In pictures: Exploring Derek Jarman's garden

Prospect Cottage
Prospect Cottage

The garden Derek Jarman created at Prospect Cottage is internationally renowned. With our campaign to save it underway, leading gardeners Jonny Bruce, Dan Pearson and Howard Sooley offer insight into its unique beauty and significance.

‘I think there are few gardens in the UK, or in the world, that are more iconic than this one,’ says gardener Jonny Bruce, who has been looking after the garden at Prospect Cottage for the last year.

‘Even though it was created in such a short space of time, just eight years between 1986 to 1994, Derek managed to reinvent how we think about gardens; the way he used plants, brought politics, all different aspects, to the garden… It’s a unique and important place. For me personally, there isn’t a garden like it.’

Museum - Prospect Cottage, garden sculpture
Prospect Cottage

‘The garden is somewhere that, you would think, would be the last place you could garden,’ says landscape designer Dan Pearson.

‘What Derek did there was carve a niche in that place, and find how to garden there. So it’s a very direct response to that environment with its extreme exposure and very little water and hardly any soil, just shingle.

‘It’s somewhere where there has been this very beautiful, intimate interaction with the place, through the garden. And what the garden does is it tunes you into the place in a much more intensive way than simply walking on the beach nearby.’

Prospect Cottage, garden boat
Prospect Cottage
Prospect Cottage, exterior
Prospect Cottage

‘I think Prospect Cottage was somewhere that really captured something of the zeitgeist when it happened,’ Pearson adds. ‘It was just one manifestation of Derek’s creativity, but what he did was he nailed this very particular sense of place; and it caught people’s imagination, it was something incredibly fresh and visceral at the time.

‘And it continues to be this place that inspires, because it is a completely authentic response to where that place is.’

Prospect Cottage, garden sculpture
Prospect Cottage

‘It’s a garden that’s without convention,’ says Howard Sooley, who helped Jarman to plant the garden at Prospect Cottage.

‘It doesn’t use the normal conventions of gardening. So it’s one of the few gardens in England I really enjoy. It’s not got the same language, or subconscious language, that a lot of English gardens have.

‘It’s about one person responding to a very unique landscape in their very unique way, and within that, for me, there’s something incredibly liberating that everybody can take [something] from – about how you interact with the landscape generously and caringly.’

‘I think the garden and the cottage have this amazing potential to inspire,’ says Pearson, ‘and when you go there you can’t help but feel something more. And I know from people who’ve been working in the garden – for instance, young gardeners who go there – it’s somewhere that gets them thinking, and it’s continued to do that since Derek made it and it will continue to do it.

‘It’s a unique piece of our history, and a very interesting crossing point between a garden and a piece of art. And the two are very inextricably linked here.’

Find out more about the campaign to #SaveProspectCottage: to protect Derek Jarman’s legacy, and secure the future of the cottage and garden as a centre of creative activity – for everyone.


All photos © Howard Sooley

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