Five minutes with… Roderick Griffin FSGD
Landscape and garden designer Roderick Griffin on client confidence, self-attaching climbers and the rise of the SGD. Written by Jackie Bennett.
What do you wish you’d known when you started out?
That you need to be knowledgeable in a wide range of disciplines.
Do you have a mentor or idol?
I still refer back to my early admiration for Edwin Lutyens – such great strength in proportions and detailing. Also Lanning Roper, for whom I worked for a while, had a great sense of scale.
What has surprised you most?
The massive expansion of this profession, which is great. When I started there was only one, possibly two garden design courses. It was a very unique profession to be in 40 years ago. Even during the early years of the SGD, design was very traditional and a bit stuck in a rut. But now, in the last 20 years, things have really changed and the SGD has cause for commendation. The creativity at RHS Chelsea for example is quite outstanding.
What skill do you wish you had learned?
I should say computer aided design, but to be honest that would be a lie simply because I am not really interested and like doing hand drawings. Thank goodness for the scanner or I might be out of work!
What is your favourite material?
I like combinations of materials, so a favourite is a bit difficult. I like bricks, tiles, boulders, stone setts and gravel, and I’m also quite keen on lead detailing.
What new initiatives are you involved with?
I have been looking into how we could make greater use of self-attaching climbers. Notably how best to control and manage them to give people more confidence to use them as they have a poor reputation for being difficult to control. They have advantages for house insulation and all the merits of green walling systems without the cost. This is part of a PhD student’s work at Reading University with the RHS and Sutton Griffin architects.
What do you feel are the benefits of being an SGD member?
Having been part of the society for 32 years, I would say just being part of a professional body is definitely helpful. It gives clients confidence to employ you should you not have been recommended by a previous client. Sharing interests and reading the magazine keeps you up to date.
Which part of the design process do you like best?
Two parts actually: that brief period when you have just completed a design that you feel really works (before anyone else comments on it!). And having just set out the plants at the very end of the job, and perhaps the return visit a year later when the plants have settled in.
And which part do you like least?
Fee proposals and invoices.
An issue you’d like to rant about?
I find it hugely annoying when a plant that I had spent some time selecting for the location has been substituted with an inappropriate alternative that I know will grow twice the size, etc. Please, clients, refer back to the designer before agreeing an alternative.
Roderick Griffin studied Landscape and Horticultural Technology at Askham Bryan, York, and now runs his own practice near Newbury.