‘I’d like the wis­dom of an old oak!’

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The first plant I ever grew

I can’t re­mem­ber, it’s so long ago! It was prob­a­bly some­thing a bit bor­ing, such as radish or car­rots.

The plant that shaped the gar­dener I am to­day

The gi­ant red­wood,

Se­quoiaden­dron gi­gan­teum, is a truly awesome tree. I raised one from seed in 1960, planted it in 1964 be­fore my wife Rose­mary and I met or had any thought of where we might build a house. From my kitchen win­dow I can now look up at this seedling, planted 53 years ago, and it’s a mag­nif­i­cent 100-foot tree! From Cal­i­for­nia to Bress­ing­ham, ‘awesome’ is right be­side my home!

My favourite plant

Al­though I’d never make such a choice, if I were pressed to choose I think I’d go for slow­grow­ing pa­per­bark maple, Acer

gri­seum, with year-round ap­peal, which, un­like many, gets bet­ter and bet­ter with age.

The plant that shaped my life

To some ex­tent this would be

Po­ten­tilla fru­ti­cosa ‘Red Ace’, which cat­a­pulted me and our nurs­ery into the first ma­jor launch of a new plant back in 1976. It was one of the first to be pro­tected by Plant Breed­ers’ Rights, the first to have a se­cu­rity guard at the Chelsea Flower Show, and be­gan our in­volve­ment in pro­mot­ing new plants on an in­ter­na­tional scale.

The plant that made me work the hard­est

What a hard ques­tion! I can think of weeds, and among th­ese would be the deep-rooted and im­pos­si­ble to erad­i­cate horse­tail,

Equise­tum ar­vense. I once dug up a peren­nial from my fa­ther’s Dell Gar­den in mid­win­ter, which in­ad­ver­tently had dor­mant horse­tail in it. Within four years it made it­self at home on the edge of our pond. We’re still work­ing to con­trol it. Any ideas?

The plant of which I’d love to grow more

The star­tling blues of Me­conop­sis

bai­leyi and its var­i­ous forms. Even if you can get them go­ing for a year or two, they sel­dom suc­ceed for long in our dry, East Anglian cli­mate. This also ap­plies to Gen­tiana sino-or­nata. Both suc­ceed in acid soils and in much wet­ter cli­mates.

The plant I am in hu­man form

I’d like to be not quite so tall, but straight as a red­wood, with the wis­dom im­plied by an old oak tree! Nei­ther witches brooms nor con­torted plants ap­peal, so how about some­thing I might pine about, rather than spruce up for? The plant I would al­ways give as a gift

Per­haps hardy gera­nium ‘Rozanne’, as I know it will grow well in al­most any gar­den or in any con­tainer for a pa­tio. For ver­sa­til­ity, win­ter fra­grance and at­trac­tive ev­er­green fo­liage, I’d also give sweet box, Sar­co­cocca con­fusa.

Young Adrian dis­cusses conifers with fa­mous fa­ther Alan (right) and late brother Robert Adrian has spent his life de­vel­op­ing Foggy Bo om Gar­den, near Diss, Nor­folk

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