My Life in Plants

Garden News (UK) - - News -

The first plant I ever grew

I was raised in the 1940s on my grand­par­ents’ fam­ily farm in the York­shire ‘rhubarb tri­an­gle’ and spent most of my free time, aged 10, help­ing tend their 110 acres of rhubarb, and 200 acres of mixed veg­etable and arable farm crops. Aged 17, I had my own acre of rhubarb which, three years later, I sold to my em­ployer for a not in­sub­stan­tial £400.

The plant that shaped the gar­dener I am today

As a stu­dent with no ex­pe­ri­ence of or­na­men­tal hor­ti­cul­ture, I found learn­ing plant names for tests a real chal­lenge, par­tic­u­larly those from the trop­ics. One plant I could rely on was blue-flow­ered Plum­bago

capen­sis, which I still ap­pre­ci­ate to this day.

My favourite plant in the world

The dawn red­wood, Me­tase­quoia

glyp­tostroboides. I love its red­dish bark, ferny leaves and con­i­cal habit. Only dis­cov­ered in China in 1941, it’s a valu­able ad­di­tion to our pal­ette of trees and I’ve planted one wher­ever I’ve lived. It’s eas­ily rooted from semi-ripe cut­tings, taken in sum­mer, and we’ve sold more than 2,000 of them over the last 30 years.

The plants that made me work hard­est

In the late 1950s, I had the op­por­tu­nity to work in mar­ket gar­dens around Sur­rey. Start­ing at 4.30am, I of­ten worked a 100-hour week cut­ting let­tuces on piece­work. I filled up to 50 boxes per hour for the princely sum of 32½p.

Win­ter was dom­i­nated by dig­ging up and trim­ming leeks, again by piece­work. In frosty weather, we used pick­axes to lift them. The money I saved helped me start my own busi­ness.

The plant I’d like to grow more of

A wider range of ever­green trees and shrubs. They never lose pop­u­lar­ity and with cli­mate change loom­ing, ev­er­greens hold the great­est po­ten­tial for the fu­ture. Hebes have ex­cel­lent fo­liage, flower colour in sum­mer and are vis­ually in­ter­est­ing all year round. With ris­ing tem­per­a­tures, they’re now bet­ter able to sur­vive Bri­tish win­ters and per­form in drier sum­mers.

The plant I am in hu­man form

Mare’s tail or eq­ui­se­tum. It’s sur­vived for mil­lions of years and no mat­ter how hard you try to tackle it, it al­ways comes back for more!

The plant that changed my life

I’ve sold 2.6 mil­lion cherry lau­rel,

since I started the nurs­ery. It’s so

Prunus lau­ro­cera­sus, adapt­able, has few pests and dis­eases, is eas­ily prop­a­gated and trained, and al­ways looks good whether it’s used as a land­scape or gar­den plant.

The plant I’d al­ways give as a gift

The dawn red­wood if they’ve space, oth­er­wise crab ap­ples or dog­woods for sheer va­ri­ety, range of form and vis­ual in­ter­est through­out the year.

Time spent in mar­ket gar­dens helped John launch his own nurs­ery

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.