Le Jardin Contemporain // The Contemporary Garden - Barry Watton Garden Designs

I discovered a passion for gardening following the purchase of my first home. Studying for three years at the University of Bristol’s Botanic Gardens. I qualified in the “Principles and Practices of Horticulture” and “Garden Planning, Construction and Planting Design” with the Royal Horticultural Society. Leaving behind a successful career in law I switched to a career in horticulture.

Practical experience, experimentation and further learning over the years have allowed me to develop my own preferred style of planting and design.

I have worked in private gardens of all sizes and types, including those designed by RHS gold medal winners Butter Wakefield and Darren Hawkes. I have helped to create a several hundred tree-strong private woodland on the outskirts of Wellow, near Bath, and worked on numerous planting rejuvenation projects for private individuals. Former clients include Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack.

I have undertaken practical training in the building and repairing of dry stone walls with the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain.

I took part in an episode of the BBC’s ‘Garden Rescue’ (Series 3, episode 10 televised on 8th June 2018).

I left Bristol in the UK in early 2018 to start a new life in France with my wife and two children, and have been filmed by Channel 4’s ‘A New Life In The Sun’ following our journey (televised between 12th and 14th February 2020).

I am sharing the development of my own gardens via my instagram page here.


My design and planting philosophy is based around the following core principles:

  • Minimal/no use of synthetic herbicides or pesticides wherever practicable.
  • Water harvesting and preservation in an increasingly hot climate is essential.
  • Use of durable, natural, locally sourced, materials, recycled materials, or materials obtained from a sustainable source wherever possible.
  • I believe strongly in the use of mulches as a means of improving soil structure, water retention, weed prevention and benefiting soil organisms, all of which in turn lead, in my opinion, to healthier, more resilient and better performing plants.
  • The need for regular cultivation of soil should be avoided, as far as practicable, to protect delicate soil ecosystems and releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere unnecessarily. I advocate a ‘no dig’ approach to vegetable gardens.
  • I use a range of trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs that work with Mediterranean xeric, meadow/prairie and steppe styling and that are, once established, well adapted to periods of dry weather.
  • Use of ‘no fuss’ attractive plants that, once established, require little in the way of cossetting, support, excessive irrigation, have no special fertilising requirements, or need other constant special attention from the gardener.
  • I believe plants should be allowed to grow to their natural size and in their natural form, and not forced to occupy a space for which they are not suited. I will therefore only select the right plant for the right place.
  • I choose plants that offer as long a season of interest as is possible.
  • I prefer contemporary, geometrical structural form juxtaposed by the softness of naturalistic planting.