Stefano has always been a practical gardener as well as a designer, and he spends as much of his free time as he can on his beautiful allotment in Chiswick. As a child, Stefano gardened alongside his grandfather, learning how to propagate plants from seed, grow flowers, and raise vegetables on the family’s allotment. Having grown up in a family of seed merchants, it is no surprise that the love of hands-on gardening Stefano learned as a child has never left him.
Despite a busy working life at the studio, Stefano continues to grow vegetables and annual flowers from seed on his allotment, producing a constant supply of cut flowers and fresh vegetables for his own home. The allotment also serves as an example that he uses to encourage some clients to share this pleasure by growing their own vegetables and cut flowers.
As well as demonstrating these very domestic pleasures, the allotment is a professional space, a beautiful laboratory where he and the SMLA design team trial new perennials and experiment with planting combinations.
Stefano has always made a habit of visiting nurseries to seek out new and unusual plants, favouring those loved by bees and other pollinating insects. He also trials these new plants at the allotment, and close and careful observation pays off by enabling Stefano and the team to select the perfect place for each new plant in the gardens they design.
The SMLA maintenance team are also frequent visitors to the allotment, where they keep an eye on the progress of plants in the trial beds. The ones that Stefano will choose to propagate and use in his designs are plants willing to thrive and perform reliably in the garden, demanding little ongoing maintenance.
Photographer Alister Thorpe