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James Randall: From CCSU to Hampton Court Palace

CCSU alum James Randall pursued his interest in gardening at the British Academy of Garden Design and now maintains the south front gardens at Hampton Court Palace. (Photo courtesy James Randall)

By Kate Callahan ’14

Although British student James Randall ’17 never took a history class with Professor of History Matthew Warshauer, the two have a creative history that is visible all over campus. Their efforts on the installation of several gardens on campus could be considered pivotal for Randall, a Geography and Urban Planning major.

Beginning in 2016, and each year since, Warshauer has led a group of CCSU soccer players in designing and building attractive gardens in different campus locations. Randall took a special interest in the process.

“I spent a lot of time with James, talking about design and specific plants. He was very interested in it,” says Warshauer.

Before graduating and returning home to Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey, Warshauer encouraged Randall to put together a portfolio of all the garden design and landscaping work he had done.

“I wrote a letter of recommendation,” says Warshauer, “and this past spring he contacted me to share that he had completed a master’s degree at the British Academy of Garden Design and accepted a job at Hampton Court Palace, ancestral home of Henry VIII.”

CCSU recently reached out to Randall to learn more about his new position. The following email conversation has been edited for length.

Q: It seems like a fateful story. How do a couple of soccer players get paired with a history professor and find themselves designing gardens all over campus?

Randall: Alex Hastings, a student from Australia, and I decided to get a summer job. So, we applied for a couple of on-campus jobs and landed a landscaping job working for CCSU Facilities. We thought it would be a doddle. However, on our first day, Professor Warshauer made us dig an irrigation trench, which took eight hours, and we quickly realized this wasn’t going to be such an easy summer job.

Q: How did the experience in landscape and garden design change your career trajectory?

Randall: Whilst I really enjoyed my studies in the classroom environment, it was only whilst working outside on these two projects with Matt and Alex that I realized that I learnt best in an open environment and being “hands on.” Matt has always been so supportive; he strives to achieve the best possible outcomes for every single one of his students in and outside the classroom. It was his time and commitment that changed my career trajectory.

Q: Did you have a favorite garden on campus, and why?

Randall: The James Garden is definitely my favorite. Five soccer players helped us with this garden, which took a lot of hard work and dedication. When we had completed this garden, we just sat down and watched people walk by and take pictures. It was such a great feeling sitting there and listening to people comment so positively about what we had created. It was at that point I knew I wanted a career in landscape gardening.

Q: You accepted a job at Hampton Court Palace. What is the scope of your job?

Randall: My job entails growing, planting, and maintaining the gardens within the south front of the palace. The South front includes two pond gardens, an orchard, the knot garden, and the world famous “Privy Garden,” which was Queen Mary’s private garden, designed originally by King William III.

Great care is taken to keep the gardens exactly as they were during the reign of Henry VIII and William and Mary. We are able to achieve this because the garden plans have been preserved at the palace. All of the plants used in the bedding today are exactly what were in the palace gardens all that time ago.

Q: Your college experience at CCSU had a significant impact on your professional life. What advice do you have for students who are compelled to find a profession that excites and challenges them?

Randall: If you have a dream to do a particular thing, keep on track and don’t be put off if initially things don’t go the way you planned. Give it time, work hard, and when you are ready things will fall into place.

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