Gardens Illustrated

Gardening Talent - Ellie Pay

Published: October 12, 2021 at 2:33 pm

As senior propagator for the National Trust’s Plant Conservation Centre and co-creator of the Young Propagators Society, Ellie is committed to advancing sustainable horticulture. Portrait Jason Ingram.

First plant love When I first moved to the UK from Australia I lived next to a river surrounded by nettles and after climbing through them so many times I developed an immunity to their sting. I always thought that was really cool. Horticultural hero As a female gardener who works alongside nature rather than trying to control it, Alys Fowler is a great role model.

Favourite landscape and garden Great Dixter and its surrounding landscape. I completed my nursery traineeship at Great Dixter, and it was a dream come true to live and work there. From drinking coffee in the sunken garden to watching the sunset from the sheep field, every nook and cranny is a magical place that has really inspired me.

Most worthwhile tip for every gardener Create your own opinions on practices. As a student, at every new place I worked, I was taught an opposing method to the last one, so I had to relearn everything. I soon realised that I could combine what I’d learned from them all with my own experiences to form my own opinion.

Favourite ‘weed’ you’re happy to have in your garden As long as it’s not bindweed, mare’s tail or bittercress, I tend to keep most weeds. I might weed out something if I have a plant to replace it, but saying that, grass has no business being in the borders.

Guiding principles Sharing information, being understanding (as none of us knows everything!) and working determinedly towards sustainability.

The future of horticulture The Young Propagators Society, of which I’m co-creator, sets out what I hope to be the future of horticulture: an accessible and sustainable industry where people share ideas, are open to new practices and encourage each other along the way.

Social media fix I really love the podcast In Defense of Plants and the plant ecology YouTube channel Crime Pays but Botany Doesn’t. On Instagram houseplant grower @harriets.plants is also great because you can see how enthusiastic she is about growing her plants.

What’s the next big project you’ll be tackling in the garden? I’ve just started my new job as senior propagator for the National Trust’s Plant Conservation Centre, so I will be learning how it all works here, which is super-exciting.

Do you have a particular aim in your gardening career? To start my own nursery so that I can run it peat-, plastic- and pesticide-free – and train students.



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