Gardens

Jodi Dickinson reveals his must-know spring gardening secrets and favorite plants

Head gardener at the Barbara Hepworth garden museum in St Ives Jodi Dickinson shares his gardening secrets with H&G

Jodi Dickinson's gardening secrets
Jodi Dickinson in the greenhouse at the Barbara Hepworth Museum
(Image credit: Kirstin Prisk Photography Ltd)

Barbara Hepworth is one of the most important artists of the 20th century, the original pioneering, strong female voice in modern British art. 

Head gardener Jodi Dickinson works at the Tate Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St Ives, where he is the guardian of the artist’s vision. ‘She created bold and beautiful works often inspired by the natural world,’ explains Jodi.

Jodi trained with the Royal Horticultural Society and is currently in the second year of his RHS Master of Horticulture, which is its top award. Jodi has lived in Cornwall most of his life. ‘I am currently based near St Agnes,’ he says. ’I love the mix of woodland, moors and rugged coast. The temperate climate allows a great variety of plants to grow here.’

Ahead of art galleries and museums opening in May, we chatted with Jodi about his background and gardening secrets...

Jodi Dickinson's gardening secrets

Two Forms (Divided Circle) by Barbara Hepworth

(Image credit: Kirstin Prisk Photography Ltd)

Jodi’s gardening ethos is creativity, wellbeing and diversity. ‘Throughout my gardening career I have found myself working for artists and creatives, so I jumped at the chance to work at the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden,’ he explains. ‘In my late 20s I started my own company Juniper Gardens, which now looks after gardens throughout Cornwall. The best part of my job is working amongst nature in the tranquil sanctuary of the sculpture garden.’

The pleasure of these gardens is that they remain as Hepworth laid them out, with bronze sculptures exactly where she placed them. So how does Jodi team the planting with these iconic pieces? ‘I get my design inspiration from my love of Japanese gardens,’ says Jodi. ’They have a careful consideration of space and understated aesthetics.’

Top gardening secrets

Jodi Dickinson's gardening secrets

‘Spring’ inspired by Hepworth's long-standing concerns with the cycles of nature and the promise of rebirth

(Image credit: Kirstin Prisk Photography Ltd)

1. Start with the plants you love

‘When tackling a garden, start with plants you love but that are also suited to the habitat. If you have a sunny garden, for instance, perhaps choose Mediterranean species that will be drought tolerant and adapt to our changing climate. Then add plants that originate from the same region and/or environment. This way an intrinsic harmony should develop. It’s important to be “loyal to the soil”.’ 

2. Plant ornamental grasses

Like any good gardener, his favorite plants change from week to week ‘but I love grasses and their seed heads, for movement and the way they capture light.’

Jodi Dickinson's gardening secrets

Four-Square (Walk Through) in the garden at the Barbara Hepworth Museum

(Image credit: Kirstin Prisk Photography Ltd)

3. ...then use color to harmonise

'In the Hepworth Garden, Canary Island geraniums and cinerarias flower from April into May, filling the garden with blues, purples, magentas and pinks,' says Jodi.

Interview by Sarah Wilson