Emma Robertson, iris specialist

Emma Robertson, owner of iris specialist Tor Garden Plants

The owner of iris specialist Tor Garden Plants in Devon is passionate about conserving plants for the future. Portrait Andrew Montgomery

Earliest garden memory Running around my grandad’s garden during the summer holidays. The smell of fresh mint being picked to go with freshly dug potatoes for dinner.

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Coleus houseplant
© Patrick Morgan

First plant love My first and only real plant obsession has been the iris. It started with tall bearded iris and has now expanded to water iris species, which we specialise in at Tor Garden Plants. I love their delicate form and the intricately detailed veining on the falls. The scent of some of the bearded iris is intoxicating.

Gardening as a career change I completed a degree in theatre, film and television, however in my last year at university I started volunteering in a garden to get away from the city environment and realised how happy I was working outdoors. I was never aware until that point that horticulture was even a career option.

We are losing so much knowledge and expertise, as people struggle to pass on their collections

Favourite garden that has influenced you I had the pleasure of working at Knightshayes Court for six years and love the garden.  I particularly fell for the woodland garden, it is simply magical. I love the combination of manicured garden areas among mature woodland trees with dappled light and views out to the landscape beyond.

Dream plant destination I have been meaning to visit Monet’s Garden, Giverny in France for some time. I admire his paintings of irises and water lilies and the idea of borders full of iris alongside a beautiful water garden sounds like my perfect place.

Biggest challenge facing gardeners today Many horticultural groups and societies are struggling to attract new members and even continue altogether. As a result we are losing so much knowledge and expertise. Plant collections are under threat as people struggle to pass on their collections, resulting in the loss of valuable plants and resources. Societies are great places to connect with other gardeners, share passions for plants and conserve them for the future.

One easy way to garden more sustainably Efficient watering. Checking pots by not only feeling soil but picking them up to feel the weight. Often plants are dry on top but wet beneath the surface. Soaking each plant individually instead of blanket watering over the top will waste less water and also penetrate the pots better.

Next big seasonal task you’ll be tackling in the garden We’ve just cleaned out some of the ponds, which involves waders and waterproofs. We always leave the debris on the side of the pond for 24 hours so any life can crawl back in before we dispose of it.

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Further information Emma runs Tor Garden Plants, specialist nursery for water, marginal and moisture-loving plants. torgardenplants.co.uk