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Gardening Talent: Errol Fernandes: Promoting change within the gardening community

Alongside a busy role as senior gardener at Kenwood House, Errol is working towards involving his local community more in horticulture and its benefits. Portrait Andrew Montgomery

Career inspiration My mum was a florist and keen gardener. She would take us to visit gardens all the time, and to a nursery once a week and let me buy a plant for my area of the garden.

Career change I studied Fine Art, worked briefly as a photographer’s assistant, then went on to study Art Psychotherapy and gardening became part of my clinical practice. I eventually found that so much of what I am interested in – working with people, creative expression, being outside – can all be found in one profession as a gardener and I took the opportunity to accept a traineeship at Chelsea Physic Garden.

Influential landscape Ever since I was a child I have been exploring a wasteland in west London – it’s an old Victorian dump, frequented by bottle collectors and motocross riders. The layers of broken porcelain, Victorian glass and crushed oyster shell have created a very free-draining substrate. I’m constantly amazed by what I’ve seen growing there: Amaranthus, Datura and even the Mexican native Cobaea scandens, the cup-and-saucer vine.

Favourite planting style Aesthetic is only one small part of a successful planting. I am always looking for plant communities or combinations that are able to coexist successfully alongside each other, matched in vigour and enjoying similar conditions. Plants grown in this way are naturally low maintenance and there is so much beauty in striking a balance that works.

Challenges facing horticulture More needs to be done to recruit a more diverse cross-section of society into the profession. It has so much to offer as a career but overall there is a huge lack of diversity. It is vital that we address this as an industry.

Looking ahead I hope to do more collaborative horticultural work with communities, people who live with chronic mental health conditions and disadvantaged youth. There is much that these often marginalised groups of people can gain from gardening.

Contact Email errolreubenfernandes@gmail.com Instagram @errolreubenfernandes.
Look out for details on his workshops focusing on sustainable plant communities.

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