So, from the beginning… my great-grandmother was an Albanian Romany, who later settled in Greece, where my Mother spend a fair chunk of her childhood. It’s this unique heritage that gives me my disproportionate nose! I’m a bit of a joker, slightly dippy, sometimes lazy, sometimes more energetic than those around me can manage. I have a passion for plants, and all things horticultural, and it seems to come naturally to me (unlike ironing, or football..!)
My gardening journey started when I was a mere toddler, shadowing my grandparents as they reared exhibition quality chrysanthemums and dahlias in their super long greenhouses. I was hooked from a young age, and soon my flower patch in my parents garden became the whole garden and, at 14, a small mail order herb nursery! Throughout school, I naturally kept my gardening passion secret, in my desperate attempts to stay a trendy teenager (it never worked!)
The careers advisor was never any help, but I was pleased they suggested horticultural college, and I joined a National Diploma in horticulture after school finished. Now, I couldn’t reverse a tractor for toffee, and always got soaked by the hose in the sports turf class, BUT plant ident classes and garden design and care seemed my forte!
After entering a competition to design a garden at mail order plant company, Thompson & Morgan, I wrote in asking for a job, and was taken on as a sort-of apprentice. I was helping source new products for the seed catalogue, and soon began working on the plant catalogues too. I had an eye for unique plants; whether they were brand new, or finding ways to re-discover those plants which performed, but gardeners had forgotten.
I was responsible for the specialist range of catalogues; clematis, fuchsia, geranium, lily, and so on.. and also became a deputy director on our yearly video catalogue. This was a unique job, but absolutely perfect for me, and there’s probably only 4 or 5 other jobs like this in the UK!
After a year’s sabbatical in Australia, I returned to the company with a bigger focus on new product development, and also the PR and media side of things. How a painfully shy teenager become someone who can stand up on live TV, I don’t know, but it happened!
I then began appearing regularly on shopping channels; but not doing the hard sell, I like to think I’m a bit different. I talk from within (from the heart, if you will!), about my love of plants. I’m so eager for more people to make different plant choices. Many of us keep on growing the same thing, but with poor results. That’s what new plants are all about, making gardening easier, more pleasurable and making sure you’ve got something different to your neighbours!
I also pop up on different shows like The Titchmarsh Show (showing the snowdrop we bought from eBay for 700 quid!), The One show (dressed in a peasant outfit to show our innovative TomTato plant) and the new Great British Garden Revival (throwing plants down a conveyor belt!) There is never a dull moment!
I enjoy fun charity work too, and have recently raised almost 4,000 quid for The Alzheimer’s Society by trekking 100km across the Costa Rican jungle. It was a huge amount of fun, but a massive challenge! Read about it in the ‘plant trekking’ section of this blog!
I’ve also been working with Perennial- The Gardener’s Royal Benevolent Society. Back in spring, I pulled together a team called the ‘grubby gardeners’, and we tackled a 12km obstacle race, raising vital funds and getting really dirty along the way!
Following this muddy fun, we disrobed for ‘world naked gardening day’ in May, with a cheeky photoshoot in the grounds of the Virgin Roof Gardens. We then appeared on Loose Women, and are now shooting for our 2015 calendar…!
So, welcome to the fun!