Gardens Illustrated
Georgia Smith
© Andrew Montgomery

Georgia Smith: Favourite garden? Beth Chatto's is a blueprint for how to plant a garden

Published: August 25, 2022 at 1:52 pm
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Working to bring greenery to London’s Bankside, Georgia also wants to involve the community in their environment. Portrait Andrew Montgomery

First plant love Lavender – my mum would always pick out lavender for me to sniff as she was interested in aromatherapy. I’d like to encourage this sort of early connection with plants with my young cousins.

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Who has inspired you? My grandparents have been key. I went back to Jamaica to visit them when I was 14 and it really opened my eyes to see the way they were growing bananas, oranges and avocados, all in the garden. I was struck by their passion for their land and landscape. It’s something that has encouraged me to think about the importance of connecting people to an urban landscape.

What did you do before gardening? I started working in retail but then I realised you could do a qualification in horticulture. I took a course at Writtle University College in Essex, which covered all aspects of the industry.

Horticultural heroes I loved Alys Fowler’s BBC television series The Edible Garden. She showed how gardening could be a lifestyle – her approach felt very whole. I also like how James Wong links back to the horticulture of his heritage, as well as highlighting plants with medicinal uses.

Favourite gardens I admire Beth Chatto’s Gardens and the way in which a visit allows you to trace her own planting journey. It’s a real blueprint for how to plant a garden.

Three worthwhile tips Get on and do it! Don’t overthink things and just give it a try. It’s trial and error – every time you sow a seed it’s a lottery and it’s often surprising to see what does survive. And don’t underestimate the benefits of getting to know your neighbours and your community, both for their knowledge and for asking them to keep an eye on your plants when you’re away.

Gardeners biggest challenge We’re trained to look after parks and large gardens rather than the urban landscape. The concept of what constitutes a garden is changing, so we need the understanding and knowledge to create and look after a whole range of garden spaces.

Favourite social media @cloudgardeneruk has great ideas for gardening in a small space on his 18th-floor balcony, and even how to improve biodiversity. The ideas he shares here are relatable and honest.

Aims for your career To champion community gardening and encourage women and ethnic minorities to take part.

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Contact gsurbangardening@gmail.com. Georgia works for Better Bankside in Southwark, south London, with a focus on creating both permanent and temporary pocket parks within this mixed urban environment. betterbankside.co.uk

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