First plant love Probably antirrhinums. Our garden was full of bedding plants grown from seed and I remember picking the flowers off and squeezing the sides together to see why they got their snapdragon common name. Foxgloves featured heavily too and I was fascinated to watch bees disappear into the flowers.

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Who has inspired your career? I would say my grandparents, who lived round the block from where I grew up. Their garden was always a complete jungle so it doubled up as both a playground and somewhere you could cut your teeth as gardener and make mistakes without consequence. They were the ones who had no qualms about telling me I should go for horticulture as a career. They saw it as a proper, skilled trade and a ‘real’ reason to go to college/university.

I’d really like to have a crack at growing pineapples in hot beds.

Most valuable training My year as a student at Hyde Hall. I did it as a practical year during my degree at Writtle University College. Working alongside other professional gardeners in a setting where the consequences really mattered was eye opening.

Dream plant destination To go back in time to a working Victorian- or Edwardian-era walled garden to see if the horticultural standards really were as good as the history books say. I’d really like to have a crack at growing pineapples in hot beds.

Favourite planting style Formal. Straight lines. Neat and tidy. Gardening for me is about the process, so I just run with the fact that anything I do is controlling and manipulating what nature intends and tend not to be shy about it.

Biggest challenge facing gardeners Climate change. I can handle hot summers and find plants to grow in it, but having winters devoid of frost days is a truly frightening prospect for a fruit and veg gardener. Frost helps knock back garden pests and some fruit crops need vernalisation [period of cold] for their buds to ensure a good crop the following year.

Favourite gardening podcasts Through lockdown I was invited to be on a couple of podcasts, which got me listening to them on a more regular basis. This Week in the Garden with Peter Seabrook is very listenable. He uses all of his many contacts and experience to get a wide range of knowledgeable guests.

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Contact matthewoliver@rhs.org.uk. Find out more about the Global Growth Vegetable Garden at rhs.org.uk/hyde-hall

Authors

Sorrel Everton is deputy editor of Gardens Illustrated.

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