Silas Clifford-Smith

About Silas Clifford-Smith

Silas Clifford-Smith is a Sydney-based gardener, artist and writer. He specialises in the restoration and care of heritage landscapes and has worked in some of the best-known gardens of the Sydney region including Admiralty House, Vaucluse House and Elizabeth Farm. As well as his hands-on work he writes about gardening, art and heritage matters for a broad range of publications. He trained in horticulture at Ryde TAFE in the early 1990s and later graduated from the University of Sydney with a BA in Art History. For more information about his work please refer to his website: and blogs at The Reflective Gardener

Review: ‘Disobedient Gardens’ by Michael Cooke & Brigid Arnott

I first became aware of Michael Cooke in the 1990s when I was an occasional customer at his plant nursery on Sydney’s northern fringe. Belrose Nursery was, then, one of the last ‘proper’ retail plant businesses that grew and sold exciting and hard to get plants. Gardeners and landscapers would battle the intolerable Sydney traffic just to seek out his interesting range of perennials and other ornamentals. Continue reading

The hardware garden

Sometime back, I received a call from a Scottish woman asking for my professional help. The lady – let’s call her Morag – asked whether I trimmed hedges as she needed urgent help cutting one in her back garden. I was asked to do the trim as her husband – let’s call him Don – was suffering from severe back pain and was unwilling to climb their wobbly wooden ladder. Continue reading

On the naming of plants

Like many students before me, I had to learn to identify a large and diverse range of plants during my formal horticulture training. As well as identifying the plants in tests, I had to write down the genus, species, variety and family for formal assessment by our lecturers. Marks were given for correct identification and likewise deducted for spelling and other stylistic mistakes. Continue reading

Garden oddities – floral clocks

One of the horticultural oddities of the last century is the floral clock. Most of us have encountered them from time to time during our travels, often sighted on gentle slopes in manicured public gardens at tourist destinations. Apart from a moment’s thought at the sophistication of the technology and the intricate plantings used by the designers, most of these outdoor landscapes are soon forgotten. Continue reading