Meet the whizz kid of Wis­ley

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Front Page -

The youngest-ever RHS cu­ra­tor, Matthew Pot­tage tells how his love of plants started with conifers, house plants, and a few urns. By Stephen Lacey

Matthew Pot­tage, 29 years old and the youngest cu­ra­tor ever to be ap­pointed by the Royal Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety, turns out to have rather retro tastes. He likes conifers and house plants, hardy ex­otics and var­ie­ga­tion. Oh, and to com­plete this Vic­to­rian-Gothic list, urns. “I have al­ways loved them – I am not sure why,” he says.

I can’t see one in his of­fice but, in the cor­ner, there is a var­ie­gated as­pidis­tra and, by the win­dow, an un­usual white-striped form of mother-in-law’s tongue ( San­se­vieria) called ‘Ban­tel’s Sen­sa­tion’. On his desk­top com­puter, he shows me a conifer odd­ity he is keen to prop­a­gate.

I am look­ing for­ward to see­ing how these en­thu­si­asms pop up in the Wis­ley bor­ders over the com­ing years. Pot­tage was given over­all charge of the plant col­lec­tions at the RHS’s flag­ship Sur­rey gar­den last De­cem­ber. Leapfrog­ging the 75 gar­den­ing staff, all of whom he now over­sees, he landed the job fewer than 12 years af­ter ar­riv­ing at Wis­ley as a trainee. He is now in the mid­dle of pre­par­ing for Na­tional Gar­den­ing Week (11-17 April).

“I was al­ready a ‘plant anorak’ when I came as a stu­dent,” he says. “My grandma was a keen gar­dener and fired my in­ter­est in house plants at a very young age. I started fill­ing up all the win­dowsills at home, and then the win­dowsills at my school, too. Af­ter that, I pro­gressed to the hos­pi­tal and other build­ings around town. Peo­ple must have won­dered who this busy­body was, wan­der­ing around wa­ter­ing house plants.”

Pot­tage grew up in With­ernsea, near Hull in east York­shire. His fa­ther was a gas en­gi­neer and his mother ran a chil­dren’s nurs­ery. Both his par­ents are now re­tired. “Nei­ther was very

Keen to grow: from above, Matthew Pot­tage has been in charge of RHS Wis­ley since De­cem­ber; he ad­mits to a lik­ing for ob­scure conifers, such as

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