How did I come to love plants so damn much…??

Everyone always asks me what got me into horticulture and being plant-mad… and the answer is definitely my grandparents!

My first memories are of my Nan and Grandad’s vast greenhouses, and plant-filled gardens. I remember orange alstroemeria, Zonal geraniums sat in fancy stone pots as well as much less fancy, chipped “crock” (terracotta) pots, shasta daisies, in short and tall variety! During iris season, we used to spend time guessing what colours the blooms would be too. Did you know the rhizomes of blue flowered types are actually tinged purple??

I soon had a flower patch in my garden at home…

I remember going to plant out one of my first specimens, a trailing tradescantia, which is a houseplant, but that didn’t matter, I was eager to get my patch filled! I went to plant it out and, in typical clumsiness, stood on the plant. This is a sad memory for me, as I vividly remember running indoors howling!

I soon developed an interest in herbs. I think this stemmed from buying Jekka McVicar’s complete herb book. I was fascinated by the fact you could use plants for eating and remedies! One of my star turns was lavender biscuits you know! I also loved mixing up concoctions. This was something that had a bit of a renaissance for me when James Wong brought out his show. I loved mixing up his recipes, even making some of the hand creams, however my breath freshener mix went a bit wrong and all dried up!

I seem to remember beginning to read gardening mags from a teenage stage, but hiding this from any school friends, as I tried to stay ‘cool’! Then, I got involved in the school garden, and when hoeing and weeding it at lunchtimes, and seemed to forget it was in full view of the lunch hall! Oh well… I then went on to sell plants at WI markets with my Nan, as well as plants at the end of my parents driveway!

I neared the end of my years at school, not quite knowing what I wanted to do. I had achieved good GCSE marks in geography, art and English I think…although my memory is hazy now! I seemed to gravitate towards Horticultural College, so I enrolled onto the National Diploma in Horticulture, a 2-year course, which seemed perfect for someone who hadn’t made their mind up and really didn’t fancy university!

The course was really varied… and included subjects from economics to sports turf… and tractor driving to biology! Well, I couldn’t drive a tractor very well (I once reversed over some girders as I faffed around trying to find the brakes) and every time I was in sports turf class I got soaked by the hose, as everyone pranked me!

The subject I loved, and was good at, was the “plant idents”. This was a session where 20 or so samples of plant were lined up in vases and you must name them! This I could do- and quite well…! Plants had always come naturally to me, I seemed to soak in their Latin without any effort. I excelled at this, and it fed my thirst for learning. I pored over books, fantasizing about plants I might never see (although some of which I now have!!). I always marvel when I see meconopsis in real life, as I spent so many years only seeing their glittery sparkle in books.

I also liked garden design and landed some work experience and helping duties with a local designer, which included getting to visit some country homes as his “right-hand man”! However, as I neared the end of my course, I still had no idea what I really wanted to do, and nor did I bother addressing it. Even in the final few weeks, I still had no plan- typical disorganized!

UNTIL… I noticed a competition in the local newspaper… TO BE CONTINUED!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. My in-laws first inspired me to get gardening and now I work at a horticultural college I am picking it up by osmosis. An enthusiastic more than a skilled gardener I prefer growing veggies and balancing my love of gardening with my love of chickens, as the two must live side by side!

  2. During my childhood during the 60s and 70s my grandmother had a beautiful and productive garden in Ipswich. When I bought my first house she and I wrote to each other about our gardens. Even now I realise she taught me so much, without my really realising it. Now, forty years later, I have a one acre garden in the south of France which I am creating from a former vineyard. My grandmother’s help and encouragement are at the root of my love of gardening. Her legacy continues as my nephew, her great-grandson, is a landscape gardener here in the Languedoc too.

  3. Jennie says:

    My Dad inspired me to garden.

    Two early memories, helping to harvest the last tomatoes in the greenhouse, aged 4. I can still smell the vines now and have a great picture of me in my little skirt and blonde hair with tomato plants towering above my head.

    Second memory is a visit to RHS Wisley, pictured under the giant gunnera.

    Dad loved his veg patch and greenhouse and he grew Sweet Williams, and sweet peas for his mum and dad, their favourite flowers. When we moved to our ‘new house’ when I was 7, I helped him lay turf and he let me have my own patch in the garden to grow cottage flowers from seed. I was a bit like the current waitrose advert, checking everyday and removing every slug till I could cut them for mum to display in the house and my bedroom

    Sadly Dad died when I was 21, of bowel cancer.

    Since then I have gardened my heart out, flowers, veggies and for the first time this year, Sweet Williams.

    I love the contemporary approach to gardening, sprinkled with traditional touches. A modern sculpture, entwined with clematis or decking surrounded by wisteria.

    Very happy memories, an interesting education, ownership and satisfaction. Garden gives mea sense of belonging and every time I put trowel to soil, I can hear my Dad saying ‘shall we put the kettle on and have a cuppa in the garden’

    Jennie x

  4. Shaun Gagie says:

    I got into gardening when I was very young and the first thing that fascinated me that I can remember were the potatoes right at the back of the fridge that had started to sprout. I had to find out what happened to them. I was probably 3 or 4 at the time but my mum introduced me to soil and planting and 36 years later I have never regretted a single gardening moment.

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