Meet the whizz kid of Wisley
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