Earliest gardening memory Planting conkers from a horse chestnut tree that grew just up the road from our house. My mother and I also grew other tree seeds
that we collected, such as a hazel that I still have growing in the garden today, which is now 2.5m tall.
First plant love The Himalayan banana Musa sikkimensis. This was one of the first exotic plants I grew when I was about 14 years old and I’ve never looked back.
Favourite garden that has influenced you I used to volunteer at the Will Giles Exotic Garden in Norwich, and this is where I really got the bug, in among all the exotic plants. This was one of the first, true exotic or subtropical gardens of the 21st century, specialising in hardy bananas, gingers and huge tetrapanax. Will experimented with exotic and unusual plants to see what could tolerate, and flourish in, the UK climate, and the garden really was the original inspiration for most exotic gardens in this country.
Favourite planting style Has to be informal exotic gardening. Having this exotic look, with huge leaves of species such as Musa basjoo and Colocasia, and clusters of bright flowers of the most unusual forms, which you can then mix with more traditional themes within any back garden, is the most amazing idea. The best thing about this style of gardening is it is so flexible as around 25 per cent of the plants are already in your garden. You can mix dahlias, cordylines, petunias or even cotinus in with the tropical feel.
Dream plant destination India; I would love to see some of the impatiens in my National Collection in their native habitat, especially the rare Impatiens parasitica.
How to garden more sustainably Save water – use water butts, or even a bucket. Save every drop you can.
In what direction do you see horticulture heading in the next few years? House plants will continue to be popular but other aspects of outdoor horticulture will start to re-emerge. I think bedding in combinations of exotic and unusual plants will be a key element to the next story in horticulture.
Next big project you’ll be tackling in the garden Sorting the Plant Heritage National Collection of Impatiens we hold at Botanico and updating all records on them before winter comes.