Johnny Amos is a horticulturist and botanist who designs gardens, including his own, in Northamptonshire, in the chocolate-box style village of Flore. He is also a regular BBC gardening presenter, and keeps himself busy with activities as a counsellor and councillor!
His garden is The Old Bakery, which has been created by Jonny over the last 15 years. He has used the contours of the garden to create several terraces and vignettes- populated with a range of rarely found shrubs and climbers, and creating multiple secret rooms!
1. Why is it important for you to create a nice garden?
Not only is it creative, but it is also a way of creating a calm area to enjoy myself in. It is undoubtedly therapeutic and cathartic. Gardening has shown time and time again that it’s therapeutic benefits help those suffering stress and mental health issues.
2. How many hours a week do you spend working on your garden?
The garden is designed so that it more or less looks after itself, so the planting is such that it prevents the growth of weeds, thanks to a thick impenetrable covering of choice plants. On an average week, I would spend around 2 hours a week, extending this to a few more hours before the garden is open to the public, which is only once a year! However, you may think the containers within the garden appear labour intensive, but I have installed an ingenious irrigation system to help.
3. How much leisure time do you spend in your garden and what do you do?
I really enjoy sitting in my garden; reading the newspapers and just chilling out. I also have a secret ‘crow’s nest’ build into some old Yew trees, where we often escape for a tipple or two!
4. What is your most prized plant and why?
My finest plant is the Quercus robur ‘Concordia’, because there are only a few existing in Europe! I sourced the tree in Belgium, and really wanted to grow it because I remembered a similar tree back at boarding school!
5. Which plant do you feel gives the best value in your garden?
My Rose ‘Warm Welcome’! Gosh, it really is the most divine orange colour. The colour is not only very inviting, but I chose it originally because it was an unpopular colour, and I have always enjoyed going against the grain. It surprisingly doesn’t clash, and is damn good do-er! The orange works fantastically with the purple hues of Clematis ‘The President’ and Alliums.
6. What is/has been your biggest challenge in this garden?
The slopes! This meant a lot of work when it came to terracing in the initial build. It can also mean a lot of work in day to day care of the garden. Carting farmyard manure is one of the my least favourite tasks, as I’m sure you can imagine!
7. What has been your biggest gardening disaster?
Originally installing a knot garden was the biggest disaster! This is why it doesn’t exist anymore. It proved far too labour intensive, as it had to be looking so achingly ornate at all times. My fingers become sore with all that trimming!
8. What is your favourite gardening shortcut or tip, and who taught you it?
Irrigation!! Top of the list! Harvesting rain water for irrigation purposes is environmentally friendly and makes utter sense. The garden has a 1000 gallon rainwater well, so I have an endless supply!
9. Which plant do you wish you could grow, but cannot?
There are a lot of Namibian plants that I would love to grow, but simply can’t! Specimens such as the Quiver Tree, Aloe dichotoma, for it’s stature and ability to survive in arid conditions, which is exactly why I can’t have it here!
10. What is your oldest plant, and how old is it?
The Yew Tree, which now plays host to the crow’s nest. It is 400 years old!
11. Where do you find information on which plants to grow and how to care for them?
I am keen to maintain regular dialogues with plant nurseries and specialists whilst on my travels. Other than that, I have an extensive library of gardening reference books, which I delve into regularly.
12. Do you grow anything to eat, and which have you had the most success with?
Asparagus and curly kale, in particular! I just grow the vegetables that I like to eat. I am very much into seasonal vegetables. I also grow a range of stone fruits, currants and more, all in a rather small space!
13. Do you admire any famous gardeners or gardens?
Botanical gardens, they can be a great shop window to anyone travelling to a new country for the first time. By visiting a botanical garden, not only can you learn about the plants that originate from that country, but you can also talk to people about those plants, and learn about their culture too!
14. What have you learnt from your own garden?
I have learnt that it’s the plants that are in charge, not me!