International Women's Day-Meet Charlotte Howard, Garden Designer and Horticultural Consultant
Charlotte Howard, aka Capability Charlotte is a highly qualified garden designer and horticultural consultant with a unique edge. Discover her passion for art, design, wildlife, and the joy she brings to her clients. Learn about her hand-drawn designs, her preference for creating real gardens that bring out your inner child, and her Facebook group for professional women in horticulture. Hear her thoughts on inspiring more women to take up lawn gardening and her experiences as a vocal campaigner for the environment.
Charlotte is highly qualified, she is an RHS Master of Horticulture with a National Diploma in Horticulture, but she sees her two decades of hands-on gardening, as well as her 10 years of experience in fashion retail and sales, as her real qualifications.
Charlotte comes from a bohemian family of artists, designers, architects and historians and believes her background gives her a unique edge. She is also practical, funny, friendly and down to earth. Many of her clients have said they have discovered an unknown passion for gardening once they finally have a garden that works for them. Charlotte's beautiful, hand-drawn designs are a work of art that many clients have framed. They are natural, simple and elegant, always with a twist of quirkiness to reflect your own personal style.
Charlotte prefers to create real gardens, working with the contours of the space. She uses soft curves to create a flow that leads you gently around your garden to a moment of joy or surprise, a secret nook to sit and read, or a hidden mirror that deceives you into thinking the garden goes further. She believes gardens should bring out your inner child.
Lets hear from Charlotte herself....
I’m Charlotte Howard but everyone calls me Capability Charlotte. I’m from Wiltshire. I’m a garden designer and horticultural consultant. I’ve been working in horticulture for 20 years. My passions are history, art, drama, cabaret and nature. I’m a proud member of the Wokerati and I am a passionate eco warrior. I am campaigning for a ban of plastic grass. In my spare time I like to watch my keyboard player husband perform with his bands (Musician and composer Moray Macdonald). I love performing and was an active member of many drama groups locally, that is how I met my husband. I don’t have the time or energy for that now but I’m an occasional ‘Stage Kitten’ (stage hand) for Ministry Burlesque at the Komedia in Bath which is huge fun, my stage name is ‘Colonel Lingus’. In my youth I was in a girl band called Minx as well as being a kissagram, model, Marilyn Monroe lookalike and the world’s first fully licensed boxing MC under the name of Charlotte Russel
Where did your passion of gardening come from?
My late mother, an antique dealer and interior designer, had a beautiful and eccentric garden that was open to the public on the National Garden Scheme. She hated physical labour so it was down to me and my father to look after it which I loved doing. My grandmother was also a very keen gardener and loved to “Get stuck in” Like I do
Tell me a bit about your Facebook page you've set up
I set it up in response to another large horticultural group where I witnessed some terrible misogynism. I realised there was a need for a safe space for women to share experiences and mentor each other. It’s a friendly, group for professional women who work in any aspect of the horticultural industry, whether that be garden maintenance, design or landscaping, as well as those who have gardening blogs, those who work in plant science or academic horticulture. It's a place for lady gardeners to ask questions and share tips. Amateur gardeners are also welcome.
I only have four rules,
• Don’t be a d*ck
• Non judgemental
• Don’t promote plastic grass
• Don’t spam us
Everyone is so lovely, I’m proud to say I’ve only had to ban 4 people!
What are the challenges you have faced along the way as a female - if any?
Weirdly, other than the odd stupid comment, I didn’t experience many challenges when I was younger and a maintenance gardener, in fact, being female was a distinct advantage, as many people employed me because I was female.
But since I have become a vocal campaigner for the environment and against plastic grass and am now in the public eye a bit, I have experienced some terrible misogynism. I try not to let it get me down, but the personal comments about my appearance and fat shaming have really hurt.
Some people really don’t like it when women speak up, about anything. Well, this women is not about to be silenced, as Laurel Thatcher Ulrich said in 1976 “Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History”
What do you think needs to be done to inspire more women to take up lawn gardening ?
A lot is talked about getting young people into horticulture, but my experience is a love of gardening comes to us later in life. What about the middle-aged woman? We seem to become invisible once we pass child rearing age. There is a huge, untapped resource of women over 40 desperately looking for a new career or meaning to life.
I’ve noticed since lockdown; a lot of women have given up high pressure careers to get into horticulture. The same is happening with women whose children have flown the nest.
Women are an incredibly resource, strong and nurturing and we need to tap into those talents, horticulture is a perfect fit for that. Once you are in horticulture the possibilities are endless, anything from working for the council, to being a lecturer or a high fallutin’ consultant. If you have any form of neurodivergence it is also the perfect career.
What advice would you give to females looking to get into gardening or even those just wanting to take care of their garden?
Join my group! But seriously, don’t be afraid to ask questions, find a mentor, and learn about soil, that is the linchpin of all gardening and life itself.
M Hort (RHS). ND Hort.
Find more about Charlottte's business and lawn group here https://capabilitycharlotte.com/
Mob: 07850 065470
Photo credit: Victoria Tapper Photography