What is the best part of being editor of The English Garden?
Choosing which glorious gardens we feature. Beautiful gardens are our hallmark and I get to look at hundreds of photos from some of the country’s best garden photographers before choosing which ones will go in the magazine. If you love gardens and gardening it is like being a kid in a sweet shop; I often wish we printed more issues so I could fit more of them in.
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Chelsea Flower show?
There are some exciting designers showing at Chelsea for the first time this year, like Propagating Dan, Sam Ovens, Nick Bailey, Hay Hwang and Rosy Hardy. Rosy has exhibited in the Floral Pavilion before with her nursery, Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, but this is the first year she’s creating a show garden. Herb expert Jekka McVicar is building a garden this year too, after years winning golds in the Pavilion. I can’t wait to see their gardens.
I’m also really looking forward to seeing Bowden Hostas’ exhibit inside the Pavilion - they are creating the display around the Royal Hospital’s Monument, a site that’s been occupied by Hillier Nurseries for more than sixty years, so it will be fascinating to see what they do differently. Bowden’s Tim Penrose is craning in a Belmond Pullman train carriage so it already sounds like it’s going to be very different!
This year the show will have a special exhibition to honour HM the Queen’s birthday. Why has the annual event become such integral part of English heritage?
Chelsea’s been a must-attend event throughout its 100-plus years. Where once it was a part of the old-fashioned ‘Society’ calendar, marking the start of summer, now it heralds early summer for gardeners - and in fact anyone who appreciates the beauty of plants and gardens or marvels at the skills on show.
With the warmer weather inspiring more people to get out into their gardens, what is your number one tip for making the most out of your outdoor space?
Gardening’s such an enjoyable, relaxing hobby, but not if it becomes a chore. The minute it feels like hard work and you have to force yourself to do it, you won’t enjoy it anymore, so don’t make a rod for your back. Keep things simple if you don’t have much time to keep on top of lots of plants - avoid time-consuming, fiddly jobs such as growing annuals every year from seed, turn your lawn into a meadow so you don’t have to mow it every week. Even people who say they don’t have ‘green fingers’ can plant up a few pots for the patio which will make all the difference to the space and don’t need hours of maintenance - go for night-scented plants such as stocks, nicotiana and mirabilis to make the most of warm summer evenings.
What is your favourite public garden to visit in the UK?
This is impossible! It depends on the time of year, which part of the country you happen to be in. One that I’m particularly fond of is the Dorothy Clive Garden near Market Drayton in Shropshire. It has a lovely story: it was started by Colonel Harry Clive in 1940 because he wanted his wife Dorothy, who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, to have somewhere beautiful to walk. Unfortunately she died in 1942, but he carried on making it into the 1950s. It’s an intimate, personal garden even though it’s over 12 acres and I’m especially fond of it because it was the first place I drove to all by myself when I passed my driving test, braving the M6 from Manchester for my first solo day trip - I’ll always remember the sense of achievement and independence I had when I reached the car park, and the path to the garden that was edged with a gorgeous combination of blue hardy geraniums, variegated lemon balm, lime greenAlchemilla mollis and Rosa gallica ‘Versicolor’ with raspberry-ripple striped flowers.
What are the challenges of being a magazine editor?
In gardening publishing, the biggest challenge is to keep your content fresh and interesting from year to year, because it’s such a cyclical hobby with the same jobs needing to be done at the same time every year and the same flowers in bloom at the same time. Other than that, I don’t find I come across that many challenges - I get to write and read about a hobby I love, so I’m very lucky.
What is your favourite way to relax once an issue is completed?
Gin and tonic - if it’s in a garden, even better!
What can subscribers expect from future issues? Why subscribe?
Lots more beautiful gardens, including the sublime garden at Rockcliffe House in June, a special rose-theme in our July issue, gardens full of hot colour in August and five that showcase superb late summer planting in September. We have wonderful pieces on cut flowers coming up, as well as perfume in the garden, a masterclass on naturalistic planting - gardening’s current hot trend - and beautiful achievable summer containers. Now’s definitely the time to subscribe so you don’t miss out, and the magazine will arrive through your door every month, saving you time that you can spend in the garden!
For more gardening inspiration grab a subscription to The English Garden
This years Flower show runs from the 24-28th of May