Coralie Thomas

Great Dixter’s Coralie Thomas

A key member of the garden team at Great Dixter, New York native Coralie Thomas arrived in the UK in 2016 as the Chanticleer North American Christopher Lloyd Scholarship student. Portrait by Andrew Montgomery

First plant love I got into horticulture through organic-vegetable farming so my first plant love was probably the first beetroot I ever grew. It blew me away that you could do that kind of thing and I thought the beetroots were so beautiful.

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Penelope Hobhouse
© Jason Ingram

Who has inspired your career? First, Gelene Scarborough at Wave Hill in New York who exposed me to a whole world of plants and why it’s important to care for a garden. And now, Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter who has been an incredible mentor to myself and others.

Favourite landscape I love the colours in the landscape of the American West in places such as Utah, Montana and Colorado. I first saw wildflowers, such as the mountain paintbrush Castilleja miniata, while hiking in Glacier National Park in Montana. I instantly fell in love with it and it made me want to learn more about the world of plants.

We must be honest about our environmental footprint

A worthwhile tip for every gardener Don’t be afraid to let your freak flag fly a bit when it comes to planting. I think 90 per cent of a strong display comes from well-grown, good performing plants, but the ten per cent when somebody does something unusual or unexpected is what makes it really exciting.

Instagram fix I follow two related accounts about the vegetation growing in cities. One is @weedalogue, which is creating a catalogue of all the plants growing out of bits of paving cracks in Philadelphia. It’s interesting to see what things grow in those harsh conditions and by profiling them the account draws attention to their value to the urban ecosystem rather than just seeing them as weeds. The second is @spontaneousurbanplants, which often highlights ways in which this spontaneous vegetation has been used or could be used in landscape design projects.

Favourite planting style I’m quite drawn to the planting style at Great Dixter, which still feels like magic to me. Even though we often use a lot of highly cultivated plants, the whole garden has a loose, wild and natural feel to it. It’s like a surreal trick.

Biggest challenge facing gardeners today Being honest about our environmental footprint. Although horticulture is a profession that works with plants and the land, a lot of our work is very resource intensive and is not necessarily beneficial for the environment. We need to figure out ways to change that.

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Contact coraliemlthomas@gmail.com, Instagram @coraliemlthomas