Ivan Hicks

©Ivan Hicks



Ivan Hicks is both a designer and creator of magical public spaces with an equally extraordinary ability to transform private gardens. He is currently the lead designer of a 27-acre site at Butterfly World, St Albans. His aim is to create gardens that are fun and informative, and designed to spark an interest across generations in gardening and the natural world. A UK garden designer and landscape artist, now based in Wiltshire, Ivan is best known for his highly acclaimed imaginative and innovative designs, the most well known and celebrated being “Butterfly World” at St Albans in Herts, the ”Enchanted Forest” at Groombridge in Kent, and ”Garden in Mind” in Hampshire.

Trained in arboriculture at Merrist Wood, Surrey, Ivan Hicks was head gardener at West Dean Gardens for 15 years – his employer, Edward James, the patron to Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali. Together they created gardens in England, Italy and Mexico.

Ivan was a presenter on BBC’s ”Gardeners’ World” from 1999-2001.

He has also won a number of awards in recognition for his public work.
 – Award Winner 2000 BALI
(British Association of Landscape Industries)
Groombridge Place ‘The Dark Walk’
 – Best Childrens Attraction Daily Telegraph 1998
 – Best Visitor Attraction 1999, 2005
South East Touring Board, for Enchanted Forest,Groombridge Place, Kent

Private projects include gardens for the Butterfly World project founder Clive Farrell in Dorset and for Vanessa Branson in Sussex, and additionally numerous gardens across London and the South West.

“Whatever the size or scope of your project / garden, I can offer a solution to meet your requirements, timescale and budget.”

Edward James (Las Pozas, Xilitla, Mexico) He wasn’t a professional but created a Fantastic Surrealistic Fantasy in the Rain Forest, I was his Head Gardener.

My own  ‘The Garden in Mind’


Prison Garden

A garden for an Entomologist in Dorset UK. The overall concept is for a garden with plants that you might not want in your own garden but which nether the less all have redeeming qualities in the insect world. The cells have been created by the ‘prisoners’ from available materials which have opportunities for insect and wildlife habitat, for example semi-decaying wood, old beams etc. are ideal for many beetles and bugs and the redundant law books provide other spaces and encourage book worms! The cells are formed from circular, concrete Civil Engineering rings and decorated with a range of insect friendly materials, even the bricks and flintstones provide niches for insects and for small birds to hide. The exit of the garden is through a circle sheathed in gold coloured stainless steel forming a Golden Ring for those able to escape!. The Prison Guards are a series of spiney Hawthorn species (Cratageus) planted around objects which are locked in: a tree root, a cube of wood, a stone ball. An electric chair is made from insulators and a bed is decorated with keys, chains, coins, glass, cutlery and holey flints. A barred isolation cell contains a vicious bramble Rubus cockburnianus. A giant serpent is formed from old ridge tiles. A pair of prison gates is formed with redundant garden tools. The prison term in years is represented by concentric rings of coloured stone.

The Garden in Mind

The Garden in Mind was established in 1990 in an abandoned walled garden for BBC2 TV who asked me to create a garden for a programme called ‘Dream Gardens’. The space was filmed empty and the Film crew returned every two weeks to film the progress. Mr. Hicks realised that the layout and structure of the garden needed to be 3-dimensional quickly as cameras are greedy and plants take time to grow. He used a number of ‘sculptural found-objects’ to embellish the garden and to create a sense of mystery and Surrealism as the plants took over. The garden was rectangular in shape with a spiral shaped hill in the centre with mown concentric circles in the grass with a ‘Cosmic Tree’ in the centre using old cable drums looking like images from a De Chirico painting. Other surreal icons are used as references from Magritte (The Discovery of Fire) and Dali, for example including lobsters, musical instruments and various spontaneous objects placed around the garden: mannequins, typewriters etc. The garden was located in the grounds of a large country house (Stanstead House) and their peacocks would fly in to investigate the garden which added to the Surrealism.  He opened the garden for charity and charged visitors £1.1p or a surreal object for entry. It has been featured in many gardening books, magazines and TV programmes.

Enchanted Garden - Butterfly World

This garden of rooms is based on artists and children’s stories.(Rene Magritte, Maurice Sendak and others). The Bedroom is  the main feature: a carved bed based on the 5 senses. The duvets can be changed for seasons. In Spring it is planted with poppies, symbolising sleep. Also in Spring it is planted with Tulips as a pun on the carved lips. A dressing table has a typewriter with Sleep Little One being written. A taller table has a tree growing through it. Clocks and prisms spin on cords. The chaos is deliberate and like a Surreal dream.
The Dining Room is painted brown with a table made from driftwood, the chairs are enclosed by trees or flying around, a Fig tree grows through the table for the last course. Spinning tea pots and a fork with peas.
The Bathroom is made from doors thrown out and reused in a theatrical way.

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