Earliest gardening memory From the age of 13, I worked Saturdays at a local small holding growing seasonal bedding plants, initially just to save up for a pair of jeans. But it was here I discovered my utter love and passion for plants and continued on to more formal training.
First plant love I’ll never forget seeing my first bee orchid in flower in the beautiful limestone pavement habitats of the Burren in western Ireland. My obsession for terrestrial orchids developed over the years and on a trip to South Africa I came across a stand of Disa uniflora by a stream on Table Mountain. The beauty and natural landscapes of terrestrial orchids are a lure but also the cleverness of their life cycles, their relationship with fungi and ultimately how hard they are to grow that makes them so desirable.
Who has inspired your career When I started the job as head gardener at Fulham Palace I reached out to some gardening marvels to get me going. I visited Sarah Wain at West Dean (before her retirement) and she got down to the nitty gritty of how to succeed – by keeping your tool and store sheds tidy. Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter filled my head with tips and tricks on where to start – if in doubt plant potatoes because they will sort out any compaction. Joseph Atkins, head gardener at Aberglasney gave me fantastic advice on how to work with trustees and stakeholders and Debs Goodenough, head gardener at Highgrove reassured me not to worry about getting everything sorted at once. I am so grateful to these people for sharing their expertise and knowledge.
Worthwhile tips for every gardener Do hand watering rather than using a sprinkler or automated irrigation– it saves water and you get to check in with the plant and see how its doing.
Favourite ‘weed’ you’re happy to have in the garden? Green alkanet, Pentaglottis sempervirens. We have a mound, which I’m ashamed to say I regarded as a weedy patch when I first started, despite loving the piercing blue flowers, but a few years ago I walked past the patch, stood still for a moment and just watched, and counted at least nine different species of wild bee, it was incredible. We now strive to conserve areas like this at Fulham Palace and are very much about encouraging biodiversity and creating or conserving habitats for wildlife.