Gardens Illustrated
Harriet Thompson
© Andrew Montgomery

Gardening talent: Meet nursery owner Harriet Thompson

Nursery owner Harriet Thompson is an advocate of peat- and pesticide-free growing and passionate about houseplants. Portrait Andrew Montgomery

Earliest garden memory My earliest gardening memory has to be running around my Grandma’s garden and climbing her 50-year-old apple trees. I used to sit up in those trees all day and I was never quite sure whether it was because I really loved it or I was just frightened about climbing down.

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Horticultural hero Charles Dowding, without a doubt. He is so inspirational and is a fantastic advocate for no-dig and organic growing. Vegetable growing is also one of my biggest hobbies and therefore I look up to him for that.

Three worthwhile tips for every gardener Tool care is essential: clean and sharp tools mean that you are less likely to spread diseases around your garden and it also helps them to last longer. Go peat free – buy good peat-free compost for your containers. Buy groundcover plants to reduce the weeds; I love Origanum vulgare ‘Thumble’s Variety’ for its edible, gold leaves and white flowers in summer.

Most valuable training The Eden Project was a really great place for me to do my degree in horticulture. I am an extremely practical learner though, so I’ve learned so many things through making mistakes in my nursery and talking to people with previous experience in something. Work experience and apprenticeships are so important for practical-based learners.

Favourite ‘weed’ you’re happy to have in your garden I love Urtica dioica (nettles). They are amazing for the wildlife that like to nibble them and they taste great in nettle soup. Ladybirds like to lay their eggs on nettle leaves, and that increases the ladybird population, which is a great defence against aphids. Nettles can also be made into a fantastic liquid fertiliser, which can then be used throughout the garden to feed the other plants.

Guiding horticultural principles Peat-bog destruction, harmful chemicals and plastic pollution are my biggest motivators. This includes my nursery being peat free, single-use plastic free and pesticide free.

Favourite Instagram feed My feed is full of growers from all backgrounds: dahlia growers, peony growers and veg growers dominate my feeds alongside houseplant growers in the USA, such as @gabrielllaplantsonline.

The next big task you’ll be tackling? I recently built propagation benches to enable me to sow thousands of seeds, which will soon need potting up.

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Website harrietsplants.co.uk Instagram @harriets.plants Buy Harriet’s plants online or see website for stockists.

Authors

Sorrel Everton is deputy editor of Gardens Illustrated.

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