Stephen Griffith: Curator at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens

PUBLISHED: 11:20 22 August 2017


Stephen Griffith has one of the best titles I have ever heard: heritage garden curator and botanising traveller.

Stephen, who has overseen Abbotsbury Gardens for 27 years, has scoured the world looking for new plants: Chile, Borneo, Myanmar, South Africa and even Saudi Arabia.

As such, he has perfected this 30-acre, subtropical paradise, which dates back to 1765.

The Mediterranean Bank is now ablaze with colour, with its Himalayan rhododendrons, New Zealand hoherias and echiums from Madeira, not to mention a rash of salvias, cannas and agapanthus.

“I’ve done a lot of travelling,” says Stephen, “but I always come home to Dorset, this beautiful, special county. The coastline is virtually untouched and Abbotsbury enjoys a super microclimate. We can grow things here that most people in the UK have to grow under glass.”

Vocation is the place where one’s love meets the world’s great need. By that definition, Stephen has certainly found his calling.

“A garden offers escapism and spiritual relaxation, a reaching back to nature, which so many people have lost.

“Trends come and go but there is always something pulling us back to the land. We need that connection.”

He is especially proud of the new-ish Magnolia Walk, a gentle stroll through the valley up to a sea-top viewpoint – “possibly the best view on the whole south coast”.

His top gardening tip for August is equally joyous and just as simple: “This month is about taking your foot off the pedal. Sit back and enjoy it. Look at what you’ve achieved.”

For more information about the gardens visit

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