Gardens Illustrated
Matt Collins
© Andrew Montgomery

Garden Museum's Matt Collins

As well as being a published author – his latest book encouraged us to venture deep into a forest – Matt Collins is head gardener at the Garden Museum, tending its exquisite and considered planting

Earliest gardening memory Pulling up potatoes with my grandfather. Potato harvesting is one of those hands-in-the-earth experiences that remains enthralling whether you’re seven or 70.


First plant love Forget-me-nots: one childhood summer my sister and I chose seed packets to sow into unused concrete breeze blocks at the edge of the garden. Germination was surprise enough, but the great mass of blue filling my block the following spring was a wonder.

Career inspiration Gardener-writers have had the biggest influence. I admire those physically engaged in their gardens while capable of bringing them to life on the page: Gertrude Jekyll at Munstead Wood, Roger Deakin in his Suffolk meadow.

Favourite garden Aberglasney Gardens in Carmarthenshire is a constant source of inspiration, from its subtropical Ninfarium to the walled garden restored by designer Penelope Hobhouse.

Dream plant destination Despite being half South African, I am yet to visit the Western Cape and witness its profusion of spring wildflowers. Experiencing the fynbos vegetation surrounding Table Mountain remains high on my travel wish-list.

Favourite planting style Dense perennial planting will always have a place in my heart. However, the sustainable, climate change-conscious schemes being developed by James Hitchmough and Nigel Dunnett are really something.

Unsung plant hero Fox and cubs, Pilosella aurantiaca, is a fantastic member of the daisy family and one that, like its namesake, has crept into domestic gardens from the wilds beyond the fence.

In what direction do you see horticulture heading in the next few years? Appreciation for the natural world and its threatened landscapes is influencing the horticultural industry daily. I am confident that sustainable and ‘naturalistic’ planting will extend beyond gardening fashions to something integral and lasting.

Most embarrassing moment regarding your obsession with plants I once misjudged the distance of a circular desert walk in central Oregon, while searching for ancient Western juniper trees with a friend. As dusk fell, snakes appeared on the path in front, which had us jumping unceremoniously like naïve Brits.


Contact Matt’s latest book Forest: Walking Among Trees is published by Pavilion Books.


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