The worlds of horticulture and military-style obstacle races are about to collide.

A few weeks back, I took on the biggest money raising challenge of my life, as I pledged to help raise in excess of £20,000 for Perennial, the UK’s only charity dedicated to helping horticulturists, young and old, in times of crisis.

But, out of all the UK charities, why would I choose what some might see as a niche charity, you may ask? Well, part of Perennial’s role is to help and support the elderly, who have retired from horticultural roles and who now face hardship with little or no pension. Helping them seemed like the ultimate tribute to my beloved grandparents. It was my Nana and Grandad who sparked my interest in horticulture, as I spent most of my childhood in their super long greenhouses, shadowing them and colouring up my green fingers!

Their lives were steeped in horticulture; they didn’t only exhibit at local shows, they were also judges (of course at different shows to those they competed in!), sold plants at the end of their driveway and at the Women’s Institute markets (where I soon became a secret member!) and my Grandad had a traditional role of door-to-door greengrocer! Every windowsill in their home was bursting with life; cacti, succulents, elderly geraniums or dinky pots billowing with young seedlings all competed for space and light. My aunt, who lived in the deepest Essex countryside, was also similarly ensconced in the green world, and I spent many a summer in her tangled long grass and orchards.

In their later years, my grandparents struggled with the usual aches and pains, but remained quite fit, perhaps due to the “green” lifestyle, some might argue. But, after a couple of mini strokes, my Grandad started to need some care, and with my Nana later getting Alzheimer’s, I wished back then that I’d known about the support Perennial could offer.

Sadly, my grandparents are no longer with us. But, they left me with a horticultural tea light that over time has grown in strength and which is now a fully burning candle. I sometimes wish they were still around to see everything I’ve achieved; revealing innovative products such as the TomTato on news programmes around the world, for example!

And, I want to prove that, as a gardener, I’m not afraid to get muddy, so that’s why I’ve pulled together a horticultural team to run a “mud race”…

This story is to be continued…

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