We are delighted to share our line up of speakers for our third Beth Chatto Symposium- Beneath the Surface

More speakers to be announced soon

Alex Clarke
doctoral researcher

Alex Clarke is a doctoral researcher in the School of Landscape Architecture at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. His PhD is focused on species selection for robust public planting. More specifically, the selection of native herbaceous species for rain gardens in Norway. His research interrogates the criteria used when making selection choices and aims to develop a scientific framework for bringing new native material into nursery production. Alex is working with developers of Norway’s Species Database to utilise regional species lists from coastal habitats. In his work he is also working with plant life history and leaf traits.

Alex became interested in plant traits and ecological design during his studies at the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield. Previously in his career, Alex has worked with SLA Landscape Architects in their Oslo studio, with ABG Green Roofs, and with Pictorial Meadows in Sheffield. Alex is now working with others to develop the implementation of high-quality green infrastructure in Norway.

Alexander Antoniou
Gardener and Plant Grower

Alex embarked on a career in horticulture driven by a desire to reconnect with nature for healing purposes, unexpectedly finding a promising path in sensory gardening.

Though relatively new to the field, Alex has long been passionate about the natural world. From the age of three, he was fascinated by stag beetles, amphibians, and the majestic Cedar of Lebanon.

He encourages his clients to embrace ecologically sound, naturalistic planting styles that are wildlife-friendly and supportive of pollinators.

When not gardening, Alex dedicates his time to cultivating a diverse range of plants at Leahurst Nurseries, an eclectic boutique nursery in North London, where he works under the expert guidance of Lyndon Osborn.

A firm believer in the principle of "right plant, right place", Alex studies plants in real-time, using his own garden as an experimental space.

Outside of work, Alex dedicates his time documenting his horticultural journey through photography, visiting gardens and wild spaces, capturing the essence of plants and their habitats.

Alex is committed to diversifying the horticultural world and making it more accessible to people of all backgrounds and ages.

Alys Fowler
gardener, presenter and journalist

Alys Fowler is a gardener, presenter and an award-winning journalist who has written for the weekend Guardian about gardening and the environment. She has written eleven books, including Hidden Nature, which was shortlisted for the Wainwright prize in 2018, and her first work of fiction, The Woman Who Buried Herself, published in 2021 by Hazel Press. Her writing has also been anthologised in the new nature writing anthology, Gifts of Gravity and Light, also published in 2021.  Her broadcast work has spanned everything from presenting on television on the BBC’s Gardeners World, The Edible Garden, The Great British Garden and Our Food, she has contributed to numerous radio programmes and online platforms. 

She trained in horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and the New York Botanical Gardens and it is through her love of plants and ecology that she came to writing.

She has taught creative nonfiction at Birmingham City University. She has lectured at Tate Britain and the Royal Academy and has held workshops on everything from writing about water, to how to identify plants. She is currently writing a book about bogs. 

Arit Anderson
garden and landscaper designer, writer, podcaster and TV presenter

Arit spent 25 years working in the dynamic industries of retail fashion and creative events, she balanced this fast-paced career with personal interests in well-being, working as a part-time therapist in London and teaching holistic therapies.

She studied garden design at Capel Manor College and whilst there had the taste of success at RHS Chelsea 2013 winning the Fresh Talent category for a student design collaboration with two other students. Arit went on to design and deliver her own show garden and won a Gold Medal at RHS Hampton Court in 2016 in the conceptual category. The garden was televised and its message on climate change and the environment is now at the heart of Arit’s work.

In her designs for both private and commercial clients her ethos includes simplicity and environmental sensitivity. This was more recently demonstrated in the 2021 Chelsea Show Garden she was commissioned to do for the Royal Horticultural Society.

Arit is a Chartered Member of the Landscape Institute, Trustee for the National Garden Scheme, RHS Ambassador for the Environment and Community, and co-founder of the Sustainable Landscape Foundation.

Working as presenter for Gardeners World and writing for national publications has enabled Arit to publicise issues about the future of gardening in an ever-changing climate and promote solutions to the wider public.  Her latest book, The Essential Tree Selection Guide, is co-authored with researcher & scientific curator at Gothenburg Botanical Garden, Dr Henrik Sjöman.


Ashley Edwards
Head Gardener at Horatio’s Garden

Since graduating from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 2014, Ashley's work has taken him across the world. He’s currently Head Gardener at Horatio’s Garden London & South East, a national charity that creates gardens at NHS Spinal Injury Centres. Ashley has become a staunch advocate for the therapeutic benefits of gardening, firmly believing that it holds the key to enhancing overall well-being. 

At the heart of Ashley's philosophy is the belief that gardening transcends age, ability, and background. Through his work, Ashley aims to break down barriers and inspire individuals to connect with nature, fostering a sense of fulfilment and tranquility. By weaving together horticulture and therapy, Ashley strives to create an inclusive space where everyone feels empowered to explore the world of gardening, realising its potential as a tool for positive mental health.

Benny Hawksbee
gardener and wildlife advocate

Benny is a former marine biologist who has been working as a gardener and wildlife advocate for the last nine years.

He is head gardener for a very special community garden called Eden Nature Garden in the heart of Clapham where he works with the local community to drive interest in plants and wildlife.

He also works with Fiona Crummay and John Little at their experimental Hilldrop garden.

Other days of the week are filled caring for a wide range of London gardens doing maintenance and development.

He is particularly focused on thoughtful, city gardening with a focus on wild insects and the combination of weeds and more conventional garden plants.

Dr Chris Gibson
Wildlife Advocate for Beth Chatto Gardens

Chris Gibson is an all-round naturalist and passionate advocate for wildlife who spent more than 30 years in statutory nature conservation in Britain, mainly dealing with the delivery of sustainability into land use and development. This followed a PhD study of the ecology and biology of a plant now seen as key to the maintenance of many grasslands, Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor.

Since taking early retirement in 2016, Chris has become closely associated with the Beth Chatto Gardens, finally joining the team some four years ago. 

He is a Trustee and Fellow of the British Naturalists’ Association, an organization that awarded him the David Bellamy Award for a naturalist of distinction in 2009. With a passion for nature, he spends most of his time trying to help others grow into the same passions, through guided walks and tours, photography, blogging and writing books: his latest, British and Irish Wild Flowers and Plants, was published in June this year.

Darryl Moore
garden and landscape designer and writer

Darryl is an award-winning garden and landscape designer and writer. He is author of Gardening in a Changing World: Plants People and the Climate Crisis. He is Director and co-founder of the innovative urban landscape organisation Cityscapes, realising creative approaches to greening city spaces through novel design ideas that ensure ecological, economic and social sustainability.

He is a consultant at Beth Chatto’s Plants & Gardens, co-curator of thehub.earth and a tutor at KLC School of Design. He sits on the Society of Garden Designers Council, and is a fellow of the RSA. His most recent award was for the St Mungo’s Putting Down Roots Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022, showcasing sustainability and ecology in public places.

Gardening in a Changing World: Plants, People and the Climate Crisis explores recent developments in planting design, horticulture, ecology and plant science. It addresses our relationship with plants and gardens, looking at the ways we can begin to appreciate and work together with plants in facing the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss

Eddie Bailey
chartered geologist

Eddie Bailey is a chartered geologist with thirty-six years experience exploring for construction aggregates, industrial and horticultural sands and soils, natural dimensional stone and decorative aggregates. His work has taken him to several hundred farmlands and quarries across the UK and overseas covering every conceivable substrate and geomaterial.

As an economic earth scientist Eddie was a founder member of the Pan-European Reserves and Resources Reporting Committee, and Chair from 2012-2018 during which time he represented the European Economic Area on the international stage ensuring standards and competency in mineral resource assessment and reporting for operators, investors and governments.

Eddie is an organic allotment-holder of thirty years, working with the soil food web approach to gardening and growing since 2012. In 2022 Eddie established RhizoPhyllia as an in-person, hands-on, educational offering based in the rural market town of Royal Wootton Bassett in North Wiltshire. RhizoPhyllia provides a thorough, in-depth understanding of the essential and vital role of soil microorganisms in the growth and health of plants and is aimed at growers of every kind and scale.

Eddie has presented geology and soil food web workshops, demonstrations and talks at clubs and organisations countrywide including events at River Cottage and RHS Tatton. In July 2023, at RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival, he was presented with the Assessor’s Award for Retail Innovation.

RhizoPhyllia is a very proud partner of Beth Chatto's Plants and Gardens and will be delivering workshops for the Education Trust throughout 2024.

Errol Fernandes
Head of Horticulture at the Horniman Museum and Gardens

Errol Fernandes is the Head of Horticulture at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in South London where he manages 16 acres of diverse, stunning gardens. The Horniman Museum is the only museum in the country with a social anthropology, natural history and gardens collection. This unique position allows them to traverse and explore the areas where we overlap and intertwine with nature and the gardens are essential in helping to communicate this narrative.

Having had a love of nature and a passion for gardening from a very young age, Errol seemingly diverted away from the horticultural path to study fine art and went on to develop a career as a painter and curator, exhibiting internationally before studying for a Masters in Art Psychotherapy. Errol then went on to practice as an art psychotherapist within adult psychiatry and also worked with children and adolescents and slowly began to include elements of gardening therapy in his work. Errol later went on to gain horticultural and botanical training.

Errol's approach to landscape management, horticulture and design is creative, thoughtful and sensitive. Errol is particularly interested in ecological and sustainable horticulture and the intersection between people and nature. He develops planting schemes that sit comfortably alongside nature, have a low impact on the environment both in terms of implementation and maintenance but he also strives to push the boundaries of contemporary horticulture and design practice.

Working with communities sharing knowledge, nurturing collaborative working practices and inspiring the next generation of horticulturalists are principles that are central to his work.

Henry Driver
media artist

Henry Driver is a media artist whose aim is to “create projects which connect us to our environment, as well as combat the climate crisis by enabling impactful responses to it.” Having witnessed the ravages of climate change on his family’s farm, Henry decided to make the environment the sole focus of his artwork from the beginning of his career.  

His artworks have been shown all over the world and have been exhibited at Tate Liverpool, Tate Britain, Whitechapel Gallery and the Barbican. Most recently, two of his works, Secrets of Soil, an interactive journey exploring the hidden world of soil, and Regenerate, an illuminated sculpture celebrating regenerative agriculture, were featured in Sediment Spirit, the groundbreaking environmental art exhibition at Sainsbury Centre in Norwich, and Water Portals, his interactive digital journey exploring the microscopic world of water, just opened in April 2024 at Gainsborough’s House and will be on view until 23 June. 

Henry was shortlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize 2016; named by the Kleinwort Hambros Art Prize 2019 as one of the top 15 artists aged under 35 in the UK and selected for alt.barbican, an accelerator for innovative artists working at the intersection of art and technology.


Humaira Ikram
Garden designer and lecturer

Humaira Ikram has been working as a professional Garden Designer at Studio Ikram for over 15 years and specialises in client focused landscapes which are pollinator friendly and as sustainable as possible. She runs the Garden Design Diploma at the KLC School of Design, is a Gardens Advisor to RHS Hyde Hall, and RHS Judge and on various selection and advisory panels for the RHS. She is co-curator of the newly established thehub.earth highlighting sustainable, ethical and cross sector events, as well as an award winning broadcaster who has contributed to BBC Radio 4 Gardeners Question Time, been part of garden focused TV and media campaigns and programmes, and writes for various gardening magazines.

James Canton
Director of Wild writing, university of essex

James is Director of Wild Writing at the University of Essex. He has taught the MA Wild Writing: Literature, Landscape and the Environment since its inception in 2009. His books include Out of Essex: Re-Imagining a Literary Landscape (2013) which was inspired by rural wanderings in the county and Ancient Wonderings: Journeys into Prehistoric Britain (2017) that tells some remarkable tales of life in ancient Britain. The Oak Papers (2020) – Radio 4’s Book of the Week – explores some of the ties between humans and oaks since prehistory, meditating on our need to connect with the natural world. Grounded (2023) tells of rediscovering the most sacred spaces in our landscapes – both natural sites and human places – seeing the lessons we can learn from our ancestors and their relationship with the land. His forthcoming book, Renaturing (due out in the spring of 2025) investigates ways of democratizing rewilding, how we can all be involved in nature restoration.

Julian Perry

Julian Perry is a contemporary artist who uses historic painting techniques to confront audiences with the environmental crisis: “Each of the thousands of painted marks is a witness to my anger.” Perry’s themes of environmental jeopardy arose well before the term “environmental art” became familiar. Painting in a high definition, realist style, Perry’s artworks celebrate, document and critique environmental change. The uneasy relationship between man and nature is a continuous thread throughout his work. His first show in 1994 entitled “Brittle England” included paintings of caravan parks and marginal coastal locations rarely exposed to visual scrutiny. In 2007, Perry painted East London allotment sheds destined to be bulldozed for the creation of the London 2012 Olympic Park. In recent years, his work has frequently featured trees - sometimes disembodied and diseased - but also woodlands managed by historic and sustainable methods. By his own account, Perry is an activist. But his work, vivid and meticulously detailed, is often unapologetically beautiful, obliging his audience to do a double-take, both aesthetic and intellectual. Perry has had many solo exhibitions including major shows at Southampton City Gallery, London Guildhall Art Gallery, Gainsborough’s House and the Venice Biennale and his work has been exhibited throughout the UK and internationally. Perry has works in numerous public and private collections including the personal collection of HM King Charles III. In June 2025 Snape Maltings will host a major solo exhibition of his work on the theme of coastal erosion during the Aldeburgh Music Festival. 

Kevin Williams
naturalistic gardener

Kevin is a naturalistic gardener who collaborates with plants to create dynamic and challenging worlds. His unique style combines bioregional plant palettes, a hardcore punk ethos, and post-human aesthetics to craft wild and captivating spaces. Kevin's extensive work with Denver Botanic Gardens has led to the creation of celebrated public gardens throughout the city. Kevin was a Gardener on The High Line in Manhattan and studied as a Horticulture Intern at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. He holds a MS degree in Public Horticulture from the Longwood Graduate Program at the University of Delaware and a BA degree in The History and Philosophy of Science from Bard College.

Merlin Sheldrake
biologist, speaker and author

Merlin Sheldrake is a biologist, speaker and author of Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our FuturesEntangled Life, a New York Times and Sunday Times best-seller, has been translated into twenty-six languages, and was named a TIME Must-Read Book.

Merlin received a Ph.D. in tropical ecology from Cambridge University for his work on underground fungal networks in tropical forests in Panama, where he was a predoctoral research fellow of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. He is a research associate of the Vrije University Amsterdam, works with the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks (SPUN), and sits on the advisory board of the Fungi Foundation.

Michael Guidi
ecologist and horticulture researcher

Michael is an ecologist and horticulture researcher who is passionate about naturalistic plantings that embody the flexibility and resiliency of wild systems. His work draws inspiration from liminal urban spaces and wild areas alike. Preferring common and weedy plants to the rare and precious, Michael is a proponent of dynamic, self-sustaining gardens and green infrastructure as alternatives to static high-maintenance landscaping. His research links ecological theory with horticultural techniques and designs to broaden the definition of gardens and gardening. Michael worked as a field biologist before joining the Denver Botanic Gardens horticulture department. He holds a MS degree in Ecology from the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology at Colorado State University and a BS degree in Biology from Ithaca College.

Nigel Dunnett
Professor of Planting Design and Urban Horticulture, Sheffield University

Nigel Dunnett is Professor of Planting Design and Urban Horticulture in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield and Director of Nigel Dunnett Studio. He is one of the world’s leading voices on planting design and a pioneer of the new ecological approach to planting public spaces. His work revolves around the integration of ecology and horticulture to achieve low-input but high-impact landscapes that are dynamic, diverse and tuned to nature, and is based on decades of detailed experimental work and widespread application in practice, collaborating with a wide range of other professions, and his work has been widely applied in the UK and abroad.  

In 2016 Nigel was appointed as an Ambassador for the Royal Horticultural Society to spearhead their ‘Greening Grey Britain’ campaign, and is a former Garden Club of America International Fellow. Nigel has authored and co-authored key books on planting design, water-sensitive design, urban rainwater management, green roofs, and urban landscape planting. Nigel’s 2019 book ‘Naturalistic Planting Design’ won ‘European Garden Book of the Year in 2021. In 2020 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Landscape Institute in recognition of his contribution to sustainable urban greening and planting design, and in 2023 was appointed a Royal Designer for Industry and Life Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Nigel is a gold-medal winner at the Chelsea Flower Show, and has designed 5 main avenue Chelsea Flower Show gardens between 2010 and 2020. 

Norbert Kuehn
Professor, Institute of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning

Norbert studied landscape ecology and architecture at the Technical University of Munich-Weihenstephan, followed by a doctorate in vegetation ecology. Since 2003 he has been the head of the department of vegetation technology and planting design at the Technical University of Berlin. He is a member of national and international committees, advisory boards and foundations (such as ICB Muskau /Mużakowski and Branitz, Karl Foerster Foundation, Design Advisory Board Public Spaces Berlin).

Norberts main areas of work include: theory in planting design with special emphasis in perennial use, design of urban nature especially dealing with spontaneous vegetation, green space management, urban trees, green infrastructure and climate adaptation (infiltration swales, evaporation beds), plants in historic parks and gardens, plants and climate change.

Landscape Manager at Pictorial Meadows

Owen is a Landscape Manager at Pictorial Meadows, part of not-for-profit The Green Estate Community Interest Company, with a mission to grow green and resilient urban places where people and nature thrive. This large social enterprise delivers and maintains meadows and resilience landscaping projects across the UK, provides stewardship of 80+ hectares of Sheffield green space including 5 city parks, and produces biodiverse Pictorial Meadows seed mixes and meadow turf.

With the team, Owen works on the Sheffield Grey to Green Scheme, the Mansfield Sustainable Flood Resilience scheme, biodiverse green roofs and large scale urban meadow projects, plus development of Pictorial Meadows products, services, and consultations. He is particularly interested in how large urban green infrastructure projects are implemented and cared for in perpetuity, and the weighing-up of costs and benefits when creating and nurturing multi-functional landscapes.

After first studying art, he gained a degree and masters in Environmental Science at the University of Sheffield. He then worked on international field research projects studying plant-soil-atmosphere interactions for carbon-negative agriculture. Inspired by the output of the nearby Sheffield Department of Landscape, he transitioned into horticulture, gaining broad practical experience before completing the RHS Wisley Diploma; studying there during a time of rapid change in search of more sustainable design and management approaches. He wrote his dissertation on the sustainability of glyphosate vs other weed management approaches.

Outside of work, Owen is a keen gardener with a passion for long-season mixed plantings, and an avid propagator with a passion for seed. He loves visiting nurseries, gardens and landscapes.

Rebecca McMackin
horticulturist and garden designer

Rebecca McMackin is an ecologically obsessed horticulturist and garden designer. She is currently the Arboretum Curator of Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, caring for one of the best tree collections in New York City. 

Prior to this, she spent a decade as Director of Horticulture of Brooklyn Bridge Park, where she managed 85 acres of diverse parkland organically. Their research into cultivating urban biodiversity and ethical management strategies has influenced thousands of people and entire urban parks systems to adopt similar approaches. 

In her imaginary free time, Rebecca writes, lectures and designs the occasional public garden. Her garden for the entrance to the Brooklyn Museum opened in 2023. She is passionate about pollination biology, environmental justice, and urban ecology. Rebecca holds a MS in Biology from the University of Victoria, a MS in Landscape Design from Columbia University, and was a 2023 Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She has been published by and featured in the New York Times, the Landscape Institute, and on NPR and PBS.

Richard Mabey
lecturer and author

After education at Oxford, Richard worked as a lecturer in Social Studies in further education, then as a Senior Editor at Penguin Books. He became a full-time writer in 1974. He is the author of some forty books including Whistling in the Dark: In Pursuit of the Nightingale (1993), winner of the East Anglia Book Award, 2010, in a revised version entitled The Barley BirdBeechcombings: the narratives of Trees (2007). The ground-breaking and best-selling Flora Britannica (1996), winner of a National Book Award, and Gilbert White, which won the Whitbread Biography Award in 1986. His memoir Nature Cure (2005), was short-listed for three major literary awards, the Whitbread, Ondaatje, and J.R. Ackerley prizes. He writes for the Guardian, New Statesman and Granta, and contributes frequently to BBC radio.

In the 1980's he sat on the UK government’s advisory body, the Nature Conservancy Council. He has been awarded two Leverhulme Fellowships, and honorary doctorates by the universities of St Andrews, Essex and East Anglia. He was awarded a Civil List Pension in 2008 for services to literature, and made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2011. In 2014, he was visiting fellow at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He is President of Waveney and Blythe Arts, Vice-President of the Open Spaces Society, and Patron of the John Clare Society. He lives in Norfolk in the Waveney Valley with his partner Polly Lavender.

Sally O'Halloran
professor, Norwegian University of life sciences

Sally O’ Halloran has been involved in horticulture/landscape management for over 26 years in a career that has seen her gain experience both operational and managerial in public gardens worldwide and most recently in higher education in the University of Sheffield. She joined NMBU as an Associate Professor in the School of Landscape Architecture in February 2022. Her teaching and research focuses on plants used by landscape professionals in urban and rural landscapes and how they can be used to develop resilient planting designs.

Sheila Das
garden manager at rhs wisley

Having changed career in the early 2000’s, Sheila studied at Kew, worked for English Heritage, and has been a garden manager at RHS Garden Wisley with responsibility for Education, Edibles, Seed and Wellbeing since 2015. This time has included the development of the hilltop gardens at Wisley which feature gardens for Wildlife, Wellbeing and Food. Sheila is passionate about growing food in sustainable ways to support planetary and human health, and has been instrumental in developing Wisley’s planet friendly gardening initiative to develop actions towards increasing biodiversity and sharing knowledge around sustainability and resilience in horticulture. Sheila is well known for her interest in soil health and enjoys developing thoughts around how systems connect and how people can rediscover their role in that connection.  

Tracey Lawson
professor, University of Essex

Professor Tracy Lawson is a professor in the Plant Productivity group, Director of Plant Phenotyping and Director of Essex Plant Innovation Centre (EPIC) at Essex, with over 30 years experience in photosynthesis research. Her research focuses on the stomatal control of atmospheric gas entry into the leaf, associated water loss and the mechanisms that regulate this process. Recent research has paid particular attention to stomatal kinetics and the impact of dynamic environments on both photosynthesis and stomatal behaviour. Tracy’s work also concentrates on phenotyping including chlorophyll fluorescence techniques (for quantifying light use and photosynthetic efficiency) and thermal imaging (for measuring stomatal responses and kinetics). Lawson’s lab developed the first imaging system for screening plant water-use-efficiency (McAusland et al., 2013). EPIC brings together the research skills, expertise and technologies across faculties (incl. Life SciencesComputer Science and Electronic EngineeringInstitute for Analytics and Data Science (IADS) and Essex Business School) to address the grand challenges facing farmers, technologists and all those in the agricultural and horticultural sectors. Combining our expertise in these various areas provides us with the opportunity to explore new opportunities to engage and work with industry.

Veronica Sekules

Veronica Sekules has a background working in environmentalism and art galleries. She worked for many years as curator, then head of education at the Sainsbury Centre, University of East Anglia. She has worked freelance in education and heritage and as a consultant with many national and international projects. She is a published author in art history, cookery and education. Since 2016, she founded and runs GroundWork Gallery in King’s Lynn, Britain’s first contemporary art gallery dedicated completely to art and the environment. The gallery has won numerous awards, most recently the Community Award from sustainability organisation Blue Patch.




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