Sheila Stedman Garden Designs

  • 4 June 2021 4:53 pm
  • Middlesex, England


Sheila Stedman
Garden Designs

Why not let me help you to create your own beautiful garden?

Over the past 20 years I have designed and planted gardens from small urban spaces to large country gardens, some of these are shown in my garden gallery (which you can view by clicking here or on any of the images below). I live near Hampton Court and my projects have ranged from London to Surrey, Berkshire, Hampshire, Middlesex & Hertfordshire.

My approach is initially to understand thoroughly the needs and hopes of the client. Sometimes the clients know clearly what they want but often they just have an image that can be expressed through pictures from magazines and books.

A key piece of information at this stage is the budget for the project and I can give some idea what a particular scheme might cost. Getting this clear from the outset means my design will be a practical solution and I can create a design with empathy and style.

Contrary to the views often expressed by Monty Don, garden designers do have important role. Many people enjoy choosing flowers and plants and taking them home to their gardens. These will give a few weeks of pleasure but without a structure and style this will be short-lived. Design is an essential element of any harmonious system and for gardens to realise their full potential harmony is the essence.

I came to garden design via my love of plants gained from time spent in the garden with my father. After working at Clifton Nurseries increasing my plant knowledge I went to the English Gardening School at Chelsea Physic Garden to study garden design. I still love plants passionately but as my own garden is fully occupied this creative passion has to find an outlet in the plants for my clients’ gardens.

Design Process




40 Clarence Road
TW11 0BW
020 8977 6635

Never a dull moment – Sainsbury’s Magazine September 2002


Sheila Stedman’s garden has it all – informality and structure, colour and scent, wildlife and art. And what’s more, says Gay Search, it looks good all year round.

Looking back, it seems almost inevitable that that Sheila Stedman would become a garden designer. As a child, she was ‘dragged – but not unwillingly – round Wisley all the time’ by her father, who was a very keen gardener, and she always had her own small patch of garden where she grew radishes and sunflowers. Later, she worked as PA to an architect, before giving up work when her children were born.

‘When the children were small, I used to do a bit of designing, doing sketches for people. I was no artist, but I did know my plants.’ When she turned 40, she decided to put it on a more professional footing, so she enrolled for a year’s course at the English Gardening School at the Chelsea Physic Garden. ‘It was helpful. I learnt how to draw properly, and how to design, how to relate the garden to the house and its surroundings, how to get the proportions right – making a terrace one-third the height of the house, for example.’ Since then, apart from 5 years when she was ill with ME, she hasn’t looked back.
Here own garden, not far from Hampton Court, is about 30m (100ft) long and starts off 12m (40ft) wide beside the house, tapering towards the bottom. When she moved there 23 years ago, the house and garden had been neglected for some time, so the former took priority.

When she did get round to the garden, her sons were still young, so it was mainly lawn with a vegetable patch at the bottom. As they grew, she started to introduce planting – mainly shrubs that could withstand footballs – and 14 years ago, when water no longer presented any danger, she designed a terrace with a pool, wrapped around the extension. Facing south, it’s a real sun trap, with ample room to seat 12 people. She loves scent, so fragrant plants feature prominently – Trachelospermum jasminoides on the wall, Philadelphus, pots of regale lilies and Acidanthera (sometimes called Gladiolus) ‘Mulieliae’ – a bulb from Africa with deliciously scented flowers in late summer and early autumn.

The pond, set in York paving, is L-shaped and the formality of its design is in pleasing contract to the informality of the planting – water lilies and scented water hawthorn; and it is a magnet for wildlife. There is a striking metal heron sculpture by the pond. Does it keep the real ones at bay? Sheila laughs, ‘No! They come and sit right next to it!’

This area has undergone changes this year. The arbour has been rebuilt and painted black by her partner, Jeremy Smithers, who does much of the physical work in the garden. ‘I’m wondering whether, with the deep red rose ‘Guinee’ it will be too dark, but then there is the Clematis viticella ‘Huldine’ with silvery flowers with pale mauve backs later in the summer, which will lighten it.

Stedman felt that the myrtle next to the arbour had come to dominate the area too much, but rather than remove it, she cloud-pruned it. This Japanese technique involves removing the bushy lower growth to reveal the main stems, and just leaving clouds of growth at the end of each one. It opens up the area, and along with the black arbour and a superb red-leafed Japanese maple in a large pot, gives it a distinctly oriental feel.

Ten years ago, she reshaped the lawn in a broad oblong that narrows to a sweeping curve that then disappears behind a bed, giving the impression that the garden goes on and on. In fact, there is just a small seating area, and concealed behind a large dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’) and a bank of hydrangeas, are the compost heaps.

This particular Cornus is an ideal shrub for a small garden because it has elegant green and white leaves in summer and bright crimson bark in winter on young wood, so the usual treatment is to cut it back almost to the ground every spring. Stedman doesn’t do that. ‘I cut it back to about 6ft because I need height there and in the winter the red stems high up light up the end of the garden.’

Although she tends to think of her front garden as a winter and early spring garden, with the back garden at its best in summer and autumn, winter interest is important there, too. There are structural evergreens such as phormiums and the large, leathery leafed Viburnum rhytidophyllum. And Stedman’s choice of roses is dictated as much by their hips as their flowers. Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’ has bright red flowers in early summer and plentiful vase-shaped hips in winter. Roses have to be extra special to earn a place in her garden. The blush white R. ‘Margaret Merrill’ is there on account of its delicious scent, while she loves R. ‘Mrs Oakley Fisher’ as much for its plum-coloured stems as its rich bronze-yellow flowers. ‘When Christopher Lloyd ripped out the rose garden at Great Dixter this was the one rose he kept!’


40 Clarence Road Teddington Middlesex,TW110BW,Middlesex,England