horizon for travel expands as he reads the writings of the great plant hunters. He travels on a scholarship from Kew to The Valley of Flowers in the Himalaya. On seeing wild communities of plants familiar from garden settings he decides he wants to garden with plants on a grand scale and to attain the natural balance he has seen in the wild. Dan continues to look after Frances Mossman’s Barnes garden whilst studying at Kew.
1986 On graduating from Kew Rosemary Verey presents Dan with his Kew Diploma.
1987 Frances Mossman moves to Home Farm, with the aim of creating a garden with “no boundaries”. Dan is thrilled at the prospect of starting his first large scale project from scratch.
1987 Dan visits Home Farm alone for the first time and writes to Frances and Andrew with his first ideas.
1987 Dan spends a year working at The Jerusalem Botanic Garden, and travels to wild desert places in Israel, which provide further revelations about wild plants and their adaptability to the harshest environments. Dan writes to Frances about the wild plant communities he has seen that have given him inspiration for the plantings at Home Farm. On returning to the UK in 1988, Dan continues to develop the gardens at Home Farm.
1989–91 Dan sets up his one-man design and build business. Through Frances he meets Priscilla and Antonio Carluccio, and they commission him to design a garden in Hampshire. Priscilla is the sister of Terence Conran and the Creative Director of The Conran Shop, where she sets Dan up in the garden department as a garden design consultant. Through Priscilla he meets the journalist, Rosie Atkins, who goes on to become the first editor of Gardens Illustrated. Rosie is responsible for making the connections that secure Dan his first Chelsea Flower Show garden the following year.
Dan is commissioned to design London gardens for Liz Tilberis, editor of British Vogue, Liz Shirley, owner of the influential Shaker Shop, and fashion designer, Jasper Conran.
1992 Dan makes the first of five Chelsea Flower Show gardens for which he wins a silver gilt medal. Increasing media exposure sees Dan approached by Gay Search to appear in her BBC TV garden makeover series Front Gardens and More Front Gardens.
1994 Dan starts writing a garden column for The Sunday Times. He puts time aside from designing to pursue this connection between words and plants.
1995 Dan co-presents the TV series Garden Doctors on Channel 4, which sees him redesigning a variety of gardens for real clients. The series highlights the importance of the client/designer relationship and the appropriateness of design proposals to the site. A second series follows in 1996.
1997 Dan conceives and presents Dan Pearson: Routes Around the World on Channel 4. This six part series takes him to Japan and America to look at landscape design in both an old and a new culture. It is a remarkable education and his experience of Japan has a particular and enduring resonance.
1997 Terence Conran asks Dan to co-write The Essential Garden Book with him. The Garden Media Guild award it Most Inspirational Garden Book of the Year in 1998. Conran also invites Dan to curate The Conran Foundation Collection show at The Design Museum, for which his partner, Huw Morgan, makes a short film of the gardens at Home Farm. The film inspires Dan and Frances to look at making a thoughtful film about the garden that can be aired on TV.
2000 Dan co-produces and presents the BBC2 TV series The Garden: A Year at Home Farm. The programme is aired in 2001 and provides a counterpoint to the instant fix make-over format by showing a garden filmed over the course of a year. He writes a book of the same title to accompany the series. Home Farm is unexpectedly sold the same year.
In the third annual UBC Continuing Studies Garden Design Lecture Dan Pearson discusses his professional career and looks at a range of projects both completed and live. Previous speakers were Luciano Giubbilei and andrea Cochrane.
A discussion on the process of collaboration between architect and landscape designer. The two very different projects under discussion show how architecture can be fused with planting design, but also how the juxtaposition between planting design and building can be used to great effect.
What do an architect, a fashion designer and a garden designer have in common? Find out at this intriguing evening event as Dan, Paul and Stephanie explore and discover connections and divergences between their practices.
The first ever Festival of writing about gardens will take place in the Barn Garden created by Tom and Sue Stuart-Smith at Serge Hill in Hertfordshire. Speakers include Cleve West, Tania Compton, Katherine Swift Lisa Jardine and Sarah Raven. Dan speaks on Sunday 30 June.
This series of 15 minute polemical talks has been scheduled to accompany Richard Rogers RA: Inside Out an exhbition at the Royal Academy, London which examines the far reaching effects that Rogers’ active interest in the politics of social justice have had on architecture and public policy for over half a century.