Gardens Illustrated
© Andrew Montgomery

Gardening Talent: Ed Alderman

Published: April 18, 2022 at 8:00 am

A former Dixter scholar, Ed is a passionate plantsman and head gardener at a private garden. Portrait Andrew Montgomery

First plant love Farm hedgerows. These species-rich boundaries were my source of adventure, forage and inspiration. I didn’t realise it at the time but daily exposure to seasonal changes on a plant community of different characters introduced me to ideas such as succession or layered planting long before I’d heard of those terms.

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Have you always been a gardener I started growing vegetables aged eight, and horticulture has been a part of my life ever since. At school my favourite subjects were science, PE and art. Gardening allows me to combine all three – a physical art built upon solid scientific principles.

Who are your horticultural heroes Rosemary Verey, Christopher Lloyd and Beth Chatto. I admire their philosophy, writing, design and no-nonsense approach to good garden practice. Despite their different tastes, they shared a sincere love for the natural order and could communicate this passion.

Three worthwhile tips for every gardener Learn from experts. They will all have made mistakes, learn from theirs; be brave then make a plethora of your own. Be patient. Each garden has its own rhythm, so be observant, take notes, think critically and act accordingly. Find purpose in your work. At times horticulture can seem isolating, but if you have the passion, be persistent and opportunity will follow.

Most valuable training Securing a placement with the Historic and Botanic Garden Training Programme and working at Great Dixter on a scholarship was invaluable. Spending a year working with Fergus [Garrett] and the Dixter team took my experience to another level. It gave me the belief I needed that I was good enough to make a career

Favourite planting style I love traditional mixed borders, where the planting is layered in a tapestry of shrubs, perennials, climbers, grasses and annuals. I like the contrast of a high-energy planting mixed in with comforting subtle pastel cottage style. Creating a balance between complex informal planting, cascading around formal sharp structure is the magic where the emotions of nature and art meet.

In what direction do you see horticulture heading I hope technique will come to be valued more equally to outcome. Chelsea is great for sharing planting ideas, but it gives people a false expectation of a garden’s evolution. Instant gardens have consequences. Great gardeners are technicians. A garden is only as good as the design and a design is only as good as the gardener.

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Instagram @edd_alderman

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